The best books that predicted the pandemic

Why am I passionate about this?

When I was 6, I read the The Boxcar Children, about a group of orphans who make a home in the woods out of whatever they could scavenge. This began my passion, not only for reading, but for extreme circumstances that push the boundaries of survival. Since then, I’ve devoured every apocalyptic concept I could get my hands on, from books to movies and television shows. Because of this, it’s no shock that when a massive snowstorm hit New York City in 2016 and the mayor shut down all transportation, urging us to stay inside our apartments for several days, my brain immediately went to an even darker place, a vivid dream that became the concept for Past This Point. When I was writing my debut novel, I read everything I could specifically in pandemic/epidemic fiction, even the most obscure novels, discovering some absolute gems in my search. These are my favorites that were written before COVID hit, essentially predicting the pandemic. Enjoy!


I wrote...

Past This Point

By Nicole Mabry,

Book cover of Past This Point

What is my book about?

Karis Hylen has been through the New York City dating wringer. After years of dating, she whittles her days down to work and walks with her dog, Zeke. Her self-imposed exile saves her life when an untreatable virus sweeps the east coast. Alone in her building, Karis survives with only Zeke, phone calls with her mom, and conversations with two girls across the courtyard. Violence and the smell of rotting corpses surround her every day, but her biggest enemy is her own mind as she struggles to keep herself in check. When a mysterious man enters the scene, she hopes he can help her make it to the quarantine border. With the world crumbling around her, Karis discovers that she may need people after all. 

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Dog Stars

Nicole Mabry Why did I love this book?

The Dog Stars is eye-opening not only in style but also in concept. The book starts after a deadly virus has wiped out most of humanity, following widower, Hig, and his dog as they make a home in an abandoned airport hangar. One day a transmission comes through the radio on Hig’s Cessna, giving him hope for a better life with people. The most intriguing aspect about this book is Heller’s writing style. It took me a beat to get into the odd formatting and cadence of his story, but once I did, I was completely immersed. His characters are engaging, and the story is executed so expertly that it catapults you into Heller’s post-apocalyptic world, one we could all imagine if COVID was allowed to run rampant. This book has heart and will give you shivers as you read about our potential future if COVID is not contained.

By Peter Heller,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked The Dog Stars as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

THE ROAD - but with hope. Hig, bereaved and traumatised after global disaster, has three things to live for - his dog Jasper, his aggressive but helpful neighbour, and his Cessna aeroplane. He's just about surviving, so long as he only takes his beloved plane for short journeys, and saves his remaining fuel. But, just once, he picks up a message from another pilot, and eventually the temptation to find out who else is still alive becomes irresistible. So he takes his plane over the horizon, knowing that he won't have enough fuel to get back. What follows is scarier…


Book cover of The End of Men

Nicole Mabry Why did I love this book?

The End of Men was written in 2019 and was in the process of editing when COVID first hit, making it an obvious choice in predicting the pandemic. In the year 2025 in Scotland, Dr. Amanda McLean reports a deadly virus that only affects men. But of course, she is not taken seriously because…you guessed it! She’s a woman. What follows is a global pandemic leaving primarily women behind to pick up the pieces as 9 out of 10 males die from the virus, including babies. The first moral: Do not discount the female voice! This incredible story is told through the eyes of the women leading the way back to normalcy. But without men, the ideas of family change drastically as the world becomes run by women. The first-person narration is perfect, bringing these women and their journeys into sharp focus. While some may read this as a feminist battle cry, it actually presents two sides of the same coin. The second moral: What would our world be like without men? This paradox kept me turning the pages to see what happened next. 

By Christina Sweeney-Baird,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The End of Men as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'A FIERCELY INTELLIGENT PAGE-TURNER' PAULA HAWKINS

'WRITTEN PRE-COVID - GRIPPING, SCARY AND PERSUASIVE' IAN RANKIN

'THE STUFF THAT CLASSICS ARE MADE OF' A.J. FINN

'GRIPPING AND BEAUTIFULLY WRITTEN. WHAT A DEBUT!' SARAH PEARSE, author of The Sanatorium

'BRILLIANT, PRESCIENT, UNPUTDOWNABLE' JENNY COLGAN

'AN ENGROSSING DEBUT' STYLIST

'HUGE IN SCOPE...AS TENSE AS THE TAUTEST THRILLER' RED

'THE MOST BUZZED-ABOUT FICTION FOR 2021' SUNDAY TIMES STYLE

'AN UNFLINCHINGLY PACY MUST-READ' GRAZIA

'AN UNFORGETTABLE DEBUT'PRIMA
________________________________________________________

GLASGOW, 2025. Dr Amanda Maclean is called to treat a young man with a mild fever. Within three hours he dies. The mysterious illness sweeps through the…


Book cover of Earth Abides

Nicole Mabry Why did I love this book?

