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Reading in a time of pandemic March 21, 2020

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

So, what are we reading at the moment? An old friend of mine is rereading The Stand, by Stephen King, the updated version with, what – 400 extra pages. Not sure I could do that. I love the book, but… another friend has told me they’re finding it difficult to get into reading. I’ve found much the same, though started on Sherlock Holmes last night – something I haven’t read in many many years. And I’m thinking of picking up one of those doorslab Cold War 1980s techo-thrillers by the likes of Craig Thomas or some such to reread. Simpler times. And many thanks to Tomboktu for pointing towards this to Joe in comments…

The Johns Hopkins University Press is giving free access to a rake of books during the Corona crisis. This one might interest you: Alien Universe: Extraterrestrial Life in Our Minds and in the Cosmos by Don Lincoln (2013) https://muse.jhu.edu/book/49243

And it does.

So, anything else people are reading?


1. Tomboktu - March 21, 2020

You forgot my mention of Advances in the Analysis of Spanish Exclamatives edited by Ignacio Bosque, Joy Damousi, Alison Lewis (2017) Ohio State University Press 🙂

Cambridge University Press opened their textbooks for a day and I forgot to go check books on a subject I didn’t get to grips with when I was in college and would like to get back into.

Liked by 1 person

2. sonofstan - March 21, 2020

I started Melmoth the Wanderer a while back because I have an interest in the way in which that kind of gothic writing became part of Irish culture when it did – after the union, the sense of a country in ruins etc. It’s kind boring, and repetitive, and I’d hung up on it, but the rhythm now, on picking it up again, is calming. The sense that ‘I could be doing something else’ is less insistent with little else to do, maybe?

Otherwise, Carrie Brownstein’s Hunger Makes me a Modern Girl is painfully accurate about the painfulness of the first (and second, and third) band….

Liked by 1 person

3. EWI - March 21, 2020

Updated version brings in The Dark Tower-related content? Seems to have been a prime motivator of his over the years to tie everything back into his overarching epic.

Liked by 1 person

4. alanmyler - March 21, 2020

I was thinking of The Stand also, having bought it for the young one at Christmas. I have the original version on the bookshelf somewhere too.

But I’ve actually started back into the Grundrisse. SoS and RosencrantzIsDead were doing a reading group with it maybe a decade back..I don’t have any expectations of getting anywhere with it but my overriding memory of it from last time is that it was great for sending me to sleep. The anxiety was starting to build a bit over the weekend so I thought I needed something to help me drop off at night. Sorry Karl.

Liked by 1 person

5. CL - March 21, 2020

‘Last night I dreamt i went to Manderlley again’. No, not really.
But I found a substitute. Dorothy McCardle’s ‘The Uninvited’.
McCardle, best known as the author of ‘The Irish Republic’ and ‘Tragedies of Kerry’, also had an affinity for the Gothic and uncanny.
Covid-19 is certainly ‘uninvited’.
Here’s the trailer for the 1944 movie

Liked by 1 person

Fergal - March 21, 2020

Herzog by Saul Bellow… enjoyable, rambling
Sean Mitchell’s book on the Outdoor Rrlief riots in Belfast in 1932… just begun
Trying to read a description of a great painting a day from a book I got years ago… coffee-table on

Liked by 1 person

sonofstan - March 21, 2020

The Uninvited is well worth a read . It’s set in Cornwall, and, at the moment, the Council there, and the local MPs are pleading with second-home owners from London to stay away and not bring the virus with them.

Liked by 1 person

CL - March 21, 2020

Devon, not Cornwall.


sonofstan - March 21, 2020

You’re right. Don’t have it here to check and misremembered.


EWI - March 22, 2020

The Uninvited

The book by Dorothy Macardle?


6. Bartholomew - March 21, 2020

Albert Camus, La Peste

Alessandro Manzoni, The Betrothed – ‘the’ Italian novel, featuring the 1629 bubonic plague. The epicentre of the plague was Lombardy, just like now, and half the population of Milan died or fled in a few months.

Another great book about the 1629 plague is ‘Cristofano and the Plague’ by the economic historian Carlo Cipolla. It’s based on the diary of a doctor in Prato, near Florence, during the outbreak. I bought it second hand in London about 30 years ago, and when I got home I found that it was signed by Derek Jarman. I presume that he was reading it in the context of AIDS. It’s available for loan from the Internet Archive:
Despite the huge advances in scientific understanding on all fronts since then, our basic tools are the same, quarantine and isolation, health passes and permits for travel. At least we know that a vaccine is on the way. The problems for the state and civic authorities were also similar – unemployment, lower tax revenues, hugely increased expenditure.

