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The Pandemic Collection
Books to get you through
April 23, 2020

e’re in the middle of a Big Historic Event, the kind that changes the every day normal. But this has happened before. And when it did, people studied the effects, the changes it caused, or even imagined how the world would be after. Then they wrote it down.

With that in mind, TownDock.net is curating a collection for your pandemic reading, as you might have little more time on your hands these days. There’s a mix of fiction and non-fiction, some serious, others less so. Some are about pandemics and plagues, some simply about the power of man versus nature.

Do you have an idea for a book that would fit this collection? Send it and a brief description why it belongs in the list to info@towndock.net.

The Boy, Me, and the Cat
Henry Plummer (1914)

Pandemic Bookshelf Written as a book for friends and family and originally self-published in 1914, The Boy, Me and the Cat is the memoir of a man and his sons’ journey on a cat boat from Massachusetts to Florida and back again in 1912. (Suggested by Richard Nelson)

Year of Wonders
Geraldine Brooks (2002)

Pandemic Bookshelf Based on the true story of a 17th century English village that chose to self-isolate and spare surrounding towns from the plague. (Suggested by Toni Leavitt)

“When an infected bolt of cloth carries plague from London to an isolated village, a housemaid named Anna Frith emerges as an unlikely heroine and healer. Through Anna’s eyes we follow the story of the fateful year of 1666, as she and her fellow villagers confront the spread of disease and superstition. As death reaches into every household and villagers turn from prayers to murderous witch-hunting, Anna must find the strength to confront the disintegration of her community and the lure of illicit love. As she struggles to survive and grow, a year of catastrophe becomes instead annus mirabilis, a ‘year of wonders.’” – Amazon

Life as We Knew It
Susan Beth Pfeffer (2008)

Pandemic Bookshelf Meg Nyborg suggested this book saying, “Though this book, Life As We Knew It, is categorized as Young Adult, Susan Beth Pfeffer writes of the emotions, adaptations, and struggles to survive with such clarity and vividness that it’s hard to limit readership strictly to that age group. Life As We Knew It is the first of a series, the second book being The Dead and the Gone. In the first book, an asteroid hits the moon and brings it closer to Earth causing tsunamis, earthquakes, extreme cold, starvation, and other threats to survival. Like a line of falling dominoes, each event causes or contributes to yet another. Still, as the pressures of living and surviving become more and more all-consuming, the human spirits of compassion, decency, empathy, and love remain.”

Station Eleven
Emily St. John Mandel (2015)

Pandemic Bookshelf A pandemic and what follows in the decades after. (Suggested by Sheryl McNair)

“Kirsten Raymonde will never forget the night Arthur Leander, the famous Hollywood actor, had a heart attack on stage during a production of King Lear. That was the night when a devastating flu pandemic arrived in the city, and within weeks, civilization as we know it came to an end.

Twenty years later, Kirsten moves between the settlements of the altered world with a small troupe of actors and musicians. They call themselves The Traveling Symphony, and they have dedicated themselves to keeping the remnants of art and humanity alive. But when they arrive in St. Deborah by the Water, they encounter a violent prophet who will threaten the tiny band’s existence. And as the story takes off, moving back and forth in time, and vividly depicting life before and after the pandemic, the strange twist of fate that connects them all will be revealed.” – Amazon

The Yellow House
Sarah Broom (2019)

Pandemic BookshelfWinner of the 2019 National Book Award for Nonfiction. (Suggested by Doug Sligh)

“The Yellow House tells a hundred years of [Broom’s] family and their relationship to home in a neglected area of one of America’s most mythologized cities. This is the story of a mother’s struggle against a house’s entropy, and that of a prodigal daughter who left home only to reckon with the pull that home exerts, even after the Yellow House was wiped off the map after Hurricane Katrina. The Yellow House expands the map of New Orleans to include the stories of its lesser-known natives, guided deftly by one of its native daughters, to demonstrate how enduring drives of clan, pride, and familial love resist and defy erasure. Located in the gap between the “Big Easy” of tourist guides and the New Orleans in which Broom was raised, The Yellow House is a brilliant memoir of place, class, race, the seeping rot of inequality, and the internalized shame that often follows. It is a transformative, deeply moving story from an unparalleled new voice of startling clarity, authority, and power. – Amazon

