The most recommended books about the Spanish flu

Who picked these books? Meet our 39 experts.

39 authors created a book list connected to the Spanish flu, and here are their favorite Spanish flu books.
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What type of Spanish flu book?


Book cover of Moonstone: The Boy Who Never Was: A Novel

Scott Alexander Hess Author Of The Butcher's Sons

From my list on LGBTQ with lush prose and rich settings.

Who am I?

Growing up gay in Missouri in the 1970s, it was LGBTQ novels that opened the door to the unraveling and discovery of my best self, my true queer identity. Initially potboilers with side gay characters (I hid my copy of Valley of the Dolls from the nuns in grade school) I soon discovered writers that unlocked worlds I did not know existed representing choices, loves, and adventures I would later make my own. As a writer, it was risk-taking, gorgeous LGBTQ novels that urged me along in my literary journey and helped me find and define my voice. 

Scott's book list on LGBTQ with lush prose and rich settings

Scott Alexander Hess Why did Scott love this book?

I confess to a huge writer crush on Sjon. I immediately fell head over heels for his vibrant, visceral prose in this magical moving story set in Reykjavik in 1918 (the same year I set my novella Lightning). There is nothing comparable to this author’s dreamy style (after discovering him I read his entire catalogue) and the journey of young queer Manni Steinn is unforgettable. I have to admit: I went so far as to reach out to the author on social media the year we were both nominated for a Lambda Literary Award and ask him to coffee. I did not expect an answer, but he wrote me saying he was not attending the NYC event but thanked me for the offer! Brilliant and approachable! 

By Sjón,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Moonstone as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The mind-bending miniature historical epic is Sjón's specialty, and Moonstone: The Boy Who Never Was is no exception. But it is also Sjón's most realistic, accessible, and heartfelt work yet. It is the story of a young man on the fringes of a society that is itself at the fringes of the world--at what seems like history's most tumultuous, perhaps ultimate moment.

Máni Steinn is queer in a society in which the idea of homosexuality is beyond the furthest extreme. His city, Reykjavik in 1918, is homogeneous and isolated and seems entirely defenseless against the Spanish flu, which has already…

Book cover of A Death-Struck Year

Yvonne Ventresca Author Of Pandemic

From my list on on pandemics published pre-COVID.

Who am I?

I'm the author of short stories and novels including my young adult debut, Pandemic, which continues to be a timely read about surviving a widespread deadly virus. After the H1N1 pandemic of 2009 (commonly called Swine Flu), I was fascinated with the idea of a global illness that could be much, much worse. I researched historical diseases, interviewed public health officials, and the idea for my novel was born. Written and published before COVID-19, some of the details are eerily predictive of coronavirus. Pandemic won SCBWI’s Crystal Kite Award the year after its publication, and a June 2022 reissue of the original novel includes updated resources and backmatter.

Yvonne's book list on on pandemics published pre-COVID

Yvonne Ventresca Why did Yvonne love this book?

Set in Oregon during the 1918 influenza pandemic, this historical young adult novel features a teen girl separated from her family as the illness spreads from the east coast of the US to the west. Like Lil, the main character from my book, Cleo in A Death-Struck Year grapples with moral dilemmas. I was drawn to Cleo’s struggle of wanting to help others, which will put her life at risk, and of desperately wanting to survive.

By Makiia Lucier,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Death-Struck Year as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Schools, churches, and theaters shut down. The entire city is thrust into survival mode-and into a panic. Headstrong and foolish, seventeen-year-old Cleo is determined to ride out the pandemic in the comfort of her own home, rather than in her quarantined boarding school dorms. But when the Red Cross pleads for volunteers, she can't ignore the call. As Cleo struggles to navigate the world around her, she is surprised by how much she finds herself caring about near-strangers. Strangers like Edmund, a handsome medical student and war vet. Strangers who could be gone tomorrow. And as the bodies begin to…

Book cover of Life After Life

Tessa Harris Author Of The Paris Notebook

From my list on WW2 novels featuring loners we love.

Who am I?

