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 (mostly from being trapped in a house with my family for over a week) with anything and everything, especially books.
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.