Alas, Babylon
Pat Frank (1959)

Pandemic Bookshelf A nuclear war begins by accident and a group of civilians in a small town in central Florida learn how to survive in the days and months after. (Suggested by Leslie Fields)

“‘Alas, Babylon.’ Those fateful words heralded the end. When a nuclear holocaust ravages the United States, a thousand years of civilization are stripped away overnight, and tens of millions of people are killed instantly. But for one small town in Florida, miraculously spared, the struggle is just beginning, as men and women of all backgrounds join together to confront the darkness.” – Amazon

A Paradise Built in Hell
Rebecca Solnit (2010)

Pandemic BookshelfAn exploration of what comes after the disaster. (Suggested by Mary Anne Thomas)

“Why is it that in the aftermath of a disaster, whether manmade or natural, people suddenly become altruistic, resourceful, and brave? What makes the newfound communities and purpose many find in the ruins and crises after disaster so joyous? And what does this joy reveal about ordinarily unmet social desires and possibilities?

In A Paradise Built in Hell, award-winning author Rebecca Solnit explores these phenomena, looking at major calamities from the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco through the 1917 explosion that tore up Halifax, Nova Scotia, the 1985 Mexico City earthquake, 9/11, and Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. She examines how disaster throws people into a temporary utopia of changed states of mind and social possibilities, as well as looking at the cost of the widespread myths and rarer real cases of social deterioration during crisis.” – Amazon

The Control of Nature
John McPhee (1987)

Pandemic BookshelfEngineers versus nature. (Suggested by Chuck Nintzel)

“In The Control of Nature [McPhee] turns his attention once more to geology and the human struggle against nature. In one sketch, he explores the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ unrealized plan to divert the flow of the Mississippi River into a tributary, the Atchafalaya, for flood control; in another, he looks at the ingenious ways in which an Icelandic engineer saved a southern harbor on that island from being destroyed by a lava flow; in a third, he examines a complex scheme to protect Los Angeles from boulders ejected from mountains by compression and tectonic movement. As always, McPhee combines a deep knowledge of his subject with a narrative approach that is wholly accessible; you may not have thought you were interested in earthquakes and flood control, but he gently leads you to take a passionate concern in such matters.” – Amazon

The Sixth Extinction
Elizabeth Kolbert (2014)

Pandemic Bookshelf Humanity is driving the sixth extinction, and it’s closer than you think. (Suggested by Dick Osmun)

“Five watershed events in the deep past decimated life on earth, hence the designation “Sixth Extinction” for today’s ­human-propelled crisis. To lay the groundwork for understanding this massive die-off, Kolbert crisply tells the stories of such earlier losses as the American mastodon and the great auk and provides an orienting overview of evolutionary and ecological science. She then chronicles her adventures in the field with biologists, botanists, and geologists investigating the threats against amphibians, bats, coral, and rhinos. Intrepid and astute, Kolbert combines vivid, informed, and awestruck descriptions of natural wonders, from rain forests to the Great Barrier Reef, and wryly amusing tales about such dicey situations as nearly grabbing onto a tree branch harboring a fist-sized tarantula, swimming among poisonous jellyfish, and venturing into a bat cave; each dispatch is laced with running explanations of urgent scientific inquiries and disquieting findings. Rendered with rare, resolute, and resounding clarity, Kolbert’s compelling and enlightening report forthrightly addresses the most significant topic of our lives. “ – Booklist

What Alice Forgot
Liane Moriarty (2009)

Pandemic Bookshelf Not a plague or natural disaster, but a Big Event all the same: misplacing a decade of your life. (Suggested by Darcy Macerelli)

From Darcy:

Liane Moriarty is a clever and sometimes hilarious author.‘You silly sausage!’ Her books are great, especially if you want to leave all seriousness aside for a while.

