Books of the week: From Ling Ma's Severance to Peter C Doherty's Pandemics: What Everyone Needs to Know, books to read in light of the Coronavirus pandemic

Our weekly roundup of books that should be on your radar.

Aarushi Agrawal March 16, 2020 16:16:01 IST
Books of the week: From Ling Ma's Severance to Peter C Doherty's Pandemics: What Everyone Needs to Know, books to read in light of the Coronavirus pandemic
  • We love stories and there is nothing like a good book that promises a couple of hours of absorption.

  • Every week, we will have a succinct pick of books, across diverse genres, that have been newly made available for your reading pleasure.

  • Happy reading!

We love stories, and even in the age of Netflix-and-chill, there's nothing like a good book that promises a couple of hours of absorption — whether curled up in bed, in your favourite coffeehouse, or that long (and tiresome) commute to work. Every Sunday, we'll have a succinct pick of books, across diverse genres, that have been newly made available for your reading pleasure. Get them wherever you get your books — the friendly neighbourhood bookseller, e-retail website, chain store — and in whatever form you prefer. Happy reading!

For more of our weekly book recommendations, click here.

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Books of the week From Ling Mas Severance to Peter C Dohertys Pandemics What Everyone Needs to Know books to read in light of the Coronavirus pandemic

Author Dean Koontz’s thriller The Eyes of Darkness and the non-fiction book End of Days: Predictions and Prophecies about the End of the World by psychic Sylvia Browne have captured the public imagination, spurring conspiracy theories and panic because of their seemingly prescient quality. Online stores are flooded with counterfeit books offering rampant misinformation about the novel coronavirus, while reliable information about COVID-19 can be sourced from the World Health Organisation website. Fiction like Albert Camus’ The Plague and AG Riddle’s Pandemic whose plot revolve around pandemics are seeing an uptick in sales all over the world.

In a time of worldwide panic, as one turns to books for answers, here’s a roundup of books that variously discuss pandemics and life in times of a health emergency.

– FICTION

The Companions
By Katie M Flynn
Simon and Schuster | Rs 1,915 | 272 pages

Writer Katie Flynn’s debut novel is set in California in the near future, which is under quarantine in the face of a highly contagious virus. In this world, the dead can be uploaded to machines to service the living. While the wealthy in the ‘companionship’ program choose to upload their consciousness so they can stay with their families, the less fortunate are rented out to strangers, among them 16-year-old Lilac. She runs away once she realises she can defy commands, in search of her killer, setting off a chain of events that reach Siberia and beyond.

Read more about the book here.

Severance
By Ling Ma
Macmillan Publishers | Rs 1,187 | 304 pages

Novelist Ling Ma’s debut novel Severance is an apocalyptic satire, following Candace Chen, an unfulfilled Bible product coordinator in Manhattan. Following the passing of her parents, she’s committed to carry on with a routine, not noticing the fast-spreading Shen Fever. Alone, she photographs the abandoned city as the anonymous blogger NY Ghost. She soon meets a group of survivors travelling to a place called Felicity and led by IT tech Bob. But Candace has a secret she knows Bob will exploit, and must decide whether she will potentially have to escape from her rescuers.

Read more about the book here.

The Book of M
By Peng Shepherd
HarperCollins | Rs 599 | 496 pages

Peng Shepherd's debut novel The Book of M tells the story of people caught in a catastrophe. In the middle of an outdoor market in India, a man’s shadow disappears. This phenomenon quickly spreads, and those afflicted gain a strange new power, but at the price of memory loss. Two years later, Ory and Max have escaped the Forgetting by hiding in an abandoned hotel. Their new life seems almost normal until one day, Max’s shadow disappears, and knowing it will make her dangerous, she runs away. But Ory refuses to give up the time they have left together, and sets out to find her.

Read more about the book here.

A Journal of the Plague Year
By Daniel Defoe
Oxford University Press | Rs 250 | 304 pages

Author of the famed Robinson Crusoe, seventeenth-century English writer Daniel Defoe’s Journal of the Plague Year offer an account of London’s 1665-66 bubonic plague. Based on his childhood memories, Defoe also sources historical documents to create a realistic effect of the plague on the city. It details the daily life, medical precautions, mass panics, and his narrator’s solitary travels, who decides to stay in the city through everything.

Read more about the book here.

– NON-FICTION

Pandemics: What Everyone Needs to Know
By Peter C Doherty
Oxford University Press | Rs 699 | 272 pages

Nobel Prize-winning medical researcher and immunologist Peter C Doherty explains the causes of pandemics, details how they can be counteracted with vaccines and drugs, and how one can be better prepared in the future. He explains how the main threat comes from respiratory viruses like influenza and SARS. He discusses how global warming, rising population, and growing antibiotic resistance complicate efforts to contain pandemics. He also stresses that pandemics can be fought effectively, and explains how.

Read more about the book here.

The Psychology of Pandemics: Preparing for the Next Global Outbreak of Infectious Disease
By Steven Taylor
Cambridge Scholars Publishing | 178 pages

Professor and Clinical Psychologist at the University of British Columbia, Steven Taylor focuses on the psychological factors that influence the spread of pandemic infections and the related emotional stress and social disruption. Psychological factors play a role in nonadherence to vaccinations and in how people cope with the threat and related losses. They also play a role in the spread of excessive fear, stigma and discrimination. The book offers a comprehensive analysis of the psychology of pandemics, describing reactions, reviewing factors of psychological vulnerability, and offers methods for addressing these problems.

Read more about the book here.

Epidemics and Society: From the Black Death to the Present
By Frank M Snowden
Yale University Press | Rs 3,074 | 600 pages

History of Medicine Professor at Yale University, Frank Snowden’s book investigates the medical and social history of major epidemics, highlighting the connection between epidemics and societal change. From the Black Death to the present day, he looks at how mass infectious outbreaks have shaped society, transforming the arts, religion, intellectual history, and warfare. The book also discusses the evolution of medical therapy, plague literature, poverty, the environment, and mass hysteria.

Read more about the book here.

The Pandemic Century: One Hundred Years of Panic, Hysteria, and Hubris
By Mark Honigsbaum
Hurst Publishers | Rs 1,545 | 464 pages

Journalist and medical historian Mark Honigsbaum narrates last century’s scientific struggle against its enduring enemy — the contagious disease. He looks at how diseases spread and how consequently, racial, religious, and ethnic tensions increase, reconstructing epidemiological mysteries and the ecology of infectious diseases. He also details doctors dedicated to finding answers, incompetent public health officials, and brilliant scientists.

Read more about the book here.

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