Reading list book covers

As more and more countries are grappling with the spread of COVID-19, it might be tempting to succumb to feelings of anxiety or helplessness. But in times of uncertainty, we at PEN America turn to literature because stories can help us make sense of those feelings and draw strength from the experiences of others. Throughout history and up to the present day, authors have grappled with epidemics and disease in their work—from suspense thrillers that titillate and evoke our hopes and fears, to profound and poetic narratives that reveal the human condition. Whether you’re looking for historical context about pandemics, scientific information about the spread of illnesses, or comfort, we hope these nine essential books will provide respite and illumination amid the anxiety of current developments.