The Quintessential Pandemic Reading List

The following Pandemic Reading list of books are our literary picks addressing race, love, dominant governments, and the effects of a plague.

Sure, you’ve read article after article and watched countless you tube videos about COVID and the Spanish Flu of 1917 – we’re all experts by now. But have you actually read anything of sustenance, with brilliant characters, exceptional prose and in-depth analysis of why we live and die, and how communities navigate through such perils? 

The following list of books are our literary picks, addressing questions of race, love, death and dominant governments, and the effect on national borders after a plague hits. Authors include Mary Shelley, Albert Camus, Daniel Defoe, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Yuri Hererra, Michael Crichton, and more.

The Fever: How Malaria Has Ruled Humankind for 500,000 Years,’ by Sonia Shah

“Sonia Shah’s tour-de-force history of malaria will convince you that the real soundtrack to our collective fate … is the syncopated whine-slap, whine-slap of man and mosquito duking it out over the eons,” Abigail Zuger wrote in The Times.

A Journal of the Plague Year by Daniel Defoe (1722)

From 1665 to 1666, bubonic plague returned to Britain and devastated the city of London — killing roughly one quarter of its population in the span of 18 months. “[I]t was generally in such houses that we heard the most dismal shrieks and outcries of the poor people, terrified and even frighted to death by the sight of the condition of their dearest relations, and by the terror of being imprisoned as they were.”

Pale Horse, Pale Rider by Katherine Anne Porter (1939)

Porter’s Pale Horse, Pale Rider is set around the Spanish flu pandemic in 1918 and focuses on a young woman falling in love with a soldier, as both influenza and World War I loom ominously. As novelist Alice McDermott makes clear in her commentary on the novel, it’s a book that hasn’t lost its contemporary resonance.

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The Plague by Albert Camus (1947)

As befits a novel with the archetypal title The Plague, there are multiple ways one can interpret Camus’s 1947 work. Writing in the Guardian in 2015, journalist and war correspondent Ed Vulliamy contends it can be read in two ways: first, as a metaphor for the horrors of fascism; and second, as an allusion to a cholera epidemic in Algeria in 1849.

If you are enjoying these book recommendations, we have more great Literary content on The Ritual Blog here.

The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton (1969)

A group of scientists deal with an epidemic caused by an extraterrestrial microorganism — one that’s constantly evolving and has no precedent in human history.

Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (1985)

“Plagues are like imponderable dangers that surprise people,” Gabriel García Márquez told the New York Times in 1988. “They seem to have a quality of destiny.” In the same interview, he spoke of his fondness for Daniel Defoe’s A Journal of the Plague Year, and how it was one of the inspirations for this decades-spanning tale of star-crossed lovers, where death is never far from the reader’s mind.

Journal of the Plague Years by Norman Spinrad (1988)

The novel uses a widespread outbreak of a constantly mutating virus to critique conservative responses to HIV and AIDS in the 1980s. “For twenty years, sex and death were inexorably intertwined,” writes an fictional editor at the beginning of Spinrad’s book — what follows are an arrangement of voices, each struggling with literal questions of life and death.

If you are enjoying these book recommendations, we have more great Literary content on The Ritual Blog here.

Beauty Salon by Mario Bellatin (1994)

“Over time I have realized that the disease comes in spurts,” writes the narrator of Bellatin’s short novel Beauty Salon. It’s set in a world devastated by a pandemic affecting If you are enjoying these book recommendations, we have more great Literary content on The Ritual Blog here. men, leading to their rapid deaths in the face of governmental inaction. The novel’s narrator runs a beauty salon, which becomes a hospice for those afflicted.

The Children’s Hospital by Chris Adrian (2006)

Adrian’s fiction blends his own career in medicine alongside the mythological and fantastical. In his second novel, The Children’s Hospital, a plague called the Botch emerges after a series of events, some apocalyptic, some miraculous. Adrian “wants to know why people die, what meaning can be divined from their lives and their ends, and whether anything lies beyond. ”

The Transmigration of Bodies by Yuri Herrera (2013)

Herrera’s fiction is often set near the border between the United States and Mexico. The Transmigration of Bodies follows a familiar noir scenario — two crime families at war in a single town, during the aftereffects of a deadly plague.

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They Came Like Swallows by William Maxwell

To eight-year old Bunny Morison, his mother is an angelic comforter in whose absence nothing is real or alive. To his older brother, Robert, his mother is someone he must protect, especially since the deadly, influenza epidemic of 1918 is ravaging their small Midwestern town. To James Morison, his wife, Elizabeth, is the center of a life that would disintegrate all too suddenly were she to disappear

The Ghost Map: The Story of London’s Most Terrifying Epidemic — and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World,’ by Steven Johnson

In August 1854, many poor Londoners “suddenly took sick and began dying. Their symptoms included upset stomach, vomiting, gut cramps, diarrhea and racking thirst. Whatever the cause, it was fast — fast to kill (sometimes within 12 hours of onset) and fast in spreading to new victims,” David Quammen wrote in his review of this fascinating and detailed account of the city’s worst cholera epidemic. “Seventy fatalities occurred in a 24-hour period, most within five square blocks, and hundreds more people were in danger.”

The Last Man by Mary Shelley

Set at the end of the twenty-first century, The Last Man is a moving and fantastical account of the apocalypse. Faced with a populace clamoring for more democratic rule, the last king of England relinquishes his throne. Suddenly a mysterious plague sweeps the globe, drawing ever nearer to England. As war, disease, and death ravage humanity, ideals of fairness and love are quickly supplanted by the imperative of survival.

