As the boredom of social distancing starts to set in, ironically picking up a book about situations more uncertain than our own can keep us entertained.
Each of these novels focuses on a pandemic or an apocalypse caused by a pandemic.
"Station Eleven" by Emily St. John Mandel
This book follows a troupe of actors years after the "Georgia Flu," a sickness based on the swine flu, kills most of humanity. The troupe visits the remaining pockets of civilization to perform for them, keeping the arts alive, all while chronicling humanity and how it survived after the tragic pandemic.
The post-apocalyptic novel follows an actor during both the outbreak of the flu and 15 years after it ends. The story highlights how societies are affected and decimated by disease. The novel is hauntingly realistic and a little too close to home for comfort.
"Year of Wonders" by Geraldine Brooks
This historical fiction book takes place during the bubonic plague in Europe.
The novel tells the story of a young mother in 1666 as the bubonic plague sweeps through Europe and leaves a third of the population dead. When the plague hits her small English village, 100 miles from London, she is tasked with caring for her sick and dying neighbors.
The gruesome depictions of the bubonic plague and the people who died from it bring to life the worst disease outbreak in history.
"The Girl with All the Gifts" by M.R. Carey
This science-fiction thriller verges on horror. The story is told from the perspective of a young girl, born after a pandemic of zombies destroyed the world. All she knows is the government facility where she spent her life. With very little knowledge about the outside world or herself, the unreliable narrator forces the reader to question everything they think they know.
This novel is full of unexpected twists and completely upends the traditional zombie genre with its own creative and horrifying take on a zombie apocalypse. This novel is a page-turner that you won't soon forget. In addition to the book, there is also a movie based on it of the same name.
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"Molokai" by Alan Brennert
Also a historical fiction book, "Molokai" follows the life of a seven-year-old Hawaiian Native child diagnosed with leprosy. She is sent away from her family and the world she knows to the leper colony on the island of Molokai. Here, she is forced to live out the rest of her life with other leprosy patients.
The book deals with themes of U.S. imperialism, identity and the ethical treatment of those with a contagious and deadly disease. It is also full of hope, love and resilience — even when things are at their worst.
The characters feel so real, it's hard to believe they never existed. The vivid depictions of leprosy and U.S. imperialism contrast sharply with the picturesque settings and vibrant characters.
As we live through our own pandemic, we can see what disease has meant in the imaginations of writers and in our history through these novels.
Loreena Cain is a beat reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @loreena_cain