1918 pandemic + COVID-19 reading list: Three books that are worth your time

Want to better understand the times we are living in? Here’s a collection of pandemic literature that is credible, trustworthy, and fascinating.

  1. The Coming Plague: First published in 1994 in hardcover by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, The Coming Plague: Newly Emerging Diseases in a World Out of Balance was a New York Times bestseller in 1994-5. Laurie Garrett researched and wrote The Coming Plague for ten years, starting in the mid-1980s when the very premise of the effort was highly controversial.
  2. The Great Influenza: Magisterial in its breadth of perspective and depth of research, John Barry’s The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History (2004) provides us with a precise and sobering model as we confront the epidemics looming on our own horizon.
  3. Pale Rider: In this gripping narrative history, Laura Spinney traces the overlooked pandemic to reveal how the virus travelled across the globe, exposing mankind’s vulnerability and putting our ingenuity to the test. As socially significant as both world wars, the 1918 flu dramatically disrupted — and often permanently altered — global politics, race relations and family structures, while spurring innovation in medicine, religion and the arts.

NPI’s Literary Advocate David Johnson reviewed Pale Rider the same year that it came out; you can read his favorable review at the Cascadia Advocate.