Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard a little something about COVID-19. Hopefully all of you are staying safe and sane during all of the crazy. Like many of you, I’ve been spending a lot of time trying to distract myself with anything and everything. But especially books. Because being stuck in a house with my family for a week is not fun.

But not all books are a great distraction from the pandemic, even though they may be great books. Case in point: the five books below. All of which I loved, but might not be the best things to read right now.

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

There’s been a lot of talk about this one lately, and for good reason. It’s a post apocalyptic novel about the people left after a virus – that spreads quickly and causes fever, cough, and respiratory distress – wipes out 99% of the population. It’s an absolutely incredible book – seriously one of my all-time favorites – but I would absolutely not recommend reading it right now. I mean, unless you want to be more paranoid what might happen in the near future (which hopefully is not the literal apocalypse). May cause nightmares in the current climate. But when this is over, absolutely read it.

Get Well Soon: History’s Worst Plagues and the Heroes Who Fought Them by Jennifer Wright

Honestly one of the best nonfiction books I’ve read in the past year. I loved this! I laughed out loud several times (it’s split pretty evenly between Wright’s jokes and the stupid cures people came up with). And I learned a lot about plagues, and all of the ineffective cures that existed. On the one hand, it made me extremely grateful that we did not live through the bubonic plague (and the resulting “exploding frog cure” – which is stupid and amazing and I can’t stop using that fact to gross people out), but, on the other, there are striking parallels to what’s happening now. So maybe not the best thing to read ad the moment, especially if you tend to overanalyze things (welcome to the club).

The Last Man by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley

Yes, the mother of science fiction, daughter of Mary Wollstonecraft, author of Frankenstein, wrote a book about a plague that wipes out pretty much everyone. Personally, I really enjoyed it (Mary Shelley is just an all-around badass). It is classic post-apocalyptic science fiction (probably one of the first), but you do get to be part of the story as everyone starts to die and the main character has to watch his loved ones be ravaged by plague. Just, read Frankenstein instead. At least for now. Trust me.

The Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio

There’s also the 14th century Italian classic about ten young people venturing into the countryside to escape the Black Death. Renaissance social distancing! I mean, it’s mostly about other things, but the premise of this story is everyone trying to escape the plague. I read most of it in college in a Medieval literature class, and it’s basically like the Italian Canterbury Tales, so if you liked that, you might like this. (What, no Medieval literature nerds? Just me? Okay, fine.) However, if you are bored enough to pick up a nine-hundred page book from the 1300s, might I suggest some Dante or Chaucer? Maybe Sir Gawain and the Green Knight?

Wilder Girls by Rory Power

This is a brilliant book about a group of girls under quarantine under a mysterious virus hits the island where their boarding school is located. It’s a lot more unrealistic than the rest of these (growing scales is, fortunately, not a symptom of the current virus), so it might be safe to read. But it might not be the best to distract yourself from the fact that we’re basically all quarantined right now.

And no, I have not yet read The Stand, but I’m sure that can be added to this list as well.

Have you read any of these books? Are there any you would add to this list? Let me know in the comments!

I hope you are all staying safe and sane during this time, and that you have sufficient distractions, whatever those may be, to take your mind off of what is happening outside. If only just for a little while.

13 thoughts

  1. That’s such a good point! I feel like the world now consists of two types of people – (1) people who constantly need to talk about COVID and numbers, and (2) people who don’t even want to mention it. Every single interraction I’ve had in the past couple of weeks had at least one mention of the virus, and all I want it to distract myself from everything that has been going on.

    I also noticed that I’ve been avoiding dystopian books recently. I did pick up «The Grace Year» though, but luckily it’s all about a curse and not a virus. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! I mean, I want to keep up with the news, but I also need a good distraction every once in a while. But I totally agree, either people are obsessed or don’t seem to care (which worries me more).

      I should maybe warn you that I ALMOST put The Grace Year on this list (I literally had it on there until the last minute and decided it probably wasn’t that bad). I don’t want to spoil anything, but just thought I’d put this out there. It’s a really good book, though, so you might still enjoy it with everything going on. There are a lot of other parts of the book that are appropriately distracting.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. What a great twist to a reading list! My friend just brought up The Stand to me today. I’ve been meaning to read Station Eleven, but I guess I’ll wait haha

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! Yeah, even the author told people that now’s not the best time to read Station Eleven. Though, not gonna lie, I’m tempted to go for a reread anyway. I was going to try and read The Stand this year, but maybe not haha

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Uhm, I just got Station Eleven for my kindle, because it was super cheap haha but as soon as I saw virus, I thought “maybe not for right now” haha but at least I know you consider it to be a great book!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This is a super stressful time – I totally agree. And I made the mistake of starting The Book of M right before things got really intense, but now I feel like I have to finish it! Haha. As a side note, Station Eleven is one of my favorites.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Also one of my favorites! And everyone should read it when this is over. But it feels a little less like fiction right now, which isn’t great. (I’m definitely tempted to do a reread though.)

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m actually reading the Decameron right now because a friend had the opposite reaction – he thought to himself, “what would be particularly fitting right now?” and then started a Facebook book club. Since it’s mostly not about the Plague, I’m enjoying it, but the introduction did stress me out just a touch. I drank a lot of tea and went out on my government allowed exercise break to recover 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s kind of amazing! I almost didn’t include the Decameron because it’s pretty obscure. But at least it’s (mostly) just the beginning of that one. Station Eleven is currently on BN’s bestseller list, so you’re not the only ones reading plague fiction.

      Liked by 1 person

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