8 Pandemic-Themed Books to Read Amid Coronavirus

6:00 AM 3/17/2020

by Lexy Perez

Though some are revisiting films such as 'Contagion' for their timely storylines, books centered on epidemics are also finding a new life.

'Bird Box'- Harper Collins; 'The Stand'- Doubleday; 'Eyes of Darkness'- Pocket Books - Publicity - Split - H 2020
Harper Collins; Doubleday; Pocket Books

The coronavirus pandemic has taken the world by storm, leaving many to stay at home as a means of staying healthy and virus-free. Though films such as Steven Soderbergh's 2011 epidemiology thriller Contagion are being revived for their timely storylines, books centered on epidemics are also finding a new life amid the health crisis.

Whether they tackle a character staying indoors out of necessity or scientists dealing with an epidemic caused by an extraterrestrial microorganism, a myriad of books have explored the idea of a pandemic-savaged world. 

The Hollywood Reporter takes a look at eight timely books to keep you company during this new time period of self-distancing. 

  • 'The Andromeda Strain'

    Michael Crichton's 1969 book The Andromeda Strain (Vintage) centers on a group of scientists enduring an epidemic caused by an unknown extraterrestrial microorganism. After a military space probe sent to collect organisms from the upper atmosphere crashes onto Earth, a deadly phenomenon terrorizes the residents of an Arizona town, leaving only two survivors: an elderly addict and a newborn infant. The U.S. government is then forced to mobilize Project Wildfire, a top-secret emergency response protocol. Scientists race to try to comprehend and contain the unexpected crisis. Crichton's book will get the sequel treatment from writer Daniel H. Wilson — best known for his New York Times best-selling book Robopacalypse and its sequel Robogenesis — who got approval from Crichton's wife Sherri to tackle a new installment titled The Andromeda Evolution. 

  • 'Bird Box'

    Josh Malerman's 2014 book (Harper Collins) may exist on the borderline of horror and thriller, but the story proves to resonate with the current climate. The story, also adapted into a Netflix feature film starring Sandra Bullock, centers on an epidemic in which people are driven to deadly violence after taking a glimpse at a mysterious phenomenon. Scattered survivors remain as they live in an abandoned home near the river, unable to risk going outside without fully seeing. Malerman's story depicts a horrific snapshot of a world trapped and unable to risk exposure to outside surroundings, seemingly foreshadowing the social distancing many are forced to practice amid the coronavirus pandemic. Malerman is also set to release a sequel to Bird Box, titled Malorie. 

  • 'The Stand'

    Stephen King has an knack for terrifying readers through his chilling stories, and this 1978 book (Doubleday) could gain renewed attention given its plotline that eerily resonates with the current pandemic. The book tells the tale of a patient who escapes from a testing facility, unknowingly carrying a mutated strain of super-flu that could wipe out 99 percent of the world's population within a few weeks. From a frightened public, two leaders emerge: Mother Abagail, a 108-year-old woman who urges them to build a peaceful community in Colorado; and "Dark Man" Randall Flagg, who finds thrill in chaos and violence. The survivors are then left not only to have to choose between Mother Abagail and Randall Flagg but decide the fate of all humanity. The book will be getting the series treatment, as it was announced in early 2019 that King's post-apocalyptic best-seller earned a straight-to series, 10-episode order from CBS All Access. 

  • 'The Plague'

    Just with its title alone, Albert Camus' 1947 classic The Plague (La Peste) can easily resonate with the current climate. His book, known as a classic in literature, tells the story of a plague sweeping the French Algerian city of Oran. Once it has settled in, the epidemic continues to linger in the minds of the town’s inhabitants until the following February. The book has proven to become revived as sales of the book in France have risen approximately "300 percent on the previous year," according to the French books statistics website Edistat. It has also prompted various articles questioning "What We Can Learn (and Should Unlearn) From Albert Camus' The Plague" amid the coronavirus. 

  • 'The Companions'

    Katie M. Flynn's book arrived in a timely manner. In The Companion (Simon & Schuster), which was published March 3, California is under quarantine after a highly contagious virus hits. Though the living are unable to go out, the dead can saunter about in various forms, from "sad rolling cans to manufactured bodies that can pass for human." This is due to a new "companionship" program, in which people can choose to upload their consciousness before dying as a means of remaining in the custody of their families. "The less fortunate are rented out to strangers upon their death, but all companions become the intellectual property of Metis Corporation, creating a new class of people — a command-driven product-class without legal rights or true free will," the publisher writes of the story. Flynn's dystopian story explores the idea of a pandemic-ravaged world, coincidentally published amid the coronavirus. 

  • 'Station Eleven'

    Emily St. John Mandel's novel Station Eleven (Knopf) may have been published in 2014, but the storyline of the book resonates with the current pandemic taking place today. In the author's story, a famous Hollywood actor passes away after having a heart attack during a production of King Lear. The night proves to be the start of a chain reaction of frightening events as a fictional swine flu pandemic, dubbed the "Georgia Flu," impacts the world, killing the majority of the population. The tale soon moves back and forth in time, depicting life before and after the pandemic. 

  • 'The American Plague'

    In Molly Caldwell Crosby's The American Plague: The Untold Story of Yellow Fever, The Epidemic That Shaped Our History (Penguin Random House) a journalist traces the course of the infectious disease known as yellow fever which has paralyzed governments, quarantined cities and impacted the nation. In 1900, the U.S. sent three doctors to Cuba to discover how yellow fever was spread and take on one of history's most controversial human studies. The American Plague depicts the story of yellow fever and its reign in America and Africa, where it continues to strike each year. 

  • 'The Eyes of Darkness'

    Dean Koontz’s The Eyes of Darkness (Pocket Books) may be nearly 40 years old, but the book seems to be getting attention once again. Amid the coronavirus, a photograph of one of the novel's pages  circulated online with many questioning whether the author actually predicted what would become to be known as COVID-19. In Koontz's 1981 book, he writes of a deadly virus called the "Wuhan 400," which he described as a “severe pneumonia-like illness" that attacks “the lungs and bronchial tubes” and "resisting all known treatments."