Readers Binge On Books About Pandemics (Really)

From The Wall Street Journal:

Social media is chattering about Stephen King’s “The Stand,” a novel revolving around a weaponized flu that kills almost all humans and animals on the planet. Although it came out in 1978, sales of the trade paperback were up 25% in the first eight weeks of 2020, while purchases of the hardcover more than tripled, according to NPD BookScan.

So many readers were trying to draw parallels between the book and the current coronavirus outbreak that Mr. King took to Twitter over the weekend to debunk the idea. “No, coronavirus is NOT like THE STAND,” he wrote. “It’s not anywhere near as serious. It’s eminently survivable. Keep calm and take all reasonable precautions.”

. . . .

Want to see inner angst in the Age of Corona? Look at how people are “relaxing” as they chase down the 2011 movie “Contagion” and buy up books on viral outbreaks, looking for psychic predictions in past work while steeping themselves in dread.

Nothing represents society’s ills quite like a pandemic. Trade paperback sales of several well-known novels about outbreaks rose in the first eight weeks of 2020 compared with the same period in 2019, according to NPD: Sales of Max Brooks’s “World War Z,” for example, rose 33%, while Emily St. John Mandel’s “Station Eleven” spiked 50%. Print sales of adult nonfiction about contagious disease as a category, meanwhile, were up 52%.

Some readers are so intrigued by books on deadly viruses, they’re chasing titles that aren’t even in print anymore—like Dean Koontz’s 1981 novel “The Eyes of Darkness,” which mentions a fictional virus called “Wuhan-400” from the same part of China where the current coronavirus started. The author’s agent, Richard S. Pine, says any connection to the current outbreak is misguided.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (PG apologizes for the paywall, but hasn’t figured out a way around it.)

1 thought on “Readers Binge On Books About Pandemics (Really)”

  1. If you must read about contagions – though to me it sounds too much like a good way to get depressed (but then I am in the high risk group for COVID-19) – I recommend “Doomsday Book”, a prize winning SF novel by Connie Willis which gives you two epidemics for the price of one: both the Black Death in the 1340s and a quarantined Oxford in 2054.

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