A Night to Remember
Walter Lord (1955)

Pandemic Bookshelf A minute by minute account of the sinking of the Titanic, April 14-15, 1912. (Suggested by Sam Myers)

“First published in 1955, A Night to Remember remains a completely riveting account of the Titanic’s fatal collision and the behavior of the passengers and crew, both noble and ignominious. Some sacrificed their lives, while others fought like animals for their own survival. Wives beseeched husbands to join them in lifeboats; gentlemen went taut-lipped to their deaths in full evening dress; and hundreds of steerage passengers, trapped below decks, sought help in vain.” – Amazon

The Plague
Albert Camus (1941)

Pandemic Bookshelf (Suggested by L Jones and J Miller) An allegory of the French suffering during the Nazi occupation, Camus used the plague to great effect.

“[Camus] believed that the actual historical incidents we call plagues are merely concentrations of a universal precondition, dramatic instances of a perpetual rule: that all human beings are vulnerable to being randomly exterminated at any time, by a virus, an accident or the actions of our fellow man . . . He speaks to us in our own times not because he was a magical seer who could intimate what the best epidemiologists could not, but because he correctly sized up human nature.” – The New York Times

The Stand
Stephen King (1978)

Pandemic Bookshelf Classic horror story with a plague, an apocalypse, and an epic confrontation of good and evil. (suggested by Robin Ward)

“A patient escapes from a biological testing facility, unknowingly carrying a deadly weapon: a mutated strain of super-flu that will wipe out 99 percent of the world’s population within a few weeks. Those who remain are scared, bewildered, and in need of a leader. Two emerge—Mother Abagail, the benevolent 108-year-old woman who urges them to build a peaceful community in Boulder, Colorado; and Randall Flagg, the nefarious “Dark Man,” who delights in chaos and violence. As the dark man and the peaceful woman gather power, the survivors will have to choose between them—and ultimately decide the fate of all humanity.” – Amazon

David Quammen (2012)

Pandemic Bookshelf When diseases jump from wild animals to human, it’s called ‘spillover’. Quammen travels with scientists as they track and study spillover around the world. (suggested by Robin Ward)

“Quammen explains how devilishly difficult it is to trace the origins of a zoonosis and explicates the hidden process by which pathogens spill over from their respective reservoir hosts (water fowl, mosquitoes, pigs, bats, monkeys) and infect humans. We contract Lyme disease after it’s spread by black-legged ticks and white-footed mice, not white-tailed deer as commonly believed. The SARS epidemic involves China’s wild flavor trend and the eating of civets. Quammen’s revelatory, far-reaching investigation into AIDS begins in 1908 with a bloody encounter between a hunter and a chimpanzee in Cameroon. Zoonotic diseases are now on the rise due to our increasing population, deforestation, fragmented ecosystems, and factory farming.” – Booklist

Plagues and Peoples
William McNeill (2010)

Pandemic BookshelfExplores the effect of plagues on the course of history. (suggested by Diane MIller)

“From the conquest of Mexico by smallpox as much as by the Spanish, to the bubonic plague in China, to the typhoid epidemic in Europe, the history of disease is the history of humankind. With the identification of AIDS in the early 1980s, another chapter has been added to this chronicle of events,” – from the book

The Great Influenza
John M. Barry (Revised 2005)

Pandemic BookshelfAn account of the flu epidemic of 1918. (suggested by Pat Thomier and Robin Ward)

When she suggested the book, Robin Ward wrote:

A strange book. A scary book. A tiny bit repetitious regarding the politics of pandemic and pandemic science, but perhaps that’s good when viewed within the current craziness. I’m really really glad I was not around in the winter of 1918-1919 for the “second wave”. That part will scare the crap out of anyone thinking about “second” waves.

The Andromeda Strain
Michael Crichton (1969)

Pandemic BookshelfA military satellite crashes to earth, bringing extraterrestrial microorganisms to earth. The tiny invaders like their new earthly digs and wreak havoc on town near the crash site. The military – and a few expert microbiologists – are called in to contain the growing catastrophe.

