These 10 must-read novels about the 1918 pandemic, often referred to as the Spanish flu, fictionalize the devastating and deadly 1918 influenza (flu) pandemic, which was the most severe influenza outbreak of the 20th century killing more people than World War I. These gripping stories told by doctors, nurses, soldiers, and everyday civilians about the 1918 pandemic bring to life the struggle to survive against this often overlooked and forgotten epidemic.
10 Must-Read Novels About The 1918 Pandemic
One of Ours by Willa Cather
“Published in 1922, One of Ours by Willa Cather was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for its tender portrayal of a Nebraskan who fought in World War I. It also stands out as the first extensive depiction of the pandemic by a major American novelist.”—Patricia Clifford, smithsonianmag.com
Pale Horse, Pale Rider by Katherine Anne Porter
“The classic 1939 collection of three novellas, including the famous title story set during the flu epidemic of 1918.”
Beautiful Ghost by Milana Marsenich
During the fall of 1918, the influenza pandemic reaches the mining town of Butte, Montana.
The Pull of the Stars by Emma Donoghue
“In Dublin, 1918, a maternity ward at the height of the Great Flu is a small world of work, risk, death, and unlooked-for love.”
As Bright as Heaven by Susan Meissner
“From the acclaimed author of The Last Year of the War comes a novel set during the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918, telling the story of a family reborn through loss and love.”
The Orphan Collector by Ellen Marie Wiseman
“A gripping and powerful tale of upheaval—a heartbreaking saga of resilience and hope perfect for fans of Beatriz Williams and Kristin Hannah—set in Philadelphia during the 1918 Spanish Flu outbreak—the deadly pandemic that went on to infect one-third of the world’s population…”
The Last Town on Earth by Thomas Mullen
“A town under quarantine during the 1918 flu epidemic must reckon with forces beyond their control in a powerful, sweeping novel of morality in a time of upheaval.”
Wickett’s Remedy by Myla Goldberg
“Lydia Kilkenny is eager to move beyond her South Boston childhood, and when she marries Henry Wickett, a shy Boston Brahmin who plans to become a doctor, her future seems assured. That path changes when Henry abandons his medical studies and enlists Lydia to help him invent a mail-order medicine called Wickett’s Remedy. Then the 1918 influenza epidemic sweeps through Boston, and in a world turned upside down Lydia must forge her own path through the tragedy unfolding around her. As she secures work as a nurse at a curious island medical station conducting human research into the disease, Henry’s former business partner steals the formula for Wickett’s Remedy to create for himself a new future, trying—and almost succeeding—to erase the past he is leaving behind.”
A Death-Struck Year by Makiia Lucier
“A Death-Struck Year is based on the real-life pandemic considered the most devastating in recorded world history, and leaves readers asking: what would I do for a neighbor? At what risk to myself?”
October Mourning by James Rada, Jr.
“In the midst of a World War, the true enemy was unseen. It came with a handshake or a breath and it left behind 60 million dead. Spanish Flu would devastate the world.”
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