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15 Best Books on Coming up with Genius Ideas

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There are thousands of books on creativity and innovation out there. Many are great, some are exceptional, but few stand (or will stand) the test of time. As an author and researcher on innovation myself, I keep a short list of books to recommend to leaders and entrepreneurs who need to jump-start their creative thinking.

These are my personal favorites so far (in alphabetical order):

1. The Accidental Creative by Todd Henry. A quick, but entertaining read on how to generate brilliant ideas at a moment’s notice.

2. The Art of Work by Jeff Goins. While creativity isn’t the focus, this book is full of insights on how to build a career or business around your creative passions.

3. Collective Genius by Linda Hill, Greg Brandeau, Emily Truelove, and Kent Lineback. A manual on creative collaborations by an outstanding collaboration of world-class scholars and creative thinkers.

4. Creative Confidence by Tom Kelley and David Kelley. Often we don’t need to improve our creative thinking. Instead, we need to grow confidence in our ability to have creative ideas.

5. Creativity by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. One of the first, and still one of the best, science-based books on the creative process.

6. Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull and Amy Wallace. An all-access pass inside one of the most prolific and creative animation studios in history.

7. Little Bets by Peter Sims. Great ideas don’t come out fully formed. They grow and change, and eventually shape up from making lots of small discoveries.

8. Making Ideas Happen by Scott Belsky. It’s not enough to have ideas. You also have to make them happen, and Belsky shows us how to merge creativity with productivity.

9. The Myths of Creativity by David Burkus. OK. I’m biased on this one, but since I limited the list to 15, I had to include the synthesis of all my research on creativity and creative thinkers.

10. Originals by Adam Grant. Once you’ve got your idea, how do you champion it to a world that demands conformity? Adam Grant brilliantly addresses the question.

11. Powers of Two by Joshua Wolf Shenk. Creativity is a team effort. This book profiles the great teams and draws lessons we all can apply.

Mad Men

  • Mad Men is a collection of three disturbing horror shorts from authors living in the Midwest. The themes explored in this collection range from man versus self, man versus man, and man versus creature. [caption id="attachment_4742" align="alignleft" width="188"]Mad Men eBook Mad Men eBook at Mind on Fire Books[/caption] Mad Men begins with Matt’s tale, a thought-provoking thriller which causes the reader to question his reality and what he fears within himself. The second tale explores the grotesque juxtaposed with beautiful nature, where the ending unfolds into a horrific dream, waking in even more terrible pain. The third tale is by seasoned horror writer, A.R. Braun – and his diabolical creatures never disappoint!  A.R. Braun’s goal is to be on the banned book list; we think this tale may just be evil enough to be considered. A must read before it does get banned! Mainstream Horror Shorts don’t always satisfy us in the way they should. They don’t open conversations about what it is that we fear or why we fear such things, they focus mainly on pop culture and gore. The writers in the Mad Men anthology understand the need for literate horror, opening discussions of man’s psyche. When these writers set out to tell a story, they are less interested in conveying fear and more interested in wonder, the sublime, and the infinite strangeness that drives all man and woman. Highly recommended for tweens, teens, and adults. The Mad Men anthology published by Mind on Fire Books. Written by Willy Martinez, A.R. Braun and Matt Lavitt. No part of this book shall be copied without permission from the publisher.

12. Unmistakable by Srinivas Rao. A new book and a new idea, but an impactful one. It’s not enough to be original; we need to be unmistakable.

13. A Whole New Mind by Daniel Pink. Pink makes a compelling argument that creativity is the only thing that can’t be outsourced, and offers a guide to growing our creative thinking.

14. Wired to Create by Scott Barry Kaufman and Carolyn Gregoire. An empirical look at the things highly creative people do differently.

15. Zig Zag by Keith Sawyer. Sawyer is one of the world’s foremost creativity researchers, but this isn’t a book of research. Instead, it’s a practical map of the creative process that anyone can follow.

I should mention again that this list is not exhaustive, nor is it a review of the most in-depth explanations. But if you’re looking for well researched but practical insights, look no further than this list.

On Writing Horror Willy Martinez

  • On Writing Horror amassed from an obsession to learn where the power of fear resides. An anthology of works studying the way in which writers evoke fear and how they may affect us. On Writing Fear is an index of terror, drawing from Aristotle, Longinus, Edmund Burke, Che Guevarra, Wordsworth, Foucault, H.P. Lovecraft, Todorov, and many more.

    Chapters include digital illustrations created by the author.

    Also available at the Apple iBookstore, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords.

    A must have collection of research on the power of Horror- a tormented treatment of the human passions!

    Table of Contents for On Writing Horror

    Ch 1. Fear and War: Crafting the War on Terror Using Fear Appeals Ch 2. The Art of the Coup D'etat Ch 3. The Feminine Supernatural versus the Male Supernatural Writers Ch 4. Projecting Ghost Children to Find Identity Ch 5. The Supernatural Power of the Sublime in Wordsworth's Poetry Ch 6. Disorienting Characters with Haunted Spaces and Auditory Hallucinations Ch 7. Modern Ghosts Ch 8. The Fantastic in Fear Ch 9. The Fun Side of Fear: Faustus' Tricky Imp of Satan Ch 10. Glorifying Satan

    Some of the art included:

    [caption id="attachment_4846" align="alignnone" width="188"]Art for On Writing Horror Art for On Writing Horror[/caption] [caption id="attachment_4847" align="alignnone" width="200"]Art for On Writing Horror Art for On Writing Horror[/caption] [caption id="attachment_4848" align="alignnone" width="194"]Art for On Writing Horror Art for On Writing Horror[/caption]