Themed Thursday- Infectious Stories

Posted March 12, 2020 by stuckint in Features, Themed Thursdays / 5 Comments

Hello everyone! We interrupt our regular scheduled programming to bring you a Themed Thursday focused on books about pandemics. While some might be seeking out fluffy contemporaries or light rom-coms to escape from the horrors of our present situation we at Stuck in the Stacks couldn’t restrain ourselves from leaning into the apocalyptic vibe that is all to prevalent at the moment.

So, we decided provide you with recommendations of books featuring plagues and pandemics. If we left off your favorite let us know in the comments!

1- Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
Published by Knopf on September 9, 2014
Pages: 336

Set in the days of civilization's collapse, Station Eleven tells the story of a Hollywood star, his would-be savior, and a nomadic group of actors roaming the scattered outposts of the Great Lakes region, risking everything for art and humanity.
One snowy night a famous Hollywood actor slumps over and dies onstage during a production of King Lear. Hours later, the world as we know it begins to dissolve. Moving back and forth in time—from the actor's early days as a film star to fifteen years in the future, when a theater troupe known as the Traveling Symphony roams the wasteland of what remains—this suspenseful, elegiac, spellbinding novel charts the strange twists of fate that connect five people: the actor, the man who tried to save him, the actor's first wife, his oldest friend, and a young actress with the Traveling Symphony, caught in the crosshairs of a dangerous self-proclaimed prophet.

Mandel’s work of speculative fiction is definitely the quintessential post apocalyptic novel cast with a literary hue. I still have a lot of conflicting emotions about this book. I remember when I read it I felt super depressed thinking about the fragility of the societies humanity has created. How almost overnight it can just be wiped away. But, conflict aside, its a fantastic read for anyone looking for a solid post-apocalyptic/pandemic story.

2- The Book of M by Peng Sheperd

The Book of M by Peng Shepherd
Published by William Morrow on June 5, 2018
Pages: 485

Set in a dangerous near future world, The Book of M tells the captivating story of a group of ordinary people caught in an extraordinary catastrophe who risk everything to save the ones they love. It is a sweeping debut that illuminates the power that memories have not only on the heart, but on the world itself.
One afternoon at an outdoor market in India, a man’s shadow disappears—an occurrence science cannot explain. He is only the first. The phenomenon spreads like a plague, and while those afflicted gain a strange new power, it comes at a horrible price: the loss of all their memories.
Ory and his wife Max have escaped the Forgetting so far by hiding in an abandoned hotel deep in the woods. Their new life feels almost normal, until one day Max’s shadow disappears too.
Knowing that the more she forgets, the more dangerous she will become to Ory, Max runs away. But Ory refuses to give up the time they have left together. Desperate to find Max before her memory disappears completely, he follows her trail across a perilous, unrecognizable world, braving the threat of roaming bandits, the call to a new war being waged on the ruins of the capital, and the rise of a sinister cult that worships the shadowless.
As they journey, each searches for answers: for Ory, about love, about survival, about hope; and for Max, about a new force growing in the south that may hold the cure.

This one was popular a couple years ago and follows a group of people who have survived a plague which manifests itself in the form of disappearing shadows, lost memories, and strange powers. This book asks questions about what really makes us human, what we are willing to give up for those that we love, and how to survive when the world we knew becomes a thing of the past.


3- The Wanderers by Chuck Wendig

Wanderers by Chuck Wendig
Published by Del Rey Books on July 2, 2019
Pages: 782

A decadent rock star. A deeply religious radio host. A disgraced scientist. And a teenage girl who may be the world's last hope.
Shana wakes up one morning to discover her little sister in the grip of a strange malady. She appears to be sleepwalking. She cannot talk and cannot be woken up. And she is heading with inexorable determination to a destination that only she knows. But Shana and her sister are not alone. Soon they are joined by a flock of sleepwalkers from across America, on the same mysterious journey. And like Shana, there are other “shepherds” who follow the flock to protect their friends and family on the long dark road ahead.
For on their journey, they will discover an America convulsed with terror and violence, where this apocalyptic epidemic proves less dangerous than the fear of it. As the rest of society collapses all around them–and an ultraviolent militia threatens to exterminate them–the fate of the sleepwalkers depends on unraveling the mystery behind the epidemic. The terrifying secret will either tear the nation apart–or bring the survivors together to remake a shattered world.

This is a beast of a book. I have sitting on my bookshelf and the only reason I haven’t read it yet is because its so huge. When I bought it, before actually purchasing it, I sat on the floor in the store and read the first chapter and it sucked me in immediately. In a world where a good portion of the population has fallen into a sleepwalking-like trance, The Wanderers asks questions not just about the consequences of world-wide illness, but the fear that pandemics create. This one is definitely at the top of my TBR pile!

