Book Reviews

Books to Get You Through COVID-19

Disclaimer: Please note that as you read through this blog post, it is a bit tongue-in-cheek. Do not take this as a sign that I’m not taking COVID-19 seriously. I’m taking it very seriously and am in my house climbing the walls. Humor is my coping mechanism and I might be a bit of a masochist given my current reading choices.

Alright folks! The quarantine is nearly upon us, unless it could be considered upon us already. I hope everyone has their supplies and food storage up to scratch. With all the panicked doomsday prepping (hopefully) over, there is only one thing left that I bet most people are missing.

Things. To. Do.

For several weeks.

Especially with most forms of live televised entertainment cancelled.

That’s where I come in!

I’ve been thinking a lot about what I would like to read during my time flattening the curve and I realized with the libraries closing and library books possibly, maybe holding infection (you never know, people), I had my own private library of books I love and would wholeheartedly recommend to just about anyone!

So, just for fun, I looked at my shelf to see how many books I owned that contained some sort of pandemic or quarantine. Turns out I had a few!

Granted, if you are seriously, deeply freaking out and panicking about COVID-19, maybe some of these recommendations are not for you right now, so for the purposes of this blog post, I will list these books in order of most pandemic-y to least. I’ve also included links in the headings for the digital/audio versions for your convenience if you’d like to check them out!

Recommendation #1: World War Z: an Oral History of the Zombie War, by Max Brooks

World War Z, Max Brooks

I know a lot of you out there have seen the movie, but I can tell you that it is 100% trashy fan fiction compared to the book. This is the book I decided to read in honor of our own pandemic and HOLY CRIPES. It’s a trip. 

It’s been a couple of years since I read it the first time, and rereading it, I’m seeing a lot of similarities between the spread of the Z virus in the book and how COVID-19 came about. It, too, began in China, spread like a wildfire through the world via droplets/fluids, there were irresponsible infected people who didn’t take the pandemic seriously and spread it, people got infected while traveling, nation-wide quarantines were enacted, hospitals and medical staff were overwhelmed, no known vaccine or cure, WORLD WIDE PANIC…it all hits close to home.

It’s okay if you guys think I’m a masochist for reading this kind of stuff during a scary, global pandemic. Really, it is.

But I think my favorite thing about this book is that it is written as an oral history. The main character is putting together information for the United Nations Postwar Report and to do so, he interviews people all across the globe to get their personal accounts of the war in the different stages. The accounts are so riveting and feel so real, that when I read this book for the first time, I could only read it for 30 minutes, once a day, at noon. 

Yes, I’m dramatic. But sense of depth is part of the reason I recommend this book so highly! It pulled me in and that is an experience I want for others.

Pandemic Panic Levels: High

Violence: High. Very gory. Definitely not for kids.

Language: Strong. I wouldn’t say the cussing is profuse, but the characters interviewed have no problems using the “f” bomb.

Series?: No

Recommendation #2: The Scorch Trials, by James Dashner

The Scorch Trials, James Dashner

As a heads up, this book is the sequel to The Maze Runner, so if you wanna read The Maze Runner, skip this blurb, cause I’m about to ruin some surprises.

So, spoiler alert, the kids get out of the Maze, right? But the world they step into is not at all what they think. The world is under quarantine for a disease called the Flare, a highly infectious disease that covers its victims in festering sores and drives them into insanity, making them cannibals fashioned after the image of zombies. They must cross the Scorch, the wasteland infested by the infected, to make it to a safe haven, where all their questions about WICKED are supposed to be answered.

Full disclosure, this is a book I haven’t read in a long time, and if there is enough time on my quarantine list, this is #2 in line. The descriptions of the Cranks, the people infected by the Flare, were described so well and incredibly, I bought the book solely on those merits alone. 

Pandemic Panic Levels: High

Violence: It gets a bit graphic. The infected are cannibals covered in disgusting sores…so not really for the weak of stomach either. But I feel like World War Z was much more gory.

Language: The Gladers have their own made-up cuss words.