While this novel was written in 1949, its subject matter is shockingly close to our current circumstances. Scientist Isherwood Williams is on a research trip in a remote area when he is bit by a snake and spends several days in his cabin in a feverish state. When he recovers, he emerges to a world that has been devastated by a plague, leaving few survivors behind. What follows is a story of finding others and building community, but also how the earth and all its creatures react when humanity falls, which for me, is one of the coolest things about this book. When COVID was well underway, there were reports of various animals making their way back into populated areas because of human desertion. This is one area Stewart expertly addresses. As the plague in Stewart’s novel progresses, we see the earth overrun by various animals and insects, like ants for instance. The novel spans the entire life of our protagonist, which creates waves of living and dying amongst this new world. This book is so unlike every other pandemic book, almost like a textbook with engaging characters, making it in a class all its own. Earth Abides is a must-read for the genre, predicting the pandemic that was heading straight for us over 70 years ago.

By George R. Stewart,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Earth Abides as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this profound ecological fable, a mysterious plague has destroyed the vast majority of the human race. Isherwood Williams, one of the few survivors, returns from a wilderness field trip to discover that civilization has vanished during his absence.

Eventually he returns to San Francisco and encounters a female survivor who becomes his wife. Around them and their children a small community develops, living like their pioneer ancestors, but rebuilding civilization is beyond their resources, and gradually they return to a simpler way of life.

A poignant novel about finding a new normal after the upheaval of a global crisis.


Book cover of Wilder Girls

Nicole Mabry Why did I love this book?

The main reason I recommend this book is because, for me, it was like a modern-day version of The Boxcar Children but set in the time of quarantine. In Wilder Girls, when a virus called Tox begins to spread, The Raxter School for Girls located on an island is put under lockdown. But then all the teachers and staff, and yes, even students, begin catching Tox and dying. The ones who survive have gone through crazy body transformations like new spines sprouting from their backs and newly formed claws. Cut off from the rest of the world, the students must create a new society and fend for themselves until help comes. The girls struggle through tough life and death decisions. But that’s not all, there are beasts in the woods and a mystery to solve. Wilder Girls is a queer, feminist body pandemic novel with a touch of mystery and romance, making it an interesting, and at times, poetic and chilling read. 

By Rory Power,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Wilder Girls as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 14, 15, 16, and 17.

What is this book about?

AN INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER!

"The perfect kind of story for our current era."—Hypable

Featured in Vulture’s "11 Books to Read If You Already Miss Yellowjackets"!

From the author of Burn Our Bodies Down, a feminist Lord of the Flies about three best friends living in quarantine at their island boarding school, and the lengths they go to uncover the truth of their confinement when one disappears. This fresh debut is a mind-bending novel unlike anything you've read before.

It's been eighteen months since the Raxter School for Girls was put under quarantine. Since the Tox hit and pulled…


Book cover of Severance

Nicole Mabry Why did I love this book?

When I first read the synopsis for Severance, the concept seemed similar to my book, Past This Point and I got a little nervous since it was released several months before mine. A self-sequestered NYC woman, Candace, who’s dealing with the grief of her parent's recent passing, ends up one of the only survivors of a deadly virus. Sounds like my main character. So, of course, I had to read it. But I shouldn’t have worried because the rest of the novel is very different. Candace goes on to create a blog called NY Ghost where she photographs the abandoned city. When a group of survivors comes onto the scene promising to create a new society, Candace joins them. But are their intentions pure? I love this take on a similar situation to my book, going back and forth in time and satirically spouting commentary on consumerism and workplace culture. Severance is an amazing look at what the apocalypse could look like in our present-day world consumed by likes and the social gaze. I was not surprised to hear that Severance has won many awards.

By Ling Ma,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked Severance as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

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.

"A stunning, audacious book with a fresh take on both office politics and what the apocalypse might bring." ―Michael Schaub, NPR.org

“A satirical spin on the end times-- kind of like The Office meets The Leftovers.” --Estelle Tang, Elle

NAMED A BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR BY: NPR * The New Yorker ("Books We Loved") * Elle * Marie Claire * Amazon Editors * The Paris Review…


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Aggressor

By FX Holden,

Book cover of Aggressor

FX Holden Author Of Aggressor

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a former journalist and intelligence officer turned writer, so I seek out authenticity in my reading, especially when it comes to war stories. I look for fiction from people who have been there or know how to listen to those who have, and be their voice. When I write, I always put together a team of veterans and specialists in their fields to challenge my work and make sure I get it right, too!

FX's book list on war stories you probably haven’t read yet

What is my book about?

It is April 1st, 2038. Day 60 of China's blockade of the rebel island of Taiwan. The US government has agreed to provide Taiwan with a weapons system so advanced, it can disrupt the balance of power in the region. But what pilot would be crazy enough to run the Chinese blockade to deliver it?

Aggressor is the first novel in a gripping action series about a future war in the Pacific, seen through the eyes of soldiers, sailors, civilians, and aviators on all sides. Featuring technologies that are on the drawing board today and could be fielded in the near future, Aggressor is the page-turning military technothriller you have been waiting for!

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