As I mentioned in the previous post, I often read books which aren’t related to what I’m writing about at any given time. While I was in the final year of polishing and editing (and doing a ton of fact-checking) for my book, Aggravated, I acquired the full collection of Elizabeth George’s Inspector Lynley mysteries. Early in 2020, a little before the first cases of COVID-19 were reported in the United States, I was on Book 18 (out of 20), Just One Evil Act. By the time I had finished it and 19 and 20 (A Banquet of Consequences and The Punishment She Deserves), the pandemic was well underway. Since her next book in the series (Something to Hide) wasn’t slated to be published until 2021, I had to search for something else to read.
Aggravated, as I said before is serious non-fiction, so I didn’t want to read any true crime or other weighty non-fiction while I was writing or editing it. I needed something else, so I decided — what the hell — I would read all the post-apocalyptic/pandemic/plague books I could find. Fortunately, I already had several on my bookshelves, and I had read almost all of them before (so no heavy lifting was necessary). For the next ten months I reread Justin Cronin’s The Passage trilogy, Stephen King’s The Stand, Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, and just for fun Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy (which, like The Road, is dystopian, but not really plague-related). I also read Peter Weller’s The Dog Stars for the first time (a really amazing book). I probably could have thrown Jeff Long’s Year Zero, and Frank Herbert’s The White Plague into the mix, and even Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale (the infertility in it wasn’t caused by a plague, though), but by sometime in December 2020 I’d had my fill of dystopia and needed to find something else.
My wife asked me why I wanted to read about pandemics while we were in the middle of one. I don’t think there was anything perverse in my choosing to do that. I believe I thought it might have been a way to experience gratuitously what we were avoiding experiencing first-hand by being scrupulous social-distancers. What I was reminded of was that those books weren’t just about the plagues, they were about the people in them, and — in most cases — how those characters found their true selves by dealing with the world around them.
Have you ever found a book about trying circumstances to be particularly uplifting?
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