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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5 Toxic Habits I Have Quit to be Happier

I’m lazy. And I love life.

I also sincerely believe that productivity is the key skill that leads to a successful career and happy life. Why? When you’re productive, you know how to get the right things done so you never have to worry about the outcome of your career. You’ll always find work to do.

Plus, you get to enjoy life because you can get more work done in less time. That way, you’ll have more time to do things that you love. Who doesn’t want that?

Ray Dalio, a well-known investor and philanthropist, emphasized the importance of productivity in his explainer video How The Economic Machine Works.

In the 30-minute video (which I highly recommend watching), he explains how the economy works and gives advice on how you can increase your wealth. His most important piece of advice? Here it is:

“Do all that you can to raise your productivity, because in the long run, that’s what matters most.”

But I have to confess something: Living a productive life is damned hard.

But it’s also worth it because of the positive impact it has on your life.

And in this article, I want to share one of the most important strategies I’ve learned for improving your life.

It goes like this: Don’t try to copy what other successful people do. Instead, avoid what unsuccessful people do.

I learned this from one of my mentors. He has two businesses, owns two dozen properties, is an art dealer, and sits on the board of another organization. He is productive and yet has a lot of free time to go on long walks with his wife and dog or take out his boat on a sunny day.

He explained his strategy to me like this:

“I don’t know what makes people productive. However, I DO know what makes people unproductive. Stop doing those unproductive things and you’ll automatically be more productive.”

Give the above method a try. It works. I guarantee.

And to give you a few ideas, I’ll share what I’ve quit.

1. Working too much

Some days I can work 12 or 13 hours straight. I just take a break for exercising and eating. And I can keep that up for a few days.

But after a few days, there always comes a crash. Big time. I struggle. I can’t get stuff done. I don’ even want to get stuff done.

It’s not good. So I learned to be more calculated with how much I work. Ernest Hemingway tried to stop at the height of his day so he always had something to look forward to.

That’s also my new goal. But that’s hard because we always want things fast, fast, quick, quick, now, now.

Just know yourself, your work, and your deadlines. Don’t have a deadline? Take it easy because you need that juice for stressful times.

And most importantly: Have patience.

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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]

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.

Ghost Children

  • The ghost children in “The Lost Ghost” and “The Wind in the Rose-Bush” are not restricted ghosts, and this is how these ghosts differ from the other ghosts of writers of Mary Eleanor Wilkins Freeman time such as Henry James, Sarah Jewett or Ambrose Bierce. These apparitions may seem cute, but think twice as these ghost children will leave you with goose bumps. This double feature of Mary E. Wilkins short fiction is creepy enough to leave you sleeping with the lights on.

2. Worrying too much

What if I go broke? What if I lose my job? What if she doesn’t love me? What if I get cancer? What if this plane crashes? What if I lose my sight? What if I…?

You got your head so far in the sand like an ostrich that you can’t see how self-absorbed that way of thinking is. It’s always about me, me, me.

I know all about it. The above examples are all from my personal life. I used to be the king of the ‘what if’ game. But here’s the thing:

YOU’RE NOT GOING TO DIE RIGHT THIS SECOND.

Get over yourself. Stop worrying. And do something useful.

3. Being hard on yourself

“I suck!”

No, you don’t.

“Why?”

You got out of bed this morning, right?

“Yeah.”

Congratulations. You survived this hard thing called LIFE. Be proud of yourself. Everything you do after getting out of bed is a win.

4. Neglecting your personal education

“Woohoo! I finished college. Goodbye lame old books!”

If that was you, no matter how long ago, you do suck. Who learns one thing and stops forever? I don’t even know why we have that idea planted in our brain.

I always thought that learning stops when you get out of school. But the truth is: Your life stops when learning stops.

Invest in yourself. Learn something. Read books. Get courses. Watch videos. Do it from home or go places. It doesn’t matter. Just learn new things. You’ll be more productive and get more excited about life.

5. Hating rules

I saved the best for last. Most people hate rules, right? It starts when we’re kids.

“Why do I have to do this? Why do I have to do that?” Says the annoying kid.

“Because it’s better for you! That’s why!” Answers the wise mentor.

When we’re adults, we don’t have to follow rules (other than actual rules set by the government, but you get what I’m talking about.)

“Rules are dumb!”

That’s what I always believed. I thought I was a maverick. But I was an idiot.

Rules are actually THE BEST thing about life. Without rules, we would be watching Netflix and eating cookies all day long.

And when it comes to productivity, the first rule is: Have rules.

If you want to live without rules, go ahead. But life is not Fight Club. Rules actually help us to solve problems and get the most out of life.

Josh Weltman, an advertising creative director for 25+ years, and the co-producer of Mad Men, put it well in his book Seducing Strangers:

“Solving a problem requires a weird combination of freedom and constraint. Whenever I hear “Just have fun with it” or “Think outside the box,” I know from experience that things are about to turn into a colossal waste of time.”

Good news: you make up the rules.

For example, one of my personal rules is this: Never complain. Another one is: Read and exercise every day. And: Close the day every evening by setting your next day’s priorities.

When you combine all your productivity rules, you have a system. Voila!

I rely on my system to work smarter, better, happier, and effectively. It took me years to figure out that a system is a good thing, and a few more years to develop one, but it was worth it.

Because now, I get to be a very productive person. Not bad for an unproductive person, right?Read the original article on Medium. Copyright 2017.

Join 3,858 other subscribers

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]

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.

Ghost Children

  • The ghost children in “The Lost Ghost” and “The Wind in the Rose-Bush” are not restricted ghosts, and this is how these ghosts differ from the other ghosts of writers of Mary Eleanor Wilkins Freeman time such as Henry James, Sarah Jewett or Ambrose Bierce. These apparitions may seem cute, but think twice as these ghost children will leave you with goose bumps. This double feature of Mary E. Wilkins short fiction is creepy enough to leave you sleeping with the lights on.