Feeling isolated and anxious during this period of social distancing? You’re not alone. This pandemic has caused many people to turn to fiction to help calm their anxieties about the real world changes we’re experiencing. Reading about fictionalized disasters can be a strangely calming experience because it puts into perspective the perceived threats we are experiencing ourselves. When we read about fictional disasters, it can help us feel more confident about the way the world is currently handling our disaster. That being said, here are five fictional books about disasters to help get you through these tough times.
‘The Plague’ by Albert Camus
This 1947 novel follows an outbreak in the Algerian town of Oran. Though this story is full of gory details about sickness as it grips a small town, it also tells a story of hope and resilience during a time of panic and uncertainty. As the citizens of Oran live through quarantine, their experiences echo some of the struggles we are currently going through, and can help us better understand our own reactions to living with uncertainty.
‘The Stand’ by Stephen King
This post-apocalyptic novel published in 1978 centers on the repercussions of a pandemic created by a weaponized strand of influenza. After the sickness kills off the majority of Earth’s population, a few survivors are left to create a new social order. This extreme outcome to a global pandemic can remind us how well our current situation is being handled, and how lucky we are to still have social institutions in place.
‘The Companions’ by Katie Flynn
Katie Flynn’s debut novel tracks the aftermath of a highly contagious virus that has forced the majority of the world to live under quarantine. The living are unable to leave their homes, but the dead are able to keep living through the companion program. Wealthy people have been given the privilege of uploading their consciousness into whatever they choose, but the less fortunate are rented out to families upon their death. All people in this companion program become the property of the Metis Corporation, but one girl’s rebellion against this program sets off a chain of events that stirs rebellion throughout the rest of the world. Much like Stephen King’s “The Stand,” this novel reminds us of how lucky we are to still have structure left in our society.
‘The Andromeda Strain’ by Michael Crichton
From the author of "Jurassic Park," this thriller details what it takes to contain a deadly outbreak. "The Andromeda Strain" is a classic thriller from 1969 that follows a team of scientists as they investigate an outbreak caused by an extraterrestrial organism. As more people get infected and die from the organism, terror and panic captivates people, and the scientists struggle to contain the outbreak and calm the people they serve. This book serves as a nice reminder about all the hard work scientists put into containing outbreaks.
‘As Bright as Heaven’ by Susan Meissner
Published in 2018, this novel tells of a family’s fight to keep their lives in order during the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic. Set in Philadelphia, a mother and her three daughters are trying to make a better life for themselves amidst a global crisis. As they struggle through loss and death, they learn how to depend on each other for support. This book is a good example of the ways we can all support each other to get through this difficult experience.
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