Posted on March 31, 2020 at 3:00 PM by Sadye Scott-Hainchek

Many of us use books as an escape from reality, so for them, “plague reading” would simply mean fiction they enjoyed during a, well, plague.

On the other hand, the coronavirus outbreak and pandemic has inspired a morbid curiosity in other readers.

For instance, Iowa City’s City of Literature organization has decided to host a virtual book club to read The Decameron, written during the Great Plague of the fourteenth century.

It stars ten friends hunkered down in a Tuscan villa who pass the time by telling each other tales; check out the Cedar Rapids Gazette for more about the work, where to find it, and how to participate in the online discussion.

Unsurprisingly, the famous diarist Samuel Pepys preserved details of a massive health disaster as well; Lapham’s Quarterly has shared his entries about the Great Plague of 1665.

For a return to fiction, many readers are buying or borrowing The Plague by Albert Camus, which is set in 1940 but loosely based on an 1849 cholera epidemic.

The novelist’s daughter spoke with the Guardian about her father’s novel and its skyrocketing sales (which, no, she’s not excited about).

But if you’re looking for fiction about the 1918 flu pandemic, you won’t find very many classics.

Smithsonian magazine wrote a few years ago on why the outbreak was so rarely seen in literature (with Pale Horse, Pale Rider, by Katherine Anne Porter being an exception) until a few years ago.

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