There are some very nice (easily readable) versions of Defoe’s Journal of the Plague Year on the archive as well, no registration necessary for those.

Liked by 1 person

7. CL - March 21, 2020

Its somewhat absurd the way everyone is reading Camus.

Camus on the Coronavirus-NYT

Reading Camus’ The Plague in a Time of Pandemic-Counterpunch.

Camus, community and coronavirus-America Magazine

An Allegory, but Also a Guide-WSJ

The Plague’ by Albert Camus makes bestseller list-Korea Herald

What Albert Camus’s “The Plague” can teach us about life in a pandemic.-VOX.

From Albert Camus’s ‘Plague’ to the coronavirus-Jerusalem Post

Contagion novels: chronicles of a plague-FT.

Liked by 1 person

Bartholomew - March 21, 2020

Well, absurd or not, I read it today. Or maybe yesterday, I don’t know.

Liked by 1 person

8. sonofstan - March 21, 2020

Saramago’s Blindness is a truly scary pandemic novel.

Liked by 1 person

9. Conor Kostick - March 22, 2020

Patrick O’Brian, Master & Commander, first of 18 vols!

Liked by 1 person

10. Michael Carley - March 22, 2020

Want to finish a bunch of books that went into boxes for house moves and didn’t get read when the boxes were emptied: Decameron (!), biography of Camus, among them.

And reread Strumpet City. Again.

Liked by 1 person

11. ar scáth a chéile - March 22, 2020

Jim Crace’s novel Harvest – a village in Elizabethan ( ?) England meets early capitalism in the form of the enclosure of the commons. Spoiler alert ! – doesnt work out well for the villagers.
Next up , the aftermath of another catastrophe. Messed up post famine west Donegal examined in The End of Outrage , by historian Brendán MacSuibhne.

Liked by 1 person

12. WorldbyStorm - March 22, 2020

Actually for catastrophe fiction you can’t beat Ballard or John Christopher. John Wyndham’s a bit less bleak. Then in the 70s there was a rake of books about ice ages etc of varying quality.


13. Dekkard - March 22, 2020

East of West collected volumes.

Best comic series in forever, Blade Runner meets The Searchers.

Liked by 1 person

14. Starkadder - March 22, 2020

Historical fiction time for me.

The Haunted Monastery and the Chinese Maze Murders by Robert van Gulik. detective stories set in Medieval China. Excellent reading for fans of the Ellis Peters school of historical mystery.

Knight With Armour by Alfred Duggan. Fine novel of a young warrior on the First Crusade. Ignore the author’s Toryism and just enjoy his exemplary writing.

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel – I loved the TV series, but the book about Thomas Cromwell & co. has been sitting on my bookshelf for a while. Maybe it’s time to read the book.

Liked by 1 person

15. Colm B - March 22, 2020

I’m not generally one for historical fiction, I rather my history real, but my wife had recently got Wolf Hall so, in need of some fiction distraction, I nicked it and have to say its a gem – just really well-written and barrels along.

Quasi-historical given the War of the Roses influence: Ive read all the Game of Thrones books (will he finish the next one now that he has all the time in the world?) and was going to read them again but instead I think I’ll watch the TV series which Ive studiously avoided so far.

Liked by 1 person

WorldbyStorm - March 22, 2020

Wolf Hall is great!


Starkadder - March 25, 2020

The last book in Mantel’s Cromwell trilogy, “The Mirror and the Light”, has just been published. The Guardian seems to like it:



16. 6to5against - March 23, 2020

In terms of pandemic as a theme, you can’t go wrong with Station 11. A novel that somehow manages to be both dystopian and optimistic.

In terms of what I’ve enjoyed reading this last week, I’ve been immersed in a biography of Louis Armstrong by (I think) T Teachout. Really readable, and educative – both in terms of class and race politics in The US in the 1950s+, and in terms of music.

For many years I didn’t read music bios but now that I can do so with my phone to hand, listening to snippets of any thing mentioned and downloading those that resonate, I’m loving them.

Armstrong was a genius. Far more important than I had understood.


6to5against - March 23, 2020

But one thing I’ve learned about this working-from-home lark is that it still involves working! Haven’t read half as much as I thought I was going to.



sonofstan - March 23, 2020

Had the same epiphany a few years back reading James Lincoln Collier’s book on Armstrong. There’s a couple of pages describing in brilliant detail what actually happens in West End Blues and listening to that, with the book in mind, opened up the genius of the man for me.

Liked by 2 people

17. irishelectionliterature - March 23, 2020

Just finished “One Night in Dudelange” by Kevin Burke about UCDs Europa League Campaign in 2015. It’s about more than that though and a really fantastic read (especially for League of Ireland Fans).
In the middle of “The Wrath of Cochise: The Bascom Affair and the Origins of the Apache Wars” by Terry Mort at the moment. Another great read which gives a great history of that era in the US.

