The Pandemic on Paper

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The Pandemic on Paper

Writings about the COVID-19 pandemic and how we live now

Many of us have turned to artistic endeavors throughout the pandemic to fill some free time, writers included. While DC Public Library holds a number of titles about the “hard” side -- science and medicine -- of COVID-19, the books on this list explore the “soft” or social and psychological sides from both fiction and nonfiction perspectives. From a family travel memoir to a collection of meditations on what it means to be alone together, writers examine our lives since COVID-19 invaded, including a remarkable first-hand diary of COVID-19 in Wuhan.

Note: All titles are linked to their physical copies unless otherwise noted, and many are available as library e-books and/or e-audiobooks with OverDrive and its app Libby.

Alone Together: Love, Grief, and Comfort in the Time of COVID-19 edited by Jennifer Haupt
With over ninety authors contributing, Alone Together documents life in quarantine and what social distancing and isolation looked like in the first year of the pandemic. Formats cross essays, poems and interviews to draw a complete picture of this historical time through a human lens. At the same time, this book offers a look into the lives of others, necessarily making us feel less alone. Contributors include Kwame Alexander, Nikki Giovanni and Caroline Leavitt.

And We Came Outside and Saw the Stars Again: Writers from Around the World on the COVID-19 Pandemic edited by Ilan Stavans
Collecting a global perspective, Stavans offers the words of several authors representing over thirty countries. From France to Chile, writers share their experiences in the pandemic. Doctors, journalists, authors and more come together to paint this worldwide portrait, reflecting the realities of the challenges COVID-19 has thrust upon the human population. Contributors include Jhumpa Lahiri, Ariel Dorman and Daniel Alarcón.

The Decameron Project: 29 New Stories from the Pandemic edited by The New York Times Magazine
Inspired by Giovanni Boccaccio’s The Decameron written during the Black Death, The Decameron Project takes a fictional perspective on preserving the events of the COVID-19 pandemic via a collection of twenty-nine short stories by authors such as Margaret Atwood, Tommy Orange and Edwidge Danticat. Published in November 2020, the collection specifically gives readers a window into the earlier days of the illness’ sweep across the world.

Together, Apart: Stories edited by Erin A. Craig, et al.
Contemporary teens find love in this collection of short stories that take place during the COVID-19 pandemic. From pizza delivery to TikTok romances, these stories deliver on the happily ever after we so desperately need during these darker times. With nine short stories, this brief collection is the perfect level of commitment for readers struggling to hang in for longer pieces as we deal with the mental impacts of pandemic fatigue.

We Came, We Saw, We Left: A Family Gap Year by Charles Wheelan
Before COVID-19 changed the world, the Wheelan family set out to see it on a year-long sabbatical. Noting the cultural, political, economic and other differences throughout the world, Charlie Wheelan and his family share stories from their life on the road. All the while, COVID-19 lurks on the horizon, threatening to put an end to their gap year and change the world they’ve just become familiar with permanently.

Together in a Sudden Strangeness: America’s Poets Respond to the Pandemic edited by Alice Quinn
With a distinctly American perspective, poets take on the subject of COVID-19 and its effects on the world we all once knew. Poets pull at the threads of emotions woven into the fabric of isolation, tragedy, and grief. In this collection, readers experience recovering from COVID-19, cheering on medical workers, examining inequity, and other experiences we have shared while apart. Poems run a wide range of tones, from wistful to darkly humorous for a detailed painting of what it is to be human, to be American, and to be living through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Wuhan Diary by Fang Fang
In the early days of COVID-19, one Chinese writer began documenting her experience of the pandemic in Wuhan through an online diary. Now available as a book, this unique look at the emergence of COVID-19 examines what it was like for her personally while also considering the failures of the Chinese government in these circumstances. Following COVID-19’s spread, Fang Fang is also able to trace failures throughout the world while writing with an unmistakable human perspective. This title is available as a digital copy (linked above) and an audiobook.