Relevant reads: Pandemic novels & short stories

By Collection Management Librarian Dontaná McPherson-Joseph

From the plague to the 1918 influenza to now, pandemics have been an unwelcome member of society. Touching everyone and everything, global sickness and the changes we have to make to get through makes us anxious and sends us looking for escape.

No wonder we turn to fiction that explores pandemics and society’s response. While you won’t find The Walking Dead on this list, you will find novels and short stories that explore different reactions to and the results of widespread illness.

You can find all of the title suggestions below available in your digital library through Media on Demand and Libby and/or Hoopla.

Pandemic novels & short stories


The Masque of the Red Death by Edgar Allan Poe

Why you should try it: A classic of plague fiction, exploring how denial of the plague’s existence serves absolutely no one.

Description: First published in a 1842 edition of Graham’s Lady’s and Gentleman’s Magazine, The Masque of the Red Death tells the story of Prince Prospero as he tries to avoid a plague by confining himself and his nobles to a masquerade in an abbey. Often considered a gothic allegory, the story reflects on not only life and death but also the illusion of control.

Stream & download with: Hoopla (ebooks and digital audiobooks)

Severance by Ling Ma

Why you should try it: An eerie dystopian novel that has been on everyones’ minds.

Description: A survivor of an apocalyptic plague maintains a blog about a decimated Manhattan before joining a motley group of survivors to search for a place to rebuild, a goal that is complicated by an unscrupulous group leader.

Stream & download with: Hoopla (digital audiobook), Media on Demand (ebook)

The Plague by Albert Camus

Why you should try it: Another classic of plague fiction, this novel could be read as what not to do when the plague sweeps through.

Description: Chaos prevails when the bubonic plague strikes the Algerian coastal city of Oran.

Stream & download with: Media on Demand (ebook)

Zone One by Colson Whitehead

Why you should try it: I did say The Walking Dead wouldn’t be on this list, I did not say there wouldn’t be zombies.

Description: In a post-apocalyptic world decimated by zombies, survivor efforts to rebuild are focused on Manhattan, where civilian team member Mark Spitz works to eliminate remaining infected stragglers and remembers his horrifying experiences at the height of the zombie plague.

Stream & download with: Media on Demand (ebook and digital audiobook)

The Passage by Justin Cronin

Why you should try it: This one is interesting in that the sickness is the result of a government experiment.

Description: A security breach at a secret U.S. government facility unleashes the monstrous product of a chilling military experiment that only six-year-old orphan Amy Harper Bellafonte can stop.

Stream & download with: Media on Demand (ebook)

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Why you should try it: You may have read this one already, but if you haven’t, it is another take on the future after a pandemic.

Description: The sudden death of a Hollywood actor during a production of King Lear marks the beginning of the world’s dissolution, in a story told at various past and future times from the perspectives of the actor and four of his associates.

Stream & download with: Media on Demand (ebook and digital audiobook)

Pandemic by Robin Cook

Why you should try it: This take on the pandemic focuses on gene-editing biotechnology gone very wrong.

Description: When a heart-transplant recipient abruptly dies under suspicious circumstances, veteran medical examiner Jack Stapleton follows leads to a gene-editing biotechnology and the unethical requirements of a megalomaniacal businessman.

Stream & download with: Media on Demand (ebook)

The End of October by Lawrence Wright

Why you should try it: This one might feel a little too close to home as several major aspects resemble our current times.

Description: Investigating dozens of mysterious deaths in an Indonesian internment camp, a World Health Organization doctor finds himself on a race to uncover the origins of a mysterious killer virus and find a cure before it decimates world populations.

Stream & download with: Media on Demand (ebook and digital audiobook)

Librarian Dontaná McPherson-Joseph

About Dontaná

Dontaná is a Collection Management Librarian who was born with an unending reading list. She is almost always reading two books simultaneously and is easily distracted by cool covers.  

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