Liked by 1 person

18. Gearóid Clár - March 23, 2020

I don’t know what is wrong with me, but I started on Cecil Woodham-Smith’s history of the Great Hunger in the midst of all this. Perspective-setting, at least.

I read a very interesting book years back, In the Wake of the Plague, about the social, economic (etc.) aftermath of the Black Death. I will have a look for that again when all this settles back down.

Some comfort (re)reading like Harry Potter might come in the next few weeks.

“doorslab Cold War 1980s techo-thrillers”
– happy to hear any suggestions on this. I started reading Le Carré a few years ago on holiday. Not gone on much of his post-Cold War books but realised I have a soft spot for well-written spy novals and so mooched around trying to find alternatives. It is very hit and miss in the genre.

I took A Spy’s Life by Henry Porter out of the library just before moving into quarantine. It’s only alright.


WorldbyStorm - March 23, 2020

Porter is a funny one. I liked earlier novels of his, later one’s not so much. Robert McCrum wrote some pretty good close to literary fiction thrillers/spy novels in the 90s. Doris Lessing’s the Good Terrorist is fascinating though I’ve not read it in a while and it may not have aged well. Deighton is still the one for me, despite problems – been rereading his Berlin trilogy/three trilogy + 1 extra novel series. The Slow Horses novels are great. Charles Cummings writes some pretty good spy novels. On a slightly different tangent I enjoyed Joe Joyces’s trilogy set in the Emergency. More thriller oriented, though oddly liberal, are Alex Berenson’s books. I’ll go looking for more names!


Gearóid Clár - March 24, 2020

Thanks for these. I will look up Berenson, McCrum and sent myself a kindle sample of Echoland just now.

I read Cumming’s The Trinity Six, but found the protagonist agonisingly stupid. If his earlier books are better, I could give them a go. I read those 6 Deighton books, really enjoyed them and Slow Horses have had a few rereads. Herron’s Oxford series also has a memorable protagonist duo.

Another book I picked up in the library but just started last night was Radetzky March, set over three generations of minor nobility in the Austro-Hungarian Empire until the end of the war. Good reading.


WorldbyStorm - March 24, 2020

yeah, the Trinity Six one was astounding. That’s my caveat about Cummings too, his protagonists are very dumb often. haven’t read Herron’s Oxford series yet. That sounds great – Radetzky March.


19. Starkadder - March 23, 2020

If you want to buy any disease /pandemic-related books, you’d better hurry. The Easons website lists the following books as currently out of stock:

Viruses: A Very Short Introduction by Dorothy H Crawford.

Pandemics: A Very Short Introduction by Christian W McMillen.

Plague: A Very Short Introduction by Paul Slack.

Pandemic 1918 by Catharine Arnold.

Pandemics: What Everyone Needs To Know by P. C Doherty.


20. Jim Monaghan - March 23, 2020
21. Starkadder - March 24, 2020

It seems cineastes will be able to purchase and read “Apropos of Nothing” by Woody Allen after all. The book has been printed and distributed by Skyhorse Publishing.


The book’s the coverage of New York in the past and the film industry look like being of great interest.

Liked by 1 person

22. CL - March 26, 2020

Just started reading ‘ A Man Lies Dreaming’ by Lavie Tidhar. A strange book for strange times.


23. Tomboktu - April 6, 2020

That list of publishers making their (scholarly) books available free seems to have been updated

• University of Arizona Press
• Bristol University Press
• University of Calgary Press
• University of California Press
• University Press of Colorado
• Cornell University Press
• Duke University Press
• Fordham University Press
• University of Georgia Press
• University of Hawai‘i Press
• Indiana University Press
• Johns Hopkins University Press
• Lever Press
• University of Maryland Press
• Manchester University Press
• Medieval Institute Publications
• University of Michigan Press
• University of Missouri Press
• MIT Press
• Monash University Publishing
• University of Nebraska Press
• University of North Carolina Press
• University of North Texas Press
• Northwestern University Press
• Ohio State University Press
• Penn State University Press
• Princeton University Press
• Purdue University Press
• Rutgers University Press
• University of South Carolina Press
• Temple University Press
• Texas Tech University Press
• Utah State University Press
• Vanderbilt University Press
• University of Virginia Press
• Wayne State University Press
• University of the West Indies Press


Liked by 1 person

sonofstan - April 6, 2020

Thanks for that, very helpful. I’ve students struggling to complete assignments atm without library access, so info about any resources they can access online is really useful.


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