I’ve been a journalist for much of my life and have been passionate about history since I was a child. Ever since I visited a castle at age five, I’ve loved imagining the past and naturally ended up doing a History degree at Oxford. I love fact-based stories and am always meticulous in my research so that I can bring my readers with me on a journey of discovery. But what always brings history to life for me is focusing on the characters, real or imagined, who’ve made history themselves.

Tessa's book list on WW2 novels featuring loners we love

Tessa Harris Why did Tessa love this book?

Kate Atkinson is one of my favourite authors, with a voice that really resonates with me.

This is a ‘what if’ novel that really sets you thinking. It’s witty and stylish, and yet it also tugs at your heartstrings. A roller-coaster ride that had me on the edge of my seat.

By Kate Atkinson,

Why should I read it?

15 authors picked Life After Life as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

What if you could live again and again, until you got it right?

On a cold and snowy night in 1910, Ursula Todd is born to an English banker and his wife. She dies before she can draw her first breath. On that same cold and snowy night, Ursula Todd is born, lets out a lusty wail, and embarks upon a life that will be, to say the least, unusual. For as she grows, she also dies, repeatedly, in a variety of ways, while the young century marches on towards its second cataclysmic world war.

Does Ursula's apparently infinite number…

Book cover of Field Gray

Chris Dickon Author Of A Rendezvous with Death: Alan Seeger in Poetry, at War

From my list on human undercurrents of the World Wars.

Who am I?

I was a misbegotten child of World War II, my father an anonymous stranger on a train returning to war, thus setting me in search of an answer. While driving through rural France one day in my sixth decade I realized I'd been searching for my father through writing, and an understanding of his experience in war. My seventh decade produced Dutch Children of African American Liberators, with co-author Mieke Kirkels, about the puzzling lives of the European children of African American soldiers of World War II. As I got to its final chapters, my own father’s identity was revealed to me through DNA, and that will be the subject of my final book.

Chris' book list on human undercurrents of the World Wars

Chris Dickon Why did Chris love this book?

Eventually, my travels to understand and write about the times in which I had been born took me to the Auschwitz concentration camp near Krakow, then to its source in Berlin and some excellent walking tours into the heart of its lights and shadows – which is much of the world of Philip Kerr’s fictional Bernie Gunther. A 1930s Berlin detective, Bernie must navigate the attempt to maintain a humanity that is both moral and faulted in a time of brutality and absurdity over the course of fifteen novels that will puzzle through the human dilemma of World War II Europe. Field Gray, which ranges from the Spanish Flu epidemic of World War I to the corruption of 1950s Cuba is perhaps the most comprehensive of the series.

By Philip Kerr,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Field Gray as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'One of the greatest anti-heroes ever written' LEE CHILD

'A man doesn't work for his enemies unless he has little choice in the matter.'

So says Bernie Gunther. It is 1954 and Bernie is in Cuba. Tiring of his increasingly dangerous work spying on Meyer Lansky, Bernie acquires a boat and a beautiful companion and quits the island. But the US Navy has other ideas, and soon he finds himself in a place with which he is all too familiar - a prison cell. After exhaustive questioning, he is flown back to Berlin and yet another prison cell with a…

Book cover of This Devastating Fever

Alison Booth Author Of Bellevue

From Alison's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Who am I?

Author Professor and writer Environmentalist Closet historian Reader Hiker

Alison's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Alison Booth Why did Alison love this book?

This is a book that I loved for its ambition, cleverness, great writing, and its occasional humour.

The novel tells the story of the life of Virginia Woolf’s husband, Leonard, and at the same time relates the story of a woman called Alice during the COVID pandemic who is writing a story of the life of Leonard Woolf. The title comes from Leonard Woolf’s description of sexual love – this devastating fever – but the novel is far more than this, including major events such as the COVID epidemic, Spanish influenza, life prior to World War 1, and the threat of climate change.

This breadth of vision is lightened by the ‘front’ story that includes amusing exchanges between Alice and her agent. 