Series?: Yes, 5 books

Recommendation #3: The Keys to the Kingdom: Mister Monday, by Garth Nix

Mister Monday, Garth Nix

Mister Monday is a book I would recommend for kids. It’s a middle grade novel about a young man named Arthur who, during gym class nearly dies from an asthma attack, but his life is saved by a key shaped like the minute hand of a clock, gifted to him by the mysterious Mister Monday based on the sole fact Arthur was destined to die at that moment. But when Arthur doesn’t die and his binding with the key becomes permanent, Mister Monday releases a pandemic, spread by his disgusting Fetchers, to force Arthur to cross over the border of reality to The House, the realm that Mister Monday rules, so he can reclaim his key.

This is another one I haven’t read in years, but I remember loving as a kid. I loved it enough that I was trying to collect the entire series for myself, and there is one for each day of the week. So, if you’re looking for something to keep the kids busy, this is a great one!

Pandemic Panic Levels: Medium-Low, I would say an appropriate level for kids

Violence: Low to not at all. It’s a kids book, after all! 😀

Language: None 🙂

Series?: Yes, 7 books

Recommendation #4: The Partials, by Dan Wells

The Partials, Dan Wells

This is one of my favorite books, guys. I love it so much.

The Partials takes place in a world where the last of humanity is backed onto the island of Manhattan, trying to recover from the war with the Partials, a race of superhumans who decimated the population 11 years previous. To further complicate humanity’s survival, during the war, the Partials released a disease that plagued and flatlined the population, killing every newborn within hours of birth. The main character, Kira, is a young woman working in the medical centers attempting to research a cure for this sickness, and is just under the age of mandatory surrogate motherhood. Kira sets out on a rogue mission to the mainland, overrun by the Partials, in an effort to find a cure for the sickness and preserve her right of choice.

Just as an FYI, when I initially started this book, I could see the potential for it to get really sexual really quickly, something I, personally, don’t have a taste for. But I was pleasantly surprised that it veered away from the sexual aspect and focused into an action-adventure story that takes place through post-apocalyptic New York. As I said, this book is seriously one of my favorites and ranks really high on my list of book recommendations.

Pandemic Panic Levels: Low

Violence: There are firefights and some gore (the main character is a medic, so she doesn’t flinch at bodily harm), but nothing like World War Z or The Scorch Trials.

Language: Low

Series?: Yes, 3 books and a digital novella

Recommendation #5: Elantris, by Brandon Sanderson

Elantris, Brandon Sanderson

Here is one for all you epic fantasy fans out there! 

Elantris is high up on my list of favorite books by Brandon Sanderson, for sure. In this world, seemingly at random, people would be transformed and develop incredible magical powers, becoming akin to gods. They were revered and powerful until one day, those who became endowed with these powers became sick and the magic evaporated. Their skin turns grey and they are unable to die or heal from injuries. When this happens, these people are quarantined in a high walled city of Elantris, once the capitol of these magical beings, and shunned and considered dead by the rest of the world.

One morning, the prince of Arelon wakes up to find himself transformed into one of these “infected” people and gets quarantined in Elantris. Determined not to be held back by his new circumstances, he goes on a search to figure out why the magic no longer works and why those who are supposed to be endowed with power become “cursed” instead.

Brandon Sanderson truly is the master of magic systems, and it is deftly demonstrated in this book. The storytelling is immersive and entertaining and will definitely keep you busy for a good week or longer (depending on how fast you read, of course). I loved the depth of the world of Elantris and I highly recommend this one to anyone who loves fantasy!

Pandemic Panic Levels: Low

Violence: There is a good bit of blood and violence because there comes a point where the countries in the story fall into civil war. There is also debilitating bodily injury that happens inside of Elantris, but because nobody there can die, the injuries just hang around and cause people problems.

Language: Low

Series?: No

What books are you reading to keep yourself busy during the COVID-19 panic? Have you read any of the books I’ve recommended? What did you think? Let me know in the comments below!

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