Reading in Times of Pestilence.

As the corona-virus outbreak continues to generate further safety measures, and governments prohibit traveling and large gatherings of people or, as in my case, impose quarantines on everyone who doesn’t work in a vital sector, you may suddenly find yourself staying home with a lot of time on your hands.

At first hand it seemed to me counter-intuitive that people during times of a pandemic would want to read about the same subject that is ruining their affairs, till I remembered some piece of research that served for my previous post. It revealed that medical pamphlets were much in demand during times of pestilence.

So here are some great pandemic-related reads to put things in perspective… and can help readers to acquire some insight and relativism about the current health crisis

Flu, by Gina Kolata

Flu by Gina Colata

Emerging in the wake of World War I, the flu killed an estimated 50 million people worldwide, and for decades, scientists had no idea where the ultra-deadly virus came from, not to mention if or when it might return. Flu, by New York Times reporter Gina Kolata, is presented as a detective story, following disease experts’ quest to track down and study the virus. In my opinion, this book is the most relevant read on my list.

The Book of M, by Peng Shepherd

The Book of M by Peng Shepherd
The Forgetting is a mysterious illness that causes a victim’s shadow to disappear, and with it, all the person’s memories. This book figures second on my list because it is a thoughtful, emotional look at the experience of losing a loved one to illness and memory loss.

Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

 

A deadly pandemic known as the Georgia Flu spreads around the world, and from there the book weaves between timelines, painting an impression of the world before, during and after the pandemic The story develops around a group of artists who’s lead motto is “Because survival is insufficient”. This book is third on my list because it embodies the faith  that art, culture, and an abiding humanity would endure in the wake of such disaster.

And the Band Played On, by Randy Shilts

And the Band Played On by Randy Shilts

This is a gripping, heartbreaking chronicle of the HIV outbreak and the tragically mismanaged response by essentially everyone involved. I mention this book because the leading theme rings familiar and actual bells.

Zone One, by Colson Whitehead.

zone one
In Whitehead’s world, a virus has decimated the world’s population, turning victims into two kinds of zombies: typical flesh-eating monsters and “stragglers,” who freeze catatonic in some activity they knew in life. This book left me to think in metaphorical terms about atavistic human behavior in times of crisis

The Hot Zone, by Richard Preston.

The Hot Zone by Richard Preston
To end my resume, I propose you a book with some lurking epidemics on a continent of which the global community hopes they will remain there. The Hot Zone takes readers on a riveting journey through the history of Ebola, Marburg virus, and other diseases that have emerged from African rain-forests and proved devastating to humans.

On a personal note:

I’m reading The education of Henri Adams by Henri Adams (you can also download this book for free at gutenberg.org). It figures at the top of almost all lists of non fiction books to read. I thus deviate of what I esteem where the current reader’s interest lies . With its 321 pages I could fit it in my already stressed schedule to publish the third book of my pentalogy The Maharajagar, called The Forest, before the end of this month.

The education of Henri Adams

Blurb

As the Grandson of President John Quincy Adams and the Great Grandson of President John Adams, Henry Brooks Adams saw himself as a failure by comparison to the lofty accomplishments of his ancestors. This inferiority complex is quite visible in “The Education of Henry Adams”, the autobiography of the author and an important document of 19th century American history and political life. Adams, a historian, journalist, and novelist shows in this great work of literature his accomplishments as a writer, proving that he was anything but a failure.

Are you also reading up about epidemics or do you use the this opportunity (not sure if this word is appropriate) to reduce a preexisting TBR list?

6 Comments

  1. Not going to catch me reading about plagues and other illnesses. Thankfully my job keeps me outside with only 1 other person most of the time so I don’t foresee a huge reduction in my workload, right away anyway. If this keeps up for a month, well, life is going to suck even if we’re healthy :-/

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Indeed it’s going to suck for everybody. Right now we’re at day two of a 14 days quarantine and most people around here seem to think after that it’s going to be life as usual again, while it doesn’t take a crystal ball to predict that it’s just going to peak. I’ve all the troubles in the world to convince my wife that we need to keep replacing what we’re eating because she’s thinking that right now we’ve enough food for two weeks. And when this blows over in a couple of months, comes the recession, who was already looming before this pandemic struck.

      Liked by 1 person

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