I’m not a big reader of novels that involve killer illnesses, and that was before SARS, MERS and COVID-19 invaded our consciousness. No, me and my health anxiety were happy to avoid reading about any kind of illness because if I read about it, I’d think about it, and if I thought about it too much, I’d probably get it. Yeah, I know. Logic. But with bad anxiety, I was happy to pick up some serial killer book instead.
Even though I haven’t read a ton of pandemic novels, here’s a few I have read and actually enjoyed. Links lead you to Goodreads. If you’re self isolating, download the Libby app and connect with your library online. Oh, and wash your hands.
The Stand (Stephen King)
Pretty much the granddaddy of them all, King’s novel focuses on a man-made illness (Captain Trips … no, not a Jerry Garcia reference) that kills 99% of the human population. Two different groups of survivors begin to form with very different goals. Much of the book deals with the pandemic and the aftermath, how the survivors find each other and begin to try to rebuild society. I really enjoyed this book, but I was smart and didn’t read it during an actual global pandemic lol. I still haven’t seen the 1990s mini series (with Gary Sinise, Molly Ringwald and Rob Lowe), but they’re currently filming a new version here … well, until that gets shut down due to COVID.
Pandemic (Daniel Kalla)
Kalla is an ER doc here in Vancouver, and I once got his book out of the library, started to read it and promptly got sick. Back to the library it went until a few years later when I wasn’t so superstitious lol. Pandemic starts in China with a zoonotic flu (sound familiar?) that someone begins spreading on purpose and it’s up to Dr. Noah Haldane and his colleagues to stop it. Noah Haldane also features in his second book Cold Plague. Guess what it’s about?
Outbreak (Robin Cook)
It’s been a long time since I’ve read this one, which was also made into a film. Outbreak is the first in the Marissa Blumenthal books. She works for the CDC and a plague begins to sweep across the country – but it’s only affecting doctors and patients at low-cost clinics. This book isn’t as medically oriented as you might think and is more of a conspiracy novel than a plague novel.
Virals (Kathy Reichs and Brendan Reichs)
The most fun of the bunch, this YA series focuses on a group of friends that get infected by a type of parvovirus which gives them unique side effects. It’s a great series, and not as life or death panic inducing as some of the others on this list.I highly recommend this series, even if you’re not into YA books.
Girlfriend In A Coma (Douglas Coupland)
You’d think a book about a pregnant girl who falls into a coma and wakes up 18 years later wouldn’t involve a pandemic, but you’d be wrong! In this case, people just … fall asleep and die without warning. This book is more about the characters and their relationships with each other, with the last half against the backdrop of the apocalypse.
Gravity (Tess Gerritsen)
Astronaut Emma Watson (yes, really, this was pre-Harry Potter) is aboard the ISS when a virus begins to wreak havoc on the crew. As it turns deadly, Emma’s husband is trying to work with NASA to get them home, but the unknown virus is a threat to earth, so they are stranded in space with time running out.
If you are reading this and thinking “Yeah, I think I’ll pass on pandemic books” then check out:
Also check out washing your hands.