Viruses, Plagues, and History
Michael B. Oldstone (2009)

Pandemic BookshelfProfessor and the head of the Viral-Immunobiology Laboratory at The Scripps Research Institute, Michael Oldstone knows about viruses.

“The story of viruses and humanity is a story of fear and ignorance, of grief and heartbreak, and of great bravery and sacrifice. Michael Oldstone … describes the fascinating viruses that have captured headlines in more recent years: Ebola, Hantavirus, mad cow disease (a frightening illness made worse by government mishandling and secrecy), and, of course, AIDS. And he tells us of the many scientists watching and waiting even now for the next great plague, monitoring influenza strains to see whether the deadly variant from 1918—a viral strain that killed over 20 million people in 1918-1919—will make a comeback.” – Amazon

Good Omens
Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman (1990)

Pandemic Bookshelf An angel and a demon team up to stop the end of the world.

“The world will end on Saturday. Next Saturday. Just before dinner, according to The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch, the world’s only completely accurate book of prophecies written in 1655.

The armies of Good and Evil are amassing and everything appears to be going according to Divine Plan. Except that a somewhat fussy angel and a fast-living demon are not actually looking forward to the coming Rapture. And someone seems to have misplaced the Antichrist.” – from the back cover

Extreme Medicine
Kevin Fong, M.D. (2014)

Pandemic BookshelfDrawing on his own experiences and historical examples, Fong details medical emergencies and breakthroughs that happen when humans are pushed to their physical limits.

“Every chapter combines personal stories, dramatic medical history and clear, vivid science writing…Fong’s book presents daring moments in medicine along with lucid explanations of human physiology and of how medical professionals manage to keep people alive or pull them back from the brink.” – The Washington Post

365 Ways to Cook Chicken
Cheryl Sedaker (2005)

Pandemic BookshelfWith a pandemic on, most people are staying in to eat. Those go-to recipes may be getting repetitive after a month of stay-at-home meals.

A classic is here to help, with 365 different ways to serve chicken.

The Perfect Storm
Sebastian Junger (1997)

The true story of the Andrea Gail, a fishing trawler lost in a storm off the east coast. A storm with 100 ft waves. It’s a man versus nature story with tragic consequences.

Pandemic Bookshelf “Junger builds his story around the vessel; he starts with biographies of the deckhands and the captain, and gives as complete an account of the boat’s time at sea as he can dredge up, so readers feel an immediate stake in its fate. Since it is unknown exactly how the Andrea Gail sank, and because Junger wanted to know what it was like for the men during their last hours, he details the horrific tribulations of a sailboat caught in the storm, the rescue of the three aboard it by the Coast Guard, and the ditching of an Air National Guard helicopter after it ran out of fuel during another rescue operation. Junger’s fine dramatic style is complemented by a wealth of details that flesh out the story: wave physics and water thermoclines; what it means if you see whitewater outside your porthole; where the terms mayday, ill-wind, and down East came from. Reading this gripping book is likely to make the would-be sailor feel both awed and a little frightened by nature’s remorseless power.” – Kirkus Reviews

The Coming Plague
Laurie Garrett (1994)

Pandemic Bookshelf Journalist Laurie Garrett has won a Peabody, a Polk, and a Pulitzer for her work. In The Coming Plague, Garrett investigates the threat of worldwide epidemics.

“Medical journalist Garrett presents a history of epidemiology in a format that is educational, moving, and terrifying. She skillfully illustrates the role of ecology, politics, and economics in worldwide healthcare and uses numerous examples to emphasize the need for a global perspective in the management of disease. Yellow fever, malaria, ebola, lassa fever, AIDS, legionnaires’ disease, toxic shock syndrome-she discusses in depth the search for the causes of these and many other diseases. The tranquil days following the discovery of antibiotics are gone as drug-resistant strains of disease-causing organisms continue to reappear.” – Library Journal

Posted Thursday April 23, 2020 by Allison DeWeese

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