The best pandemic books 📚

Browse the best books on pandemics as recommended by authors, experts, and creators. Along with notes on why they recommend those books.

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Book cover of Prep For Doom

Prep For Doom

By ER Arroyo, Laura Albins, Amy Bartelloni, Brea Behn, Casey L. Bond, TK Carter, Kate Corcino, Harlow C. Fallon, Kelsey D. Garmendia, Caroline A. Gill, DelSheree Gladden, John Gregory Hancock, Casey Hays, Kate L. Mary, Jon Messenger, Monica Enderle Pierce, Cameo Renae, Hilary Thompson, Yvonne Ventresca, Megan White

Why this book?

This collection of short stories by twenty different authors explores how a fictional deadly disease affects a range of people, from scientists to government officials to everyday teens. (My contribution is chapter 13, “Escape to Orange Blossom.”) What I especially enjoyed about this anthology is the way that the characters from one story might appear in another. Using a single incident to drive the plot, the collaborative nature sets this collection apart.

From the list:

The best pandemic books published pre-COVID

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Book cover of Balam, Spring

Balam, Spring

By Travis M. Riddle

Why this book?

A slice-of-life epidemiological fantasy novel set in the small town of Balam, as it deals with a mysterious illness accompanied by strange insectoid monsters intent on stealing the corpses of the victims. One of the weirder books on the list, with a setting heavily inspired by the Final Fantasy game series and lower stakes than most of the others – but still well worth a read.

From the list:

The best sci-fi/fantasy novels about plagues and pandemics

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Book cover of Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic

Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic

By David Quammen

Why this book?

Before the coronavirus pandemic, Quammen investigated the science behind “spillover”—the way that animal illnesses can mutate and infect humans. Given the grim subject matter, I found this nonfiction account of various diseases to be surprisingly engrossing and highly readable. Spillover was one of my inspirational resources when I created my fictional illness for my novel. Quammen shares information about Ebola, SARS, Lyme disease, AIDS, bird flu, and others in this well-researched book.

From the list:

The best pandemic books published pre-COVID

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Book cover of Age of Pandemics (1817-1920) : How They Shaped India and the World

Age of Pandemics (1817-1920) : How They Shaped India and the World

By Chinmay Tumbe

Why this book?

It manages to leverage the world history of coping with pandemics over the last couple of centuries by focusing on India’s Experience with them. A readable academic book with frequent reference to the author's own life experience. It uses the history of public health to illuminate all aspects of the nation’s history
From the list:

The best books about India now

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Book cover of Parasite Rex: Inside the Bizarre World of Nature's Most Dangerous Creatures

Parasite Rex: Inside the Bizarre World of Nature's Most Dangerous Creatures

By Carl Zimmer

Why this book?

This is my favorite book on parasites, which I have recommended hundreds of times in international school and university classrooms worldwide. Zimmer is a science writer with a gift for making a horrific subject fascinating and memorable. Zimmer introduced me to a hidden, parallel universe where parasites control their hosts, manipulate their evolution, hide behind their host’s own bodily chemicals, and on occasion turn them into the living dead.

From the list:

The best books about pandemics, parasites, and pathogens

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Book cover of Tribes of Decay: A Zombie Novel

Tribes of Decay: A Zombie Novel

By Michael W. Garza

Why this book?

I love everything this author does because his world-building is simple but perfect. The post-apocalyptic world-building in this story involves not only a description of mass desolation but also how that desolation has changed humanity. Of course, people are going to be affected by their environment – especially under post-apocalyptic circumstances – and too often I feel like characters in post-apocalyptic fiction are just the same as people today. 

Zombie worlds all have the same familiar feel, but I really liked the idea of how “tribes” of survivors had formed in cities and how these people had reverted to more…

From the list:

The best books with science fiction and fantasy world-building

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