Friday 20 March 2020

Books on the plague to read on your Kindle while self-isolating

What books are there to read on the plague? A surprisingly long list. 

Defoe's Journal of the Plague Year. 

Camus's The Plague. 

The Masque of the Red Death by Poe. 

The Decameron, which my father told me was naughty but which seemed disappointingly proper to me as a child. 

Love in the Time of Cholera by Marques, which I liked but never finished in hospital 30 years ago, in a country that no longer exists. 

Death in Venice. 

Old St Paul's. Available for free on Kindle. In my early adolescence I decided that it looked creaky and melodramatic and was no longer a book one 'had' to read, but I think it will be fun now.

Pepys's and Evelyn's diaries cover the Great Plague of London in 1665 and the Great Fire the next year. I found Evelyn much less fun than Pepys. 

I recommend much more Kinglake's account of the plague in Cairo, where he found himself surrounded by dead and dying Cairenes.

The Roses of Eyam, about the Great Plague of 1665 in a Derbyshire village, was the most moving TV programme I ever watched (today it would be called a film). It reduced my mother, sister and me to floods of tears. My father refused indignantly to watch it. It's on YouTube.

I asked on a forum I belong to on Facebook for suggestions and received these. They included a book we all mean to read but few do, Manzoni's The Betrothed, The Last Man by Mrs. Shelley, which I hope is less dull than Frankenstein, and The Painted Veil by Somerset Maugham, which I am sure is more fun than Mrs. Shelley.

The other titles were unknown to me and form a long list.

Pale Horse, Pale Rider by Katherine Anne Porter

Plague Maker - Tim Downs

Company of Liars - Karen Maitland

Doomsday Book by Connie Willis

Fever by Deon Meyer – ‘best book of the last 100 years’ said the man who recommended it.

I Am Legend by Richard Matheson

Y: The Last Man by Brian K Vaughan

Don Lawson Pale Horse, Pale Rider by Katherine Anne Porter

Shirley Jackson  The Lottery

Blindness, by Jose Saramago

L'Œuvre au noir, Marguerite Yourcenar

Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks and The Dress Lodger by Sheri Holman.
Lucretius, the plague of Athens in De rerum natura.
Year of Wonders

Stephen King's The Stand – he’s pulp fiction, isn’t he?
Jose Saramago, Blindness.

Diane Gardner Premo Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel.

Hesse, Narcissus and Goldmund

The Corner that Held Them, by Sylvia Townsend Warner.

Zone One by Colson Whitehead

The Great Believers, by Rebecca Makkai

The Holy Bible, Exodus 11-12 KJV. Exodus 7-12 RSV.


  1. Hi. Maybe add "World without End" by Ken Follet (a fellow countryman of yours) to the list?

    1. Many thanks. But life is short even if not cut short by the virus and art is long. Is it too short for Ken Follet? But I love Edwardian pulp fiction so why not that of our day? I recently discovered and love Eric Ambler and years ago came to admire hugely John le Carré. And I like William Le Queux and Edgar Wallace of course.

  2. Doomsday Book by Connie Willis

    Complete rubbish unfortunately. A terrible writer.

    I Am Legend by Richard Matheson

    That one's worth reading if you're into science fiction.

    Shirley Jackson The Lottery

    Shirley Jackson is worth reading although that story is a tad overrated.

    Stephen King's The Stand – he’s pulp fiction, isn’t he?

    He's garbage.

  3. A friend mentioned "An Historical Account of the plague at Marseilles" by the physician Jean-Baptiste Bertrand who was there.