Reading in the time of coronavirus

Published 12:00 am Sunday, April 12, 2020

By Hannah Hemphill

Rowan Public Library

For me, there is something eerie but also comforting about reading dystopian fiction during a time of isolation and quarantine. As the reality of coronavirus comes to Rowan County, I have a few suggestions for titles that can help us put the effects of this virus on our community into perspective.

Check out the following titles to read in self-isolation. All of them are available through the NC Digital Library, which is free to use with your Rowan Public Library card. Don’t have a card? Fill out an application for a Digital Library Card through our website,

Students at a small college start to fall asleep and not wake up in Karen Thompson Walker’s “The Dreamers.” This mysterious sleeping illness then starts to spread to the town. Many elements of this novel will feel eerily familiar as cases multiply, classes are canceled, and quarantines are established.

The fantastical nature of Peng Shepherd’s debut novel,  “The Book of M,” adds to the feeling of strangeness that we are all experiencing in our daily lives. The Forgetting is spreading like the plague, causing chaos and disaster for the world. Follow Ory as he tries to find his wife, Max, before she forgets everything, including him.

If you’re looking for a more serious dystopian feel, try “Blindness,” a classic by Portuguese author Jose Saramago. The world is hit by an outbreak of “white blindness.” Those afflicted are quarantined by the government to try to prevent the spread, subjected to a criminal element that develops, and witness the disintegration of society as a whole. Follow through the eyes of the only person who can see, witnessing the good, the bad and the ugly in humanity.

Finally, for those who want to flaunt social distancing policies, try “The Salt Line” by Holly Goddard Jones. Set in the more familiar setting of mountainous North Carolina, follow along with a group of adrenaline junkies who pay to jump the “salt line,” a protective measure put in place against a deadly tick-borne illness. Things do not go as planned for the group as they become hostages of Ruby City; a group of outer-zone survivors.

Honorable Mentions

The following titles are also available through the NC Digital Library but have more considerable wait times. Place a hold today!

“Severance” — Ling Ma

“Love in the Time of Cholera” — Gabriel García Márquez

“I Am Legend and Other Stories” — Richard Matheson

“The Maze Runner” series — James Dashner


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