January 16th, 2022Looking back at 2021: January & February
In our January 18, 2021 edition, journalist Jeff Glorfeld reported on the pandemic in America and Australia along with offering a handy list of pandemic reading material. Who knew we would still need them in 2022.
IT LOOKED like Victoria had beaten Covid-19 into submission, and then new cases began leaking in from NSW.
Here in California, hospitals are reporting record numbers of cases and deaths related to Covid-19, as we experience another wave of infection and as a vast number of Americans continue to refuse to wear masks or accept the reality of the pandemic. Recently a new, reportedly more infectious, strain of the virus has found its way to the US from the UK. So, happy 2021. With that in mind, here are a few books to read during a pandemic.
- The Stand, by Stephen King
King published The Stand in 1978 but has revised it a couple of times, so even if you’ve read it years ago, it’s worth picking up a new copy.
It is only tangentially about a pandemic but what happens is, an extremely snotty, man-made flu-like disease called Captain Trips (and why are we stuck with a nerdy virus like Covid-19 – why can’t we have a bug with a cool name?) wipes out almost the entire population of the US – the rest of the world doesn’t figure in the story.
This being Stephen King, of course, the next thousand or so pages involve supernatural powers influencing survivors to coalesce into two groups – one good and the other evil – who battle it out for control of the world.
- I Am Legend, by Richard Matheson
Matheson was one of the great masters of horror literature, and this novel from 1954 was one of his best. The story has twice been adapted for the cinema. In 1964 Vincent Price was masterful in a version titled The Last Man on Earth, an excellent attempt at capturing the mood of Matheson’s tale. As for the 2007 movie with Will Smith, it’s barely adequate and takes too many liberties with the book.
Matheson’s story takes place in a US city – it could be Los Angeles – after a disease has left a man named Robert Neville as the last human. But he isn’t alone – the pandemic disease has turned everyone but Neville into vampires. It’s horror writing at its finest.
- Wanderers, by Chuck Wendig
Wendig is one of the most prolific writers you’ve probably never heard of, unless you’re a fan of comic books spun off from the Star Wars franchise.
This is a recent book, published in 2019, and at almost 800 pages, even a writer of Wendig’s fecundity would’ve had to have started it before the Covid pandemic struck, which makes it extremely prophetic.
The book takes its time getting into its main plot, and to discuss it in detail would be to drop too many spoilers. Suffice it to say, many elements of the story could have come directly from the pages of any newspaper, populated by heroic, disease-fighting public health workers; heavily armed, right-wing lunatic militias; duplicitous, useless politicians; and a frightened, angry general population.
- The Great Influenza, by John M Barry
For non-fiction readers, and first published in 2004, this is one of the best books available on the 1918-20 influenza pandemic that killed “more people than any other outbreak of disease in human history”.
Barry does an amazing job telling the story in a highly readable style while including the dark details and the enlightening science. It is unfortunate that this book resonates so profoundly in today’s world.