4- This Mortal Coil by Emily Suvada

This Mortal Coil (This Mortal Coil, #1) by Emily Suvada
Published by Simon Pulse on September 25, 2018
Pages: 448

“Redefines ‘unputdownable.’” —Amie Kaufman, New York Times bestselling author of Iluminae “I was thrilled. I was shocked.” —NPR “Stunning twists and turns.” —BCCB (starred review)
In this gripping debut novel, seventeen-year-old Cat must use her gene-hacking skills to decode her late father’s message concealing a vaccine to a horrifying plague.
Catarina Agatta is a hacker. She can cripple mainframes and crash through firewalls, but that’s not what makes her special. In Cat’s world, people are implanted with technology to recode their DNA, allowing them to change their bodies in any way they want. And Cat happens to be a gene-hacking genius.
That’s no surprise, since Cat’s father is Dr. Lachlan Agatta, a legendary geneticist who may be the last hope for defeating a plague that has brought humanity to the brink of extinction. But during the outbreak, Lachlan was kidnapped by a shadowy organization called Cartaxus, leaving Cat to survive the last two years on her own.
When a Cartaxus soldier, Cole, arrives with news that her father has been killed, Cat’s instincts tell her it’s just another Cartaxus lie. But Cole also brings a message: before Lachlan died, he managed to create a vaccine, and Cole needs Cat’s help to release it and save the human race.
Now Cat must decide who she can trust: The soldier with secrets of his own? The father who made her promise to hide from Cartaxus at all costs? In a world where nature itself can be rewritten, how much can she even trust herself?

The first in a now completed trilogy, Suvada’s This Mortal Coil follows seventeen year old Cat, whose father coded a cure within the DNA strands of a plague that he helped to create. While I found parts of the book muddled and confusing it is a strong sci-fi thriller that is perfect for anyone who wants a little more science at the end of the world.

5- As Bright As Heaven by Susan Meissner

As Bright as Heaven by Susan Meissner
Published by Berkley Books on February 6, 2018
Pages: 387

From the acclaimed author of Secrets of a Charmed Life and A Bridge Across the Ocean comes a new novel set in Philadelphia during the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918, which tells the story of a family reborn through loss and love.
In 1918, Philadelphia was a city teeming with promise. Even as its young men went off to fight in the Great War, there were opportunities for a fresh start on its cobblestone streets. Into this bustling town, came Pauline Bright and her husband, filled with hope that they could now give their three daughters--Evelyn, Maggie, and Willa--a chance at a better life.
But just months after they arrive, the Spanish Flu reaches the shores of America. As the pandemic claims more than twelve thousand victims in their adopted city, they find their lives left with a world that looks nothing like the one they knew. But even as they lose loved ones, they take in a baby orphaned by the disease who becomes their single source of hope. Amidst the tragedy and challenges, they learn what they cannot live without--and what they are willing to do about it.
As Bright as Heaven is the compelling story of a mother and her daughters who find themselves in a harsh world, not of their making, which will either crush their resolve to survive or purify it.

A beautiful, poetic historical fiction novel, As Bright As Heaven is set during the early 1900s around the epidemic of the Spanish flu. A mother and daughter work together to rebuilt their lives in a world forever changed by a terrible disease. At once heartwarming and tragic, this beautiful book speaks to the resilience of the human spirit and the power of home in the most tragic of times.

6- Severance by Ling Ma

Severance by Ling Ma
Published by Picador USA on May 7, 2019
Pages: 291

Maybe it's the end of the world, but not for Candace Chen, a millennial, first-generation American and office drone meandering her way into adulthood in Ling Ma's offbeat, wryly funny, apocalyptic satire, Severance.
Candace Chen, a millennial drone self-sequestered in a Manhattan office tower, is devoted to routine. With the recent passing of her Chinese immigrant parents, she's had her fill of uncertainty. She's content just to carry on: She goes to work, troubleshoots the teen-targeted Gemstone Bible, watches movies in a Greenpoint basement with her boyfriend.
So Candace barely notices when a plague of biblical proportions sweeps New York. Then Shen Fever spreads. Families flee. Companies cease operations. The subways screech to a halt. Her bosses enlist her as part of a dwindling skeleton crew with a big end-date payoff. Soon entirely alone, still unfevered, she photographs the eerie, abandoned city as the anonymous blogger NY Ghost.
Candace won't be able to make it on her own forever, though. Enter a group of survivors, led by the power-hungry IT tech Bob. They're traveling to a place called the Facility, where, Bob promises, they will have everything they need to start society anew. But Candace is carrying a secret she knows Bob will exploit. Should she escape from her rescuers?
A send-up and takedown of the rituals, routines, and missed opportunities of contemporary life, Ling Ma's Severance is a moving family story, a quirky coming-of-adulthood tale, and a hilarious, deadpan satire. Most important, it's a heartfelt tribute to the connections that drive us to do more than survive.

