Top 10 Pandemic Novels

Mysterious deaths, incurable viruses, widespread panic, ghost towns, lone survivors. These are all the elements that make up classic dystopian reads and create the best form of escapism for fans of the genre! These top 10 pandemic novels transport us to worlds where humankind as we know it is on the brink of succumbing to widespread outbreaks.

Today, this fictional world has in some ways become reality as we live in the midst of the 2020 Coronavirus pandemic. As we’re stuck in a space between an abstract idea and reality, read our top 10 pandemic novels, where fiction could almost be fact…

Pandemic (The survivors #1) – Alex Burn

the survivors - top 10 pandemic novels

The first installment of Alex Burn’s Pandemic series is set in a small Australian town. A flu has hit the country before spreading throughout the rest of the world. Through the eyes of survivor, Alice, we see the death of her friends and family and the pain of surviving while coping with loss of loved ones. As with all series, we know how this one will end. To be continued…

Day of Reckoning – G. Michael Hopf

day of reckoning

This is perhaps not your typical novel for this genre. There’s no virus that quickly sweeps the planet. Instead, we get a very normal world with governments, press, and protesters on the streets. But be warned, even though the day may start like any other, it soon sees the human race fighting for it’s very existence. This book is so realistic though you might miss what’s coming. It builds to an exciting climax that is revealed towards the end as we arrive at the day of reckoning!

“I didn’t realise how much I would miss grocery shopping until it was gone.”

Alex Burn

The Stand – Stephen King

the stand by stephen king - post-apocalyptic classic

King’s 1978 horror, The Stand, depicts a post-apocalyptic world where 99% of the population has been wiped out. A bio-engineered super flu escapes from a government lab and quickly sweeps across the world. There are however, a handful of people who are immune to the disease. These remaining survivors have to choose sides between good and evil, which leads us to the last stand! The similarities with today’s 2020 events will send shivers down your spine. A King masterpiece that fans rate as one of his best.

See our blog post: Top 10 Stephen King Books

The Plague – Albert Camus

the plague by albert camus

Camus cleverly tells the story of a plague that sweeps through the French Algerian city of Oran. It has similarities to the cholera outbreak that killed thousands of the people in the same city in 1849. Camus carefully explores the chaos and evil that comes with a pandemic. To truly understand this book would mean reading it in French, however, the translation definitely doesn’t lose all the underlying subtleties. In today’s world, we are now asking ourselves some of the questions posed in this book. How would you treat the people around you? What would you do to change the situation?

The Great Influenza (The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History) – John M. Barry

the great influenza - the story of the deadliest pandemic in history

This list wouldn’t be complete without bringing it back to reality and mentioning the deadliest Pandemic in history. The Great Influenza killed 50 million people worldwide between 1918-1920 and is more widely known as the “Spanish flu”. This is due to the fact the Spanish were the only country reporting it at the time, even though it didn’t originate there. A large portion of this book describes the time before the pandemic and focuses mainly on the advances made by scientists. This is a read for those who want to find out what lessons have been learned from past pandemics and how, if any, of those findings are in practice today.

Blindness – José Saramago

blindness - top 10 pandemic novels

Imagine going about your daily life and then all of a sudden you go blind. This chilling book by Nobel Prize winning Portuguese writer José Saramago looks at what happens when an epidemic of white blindness sweeps through a city. We see how society deteriorates quickly and the worst of humanity becomes increasingly apparent. But has the world always been like this? Have we just been blind to it before? Be warned that the lack of punctuation and dense text can be hard going, but remember there’s always the audio book version.

Earth Abides – George R. Stewart

earth abides - top 10 pandemic novels

George R. Stewart’s 1949 novel has stood the test of time and also inspired Stephen King’s The Stand. The story starts with the ever so familiar “lone survivor” after a disease has swept across the world and wiped out most of humanity. But the similarities with other post-apocalyptic novels stops there. This book is not about a group of heroic people fighting to get back the world they once had, but rather people surviving however they can. Life stills goes on, even if the past has all but gone.

“Men come and go, but earth abides.”

– George R. Stewart

World War Z – An Oral History of the Zombie War – Max Brooks

world war z - top 10 pandemic novels

World War Z by Max Brooks is one for Zombie lovers and is told through the eyes of the survivors. We hear their stories before and after the zombie apocalypse, with the characters giving interviews that feel so real it’s frightening! It could almost be a book you read in a history lesson to learn about past events, with its deep portrayal of life at the time. We learn how social, political and environmental issues unfold after such an event.

Z for Zachariah – Robert C. O’Brien

z for zachariah - ya post apocalyptic read

This Young Adult post-apocalyptic read was a favorite for school kids when first released. Sixteen year-old Ann Burden has been living in the valley alone for over a year after a nuclear war destroyed everything and possibly everyone around her. There’s no evidence of any other survivor until one day Ann spots the signs of life in the distance. A strange man is making his way towards the valley. At first, it seems that this could be the companion that Ann needs in her post-apocalyptic world. That is until his behavior toward her becomes more and more threatening. This is one read that excites and terrifies you all at once.

The Eyes of Darkness – Dean Koontz

the eyes of darkness - top 10 pandemic novels

With Dean Koontz you always know what you’re going to get, and The Eyes of Darkness is no different. Tina Evans sends her son on a camping trip with an experienced mountain leader. This time however, everyone in the camping party dies and Tina has to accept the fact her son is dead. But is he really? She awakes one morning to find two words written on the chalkboard in her son’s bedroom, “Not dead”. From that moment, Tina is determined to find out what happened to her son on that day. Some say that this 1981 novel scarily predicted the 2020 Covid-19 outbreak. We say read it and decide for yourself…


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