The best pandemic books to get you through a real-life pandemic

Whether we were prepared for it or not, the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) arrived in Colorado at the beginning of March, and with it stay-at-home notices and self-isolation. And while the news might be terrifyingly real, sometimes it’s nice to escape into fiction to help us handle things outside our control.

For some people, books about a pandemic are going to be the last thing they want to read right now. However, some people (like myself) enjoy soaking themselves in relevant information or fictional trauma to help them make sense of what's going on around them. Sometimes a deep dive deep into an issue is the only way to surface with any sense of sanity. 

So with that caveat, I give you the best pandemic books to get you through a real-life pandemic. Many of these titles are avaliable on OverDrive and hoopla digital, which are avaliable to check out virtually with your Anythink Library card. Learn more about these services and more by visiting our Stream & Download page.

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

On my top five books of all time, this audacious, dark novel isn’t your average dystopian novel. Taking place before and after a pandemic that irrevocably alters our entire society, it’s a profound and unforgettable tale of how people stay connected and find solace in art, and each other, at the end of the world. You'll find it all – Shakespeare, poems, horror, marriage and survival tactics – mixed up in one glorious, flawless book.

Pandemic by A.G Riddle

A scientific experiment could alter the human race forever – and could reveal a shocking truth about our future. As the Centers for Disease Control and World Health Organization race to stop it, they learn that this pandemic hides a dark secret.

Wilder Girls by Rory Power

It’s been 18 months since the Raxter School for Girls was put under quarantine. Cut off from the rest of the world and left to fend for themselves on their island home, the girls don’t dare wander outside the school’s fence. The Tox has made the woods wild and dangerous, but there is danger inside the school as well.

Dog Stars by Peter Heller

Hig lives with his dog, Jasper, in a small abandoned airport after the end of the world. When a random transmission comes through his radio, he risks everything. This includes flying a plane to follow a staticky trail that will challenge everything he knows and believes to be true.

Zone One by Colson Whitehead

In this acclaimed novel, a pandemic has ravaged the planet, dividing humanity into two groups: the infected and the non-infected. Over the course of three days, Mark Spitz, a member of a unit charged with clearing lower Manhattan of the infected, comes to terms with the fallen world and the new dangers that have emerged.

The Stand by Stephen King

This classic novel is a vision of a world ravaged by plague and bitter struggles between good and evil. When a patient escapes from a biological testing facility, he carries with him a strain of super-flu that destroys a majority of the population. Two surviving leaders emerge of very different coats and whoever is chosen will change humanity forever.

The Fireman by Joe Hill

This original novel features a pandemic unlike any other: one that causes people to spontaneously combust. No one is safe. One couple faces the possibility — and probable inevitability —of becoming sick, and they become increasingly unhinged as society descends into chaos. (If anything, this book will make you feel better about coronavirus.)

The Age of Miracles and The Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker

The Age of Miracles  follows a young girl and her family as they discover that the world’s rotation has shifted. As a result, days and nights are changing, gravity is affected, and everything is thrown into chaos. In the Dreamers, a college town is struck with a mysterious illness that causes people to fall deeply asleep; and stay asleep, as their brain tracks radical, big dreams. A book that asks about the ethics of choice, The Dreamers reads like a lovely nightmare.

The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crighton

First published 50 years ago, The Andromeda Strain redefined the science fiction genre. A military space probe, sent to collect extraterrestrial organisms from the upper atmosphere, is knocked out of orbit and falls to Earth. Miles from the crash site, a deadly phenomenon terrorizes the residents of a sleepy desert town in Arizona, leaving only two survivors: an elderly addict and a newborn infant. Four of the nation’s most elite biophysicists are summoned to a clandestine underground laboratory located five stories beneath the desert and fitted with an automated atomic self-destruction mechanism for cases of irremediable contamination. Under conditions of total news blackout and the utmost urgency, the scientists race to understand and contain the crisis.