At once a searing social commentary and a witty satire which comments on the “working drone” mentality of the modern world, Severance tells the story of a plague individuals are doomed to do the same thing, over and over, until their bodies wither away. Candace Chen even stayed in New York and went to work long after most others had left, documenting the decline of humanity both in writing a photography. It was a moving novel, and one that I would definitely recommend in light of present circumstances.

7- Gone by Michael Grant

Gone (Gone, #1) by Michael Grant
Published by Katherine Tegen Books on April 28, 2009
Pages: 558

The first in New York Times bestselling author Michael Grant's breathtaking dystopian sci-fi saga, Gone is a page-turning thriller that invokes the classic The Lord of the Flies along with the horror of Stephen King.
In the blink of an eye, everyone disappears. Gone. Except for the young. There are teens, but not one single adult. Just as suddenly, there are no phones, no internet, no television. No way to get help. And no way to figure out what's happened.
Hunger threatens. Bullies rule. A sinister creature lurks. Animals are mutating. And the teens themselves are changing, developing new talents—unimaginable, dangerous, deadly powers—that grow stronger by the day.
It's a terrifying new world. Sides are being chosen, a fight is shaping up. Townies against rich kids. Bullies against the weak. Powerful against powerless. And time is running out: on your birthday, you disappear just like everyone else. . . .
“A potent mix of action and thoughtfulness—centered around good and evil, courage and cowardice—renders this a tour de force that will leave readers dazed, disturbed, and utterly breathless.” —ALA Booklist (starred review)
Read the entire series:

While Gone might not be as currently relevant as the second book in the series, Plague it is a series that needs to be read in order and if you like it, there are quite a few others books to pick up afterward. In Gone, all adults disappear while the world goes to hell and children start to develop strange abilities. Part survival story, part post apocalyptic tale, Gone is the thrilling beginning to an action-packed series.

8- Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson

Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson
Published by Aladdin on September 1, 2000
Pages: 252

It's late summer 1793, and the streets of Philadelphia are abuzz with mosquitoes and rumors of fever. Down near the docks, many have taken ill, and the fatalities are mounting. Now they include Polly, the serving girl at the Cook Coffeehouse. But fourteen-year-old Mattie Cook doesn't get a moment to mourn the passing of her childhood playmate. New customers have overrun her family's coffee shop, located far from the mosquito-infested river, and Mattie's concerns of fever are all but overshadowed by dreams of growing her family's small business into a thriving enterprise. But when the fever begins to strike closer to home, Mattie's struggle to build a new life must give way to a new fight—the fight to stay alive.

Most will recognize Anderson’s name from her acclaimed work Speak, and its follow up Shout. Also set in Philadelphia (like As Bright As Heaven above) Anderson writes the story of Maddie, who flees the city to escape the plague, only to discover that the disease is everywhere. A perfect read for those housebound during Covid-19 and maybe just a little too real at the moment. I will definitely be picking this one up soon.

9- Chasing Secrets by Gennifer Choldenko

Chasing Secrets by Gennifer Choldenko
Published by Yearling on July 19, 2016
Pages: 288

Newbery Honor–winning author Gennifer Choldenko deftly combines humor, tragedy, fascinating historical detail, and a medical mystery in this exuberant new novel.   San Francisco, 1900. The Gilded Age. A fantastic time to be alive for lots of people . . . but not thirteen-year-old Lizzie Kennedy, stuck at Miss Barstow’s snobby school for girls. Lizzie’s secret passion is science, an unsuitable subject for finishing-school girls. Lizzie lives to go on house calls with her physician father. On those visits to his patients, she discovers a hidden dark side of the city—a side that’s full of secrets, rats, and rumors of the plague.   The newspapers, her powerful uncle, and her beloved papa all deny that the plague has reached San Francisco. So why is the heart of the city under quarantine? Why are angry mobs trying to burn Chinatown to the ground? Why is Noah, the Chinese cook’s son, suddenly making Lizzie question everything she has known to be true? Ignoring the rules of race and class, Lizzie and Noah must put the pieces together in a heart-stopping race to save the people they love.

All the way across the country, set in San Fransisco at the turn of the 20th century, Lizzie finds herself trapped at finishing school with a bunch of other girls when the center of the city puts itself under quarantine. Part mystery, part apocalyptic novel, Chasing Secrets is sure to get you into a “its the end of the world as we know it” kind of mood.

10- The Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks

Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague by Geraldine Brooks
Published by Harper Perennial on October 1, 2008
Pages: 310

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."
Inspired by the true story of Eyam, a village in the rugged hill country of England, Year of Wonders is a richly detailed evocation of a singular moment in history.

Our last pick is one of Emily’s favorites. and begins with a piece of infected cloth, which carries a horrendous plague from London to a remote village in the countryside. Inspired by true events this beautiful novel provides a snapshot of history that is all too real as diseases ravages our global economy and spreads across the world.

What About You?

What are some of your favorite books that features plagues and pandemics? What do you think of our choices? We love hearing your thoughts so let us know in the comments!

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