By Sophie Cunningham,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked This Devastating Fever as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Sometimes you need to go deep into the past, to make sense of the present.

Alice had not expected to spend the first twenty years of the twenty-first century writing about Leonard Woolf. When she stood on Morell Bridge watching fireworks explode from the rooftops of Melbourne at the start of a new millennium, she had only two thoughts. One was: the fireworks are better in Sydney. The other was: was the world's technology about to crash down around her? The world's technology did not crash. But there were worse disasters to come: Environmental collapse. The return of fascism. Wars.…

Book cover of The Pull of the Stars

Gina Buonaguro Author Of The Virgins of Venice

From Gina's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Who am I?

Author Historical novelist Historical fiction reading fanatic Women’s fiction reading fanatic

Gina's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Gina Buonaguro Why did Gina love this book?

A beautiful, sad, poignant book about the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918, taking place in Dublin, Ireland where it hit young pregnant women doubly hard.

Very timely as it was published in the first year of the recent pandemic, making it especially resonate. The author is a master at creating suspense in a tiny space, basically one room.

By Emma Donoghue,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In Dublin, 1918, a maternity ward at the height of the Great Flu is a small world of work, risk, death, and unlooked-for love, in "Donoghue's best novel since Room" (Kirkus Reviews).

In an Ireland doubly ravaged by war and disease, Nurse Julia Power works at an understaffed hospital in the city center, where expectant mothers who have come down with the terrible new Flu are quarantined together. Into Julia's regimented world step two outsiders—Doctor Kathleen Lynn, a rumoured Rebel on the run from the police, and a young volunteer helper, Bridie Sweeney.

In the darkness and intensity of this…

Book cover of The War Nurse

Connie Hertzberg Mayo Author Of The Sharp Edge of Mercy

From my list on historical fiction with rockstar nurses.

Who am I?

My mother went back to school for her PhD in Anatomy when I was a pre-teen. During the summers of my high school years I worked with her in her lab, and let me tell you, you see your mother in a new light when you see her dissect a rat. Though I didn’t go into medicine, anyone raised in our household learned an impressive amount of biology just sitting around the dinner table. Consequently, I’ve always loved fiction with a medical bent. My mother was also the one to introduce me to historical fiction, so perhaps I was fated to write a historical novel with a nurse protagonist.

Connie's book list on historical fiction with rockstar nurses

Connie Hertzberg Mayo Why did Connie love this book?

Based on a real-life WWI nurse, this novel is about Julia Stimson who supervised dozens of British nurses in Rouen, France. Horrific battle injuries and a deadly influenza that infiltrates their camp put Julia to the test, all while she tries to advocate for her nursing staff and navigate the egos of some of the male doctors. But when one doctor falls for her, she must decide how this relationship squares with her career aspirations. This book is a wonderful way to learn about this amazing woman who wants to put her career first.

By Tracey Enerson Wood,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The War Nurse as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Any readers who enjoyed the mix of romance, intrigue, and medical accuracy of Call the Midwife will love The War Nurse."-New York Journal of Books
"[An] impeccably researched, well-drawn, based-on-a-true-story tale, written by a former RN...The War Nurse shines an important light on a woman whose story was, until now, lost to time."-Kristin Harmel, New York Times bestselling author of The Book of Lost Names
Based on a true story, The War Nurse is a sweeping historical novel by USA Today bestselling author Tracey Enerson Wood that takes readers on an unforgettable journey through WWI France.
She asked dozens of…

Book cover of Girl Runner

Pamela Mulloy Author Of As Little As Nothing

From my list on women in history challenging the limitations of gender.

Who am I?

I became fascinated with the lives of women around the period of World War Two when I discovered the female aviators of the Air Transport Auxiliary based in England. It wasn’t until I researched the history of reproductive rights after attending the Women’s March in 2017 in Toronto, Canada that I realized the period of the 1930s was a particularly progressive time for women, a time of early feminism. As a novelist I am drawn to the social history and the impact of wars. My first novel explored PTSD, and in this one I’m exploring the lives of women who fought against the gender norms at the time.

