A Burnt-Out Case
by Graham Greene
Vintage Greene, there are complex relationships at a Congo leper colony overseen by Catholic missionaries.
The Black Death killed millions of people in the 14th century and had immense social and economic impact on medieval Europe. Centuries later the Black Death’s influence can still be seen in a literary genre that appeals to readers who like their literature dark and threatening. (Before we continue, if this is too depressing then click here and we guarantee you’ll smile).
Plague literature covers science fiction, historical fiction, zombie fiction, alternative histories, existentialism and even romance (although you would think love would be the last thing on your mind as your neighbors go down with the Black Death). Authors have created fiction around the bubonic plague, multiple cholera outbreaks, the Spanish flu of 1918, yellow fever epidemics and set storylines in leper colonies. Life seems that much more precious when death is just around the corner.
Writers have used plagues in their stories for a long time. In the 14th century, Giovanni Boccaccio wrote The Decameron – a set of stories narrated by seven women who have fled from plague-stricken Florence. In modern times I am Legend by Richard Matheson, Earth Abides by George R. Stewart and The Stand by Stephen King have become iconic examples of post-apocalyptic science fiction where the world has been ruined by disease.
Blindness by José Saramago shows that an epidemic doesn’t have to be deadly for society to quickly fall to pieces.
If you are feeling a little under the weather, browse our selection of plague books and these gripping but bleak reads will soon have you feeling better (we hope).
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The Plague Dogs
by Richard Adams
Two dogs escape from an animal testing center – were they injected with the bubonic plague?
by Albert Camus
Get existential with Camus’ 1947 classic about medical workers fighting the plague in an Algerian city.
A Journal of the Plague Year
by Daniel Defoe
A fictional narrator chronicles the 1665 Great Plague as it kills 100,000 & turns London into a ghost city.
Company of Liars
by Karen Maitland
Canterbury Tales revisited. It’s 1348 & the Black Death rules. There’s a mystery behind the storytellers.
The Years of Rice and Salt
by Kim Stanley Robinson
Alternative history, Asia takes over when 99% of Europe’s population is killed by the Black Death.
The White Plague
by Frank Herbert
Science fiction novel mostly set in Ireland where a distraught biologist unleashes a homemade plague.
The Plague Tales
by Ann Benson
1348 & 2005 meet, sort of. The fates of a Spanish physician & a modern scientist are combined.
Oryx and Crake
by Margaret Atwood
A genetically-engineered plague kills most people. This novel skewers science & technology industries.
by Laurie Halse Anderson
Novel based on a real epidemic of yellow fever that killed 5,000 people in Philadelphia.
A Parcel of Patterns
by Jill Paton Walsh
The plague sweeps through the Derbyshire village of Eyam in 1665 but the survivors struggle on.
The Hot Zone
by Richard Preston
A non-fiction ‘thriller’ about modern viruses like Ebola – Suzanne Collins rated it as a very scary book.
The Painted Veil
by Somerset Maugham
Set around a Chinese cholera epidemic, Kitty’s romantic life is very complicated & full of heartbreak.
by Matthew Kneale
Cholera bears down on London in 1849, Joshua Jeavons is building drains but then his wife disappears.
The Andromeda Strain
by Michael Crichton
Popular techno-thriller from 1969, scientists investigate a deadly extraterrestrial microorganism.
The Dress Lodger
by Sheri Holman
In 1831 Sunderland is quarantined by a cholera epidemic & Gustine struggles to make ends meet.
by Daniel Kalla
Written by a real doctor, a fictional doctor investigates a deadly new virus called the Gansu Flu.
The Last Town on Earth
by Thomas Mullen
A small logging town in Washington takes drastic measures against the deadly flu epidemic of 1918.
by Alan Brennert
A Hawaiian woman contracts leprosy as a child & is deported to the quarantined island of Moloka’i.
by Sigrid Nunez
Set in the near future, a young orphan struggles on after a flu pandemic strikes the world.
Run Far, Run Fast
by Timothy Decker
Pen and ink drawings, a young girl tries to outrun the plague in 14th Europe.
by Susann Cokal
In a besieged French village beset by plague, the illegitimate daughter of a saint performs miracles.