Pamela's book list on women in history challenging the limitations of gender

Pamela Mulloy Why did Pamela love this book?

This novel of Aganetha, a 104-year-old woman who looks back on her years as a runner in the 1928 Olympics is as much a story about aging and the examination of one’s life, as it is about the glory days of her feat. I loved the idea of this woman at such an advanced age reflecting on her past, on what she has seen and experienced, and all the details of the events are beautifully rendered. This is an intimate yet propulsive novel that takes us through issues of gender equality, abortion, and all the obstacles that Aganetha would have faced as a female athlete.  

By Carrie Snyder,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Girl Runner as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'original and moving... with the quirky charm of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry' Daily Mail
'a joy to read' Independent on Sunday
Girl Runner, Carrie Snyder's debut novel, is the story of Aganetha Smart, a former Olympic athlete who was famous in the 1920s, but now, at age 104, lives in a nursing home, alone and forgotten by history. For Aganetha, a competitive and ambitious woman, her life remains present and unfinished in her mind.
When her quiet life is disturbed by the unexpected arrival of two young strangers, Aganetha begins to reflect on her childhood in rural Ontario…

Book cover of The Beckoning World: A Novel

Kathleen Stone Author Of They Called Us Girls: Stories of Female Ambition from Suffrage to Mad Men

From Kathleen's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Who am I?

Author Lawyer Mother

Kathleen's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Kathleen Stone Why did Kathleen love this book?

This is a novel about a young man who must decide between pursuing a career in baseball or marrying a woman he loves, the daughter of a midwestern farming family.

The author knows what it’s really like to live on a farm in Iowa, and it shows. His characters fully inhabit that world. Although the story is about one man’s ambition, love, and uncertainties, it’s capacious enough that we all can see ourselves in it.

The story encompasses heartbreak and hope and is written subtly and with insight. It’s the kind of book that keeps you thinking long after you finish it.

By Douglas Bauer,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Beckoning World as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Beckoning World is set in the first quarter of the twentieth century and follows Earl Dunham. His weeks are comprised of six days mining coal, followed by Sundays playing baseball. Then one day a major-league scout happens on a game, signs Earl, and he begins a life he had no idea he could even dream.

But dreams sometimes suffer from a lovely abundance, and in Earl's case her name is Emily Marchand. They fall quickly and deeply in love, but with that love comes heartbreaking complications.

The Beckoning World gathers a cast of characters that include Babe Ruth and…

Book cover of Cold Snap: A Paradise Cafe Mystery

Rosemary McCracken Author Of Uncharted Waters

From Rosemary's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Who am I?

Author Wordsmith Reader Self-starter Teacher Traveller

Rosemary's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Rosemary McCracken Why did Rosemary love this book?

Historical crime fiction writer Maureen Jennings is best known for her 1890s-era Detective Murdoch Mysteries, on which the Murdoch Mysteries TV series (now in its 17th season) is based.

In recent years, Jennings’ focus has been on Toronto in the late 1930s, when the world was still reeling from the War to End All Wars and in the throes of the Great Depression. The result was the Paradise Café series: Heat Wave, published in 2019, November Rain in 2020, and Cold Snap in 2022.

The settings of these mysteries are not pretty, describing the poverty and simmering racial tensions of the times. But Jennings brings the past of the city I live in to life, and I find it fascinating.

In Cold Snap, we learn more about private investigator Charlotte Frayne, the series’ protagonist. In her early 30s, unmarried and with a beau who approves of her independence, Charlotte is…

By Maureen Jennings,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Cold Snap as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

November's rain in Toronto 1936 has turned into December's cold snap. Charlotte Frayne escapes being hit by a mud-splattered car racing round the corner at Queen and Spadina. The stranger who saves her turns out to be the man her boss, Mr. Gilmore, has helped to escape Germany and is now a refugee in need of shelter.

In a world still recovering from the War to End All Wars and the Spanish Influenza pandemic that killed fifty million people worldwide, and still in the throes of the Great Depression, Stephen Lucas is not just any refugee from the Nazi regime;…