During this time of Covid-19 pandemic, many of us either get anxious from the news notifying us about the death tolls around the world or immerse ourselves into fantasy books to escape the harsh reality. However, for readers who want to be grounded in reality, they can read books about the coronavirus or Covid-19 to be better informed. At the time of writing of this article, the virus has claimed about 1.54 million lives globally and infected a total of 64 million people. At present, everyone is waiting for the vaccine, with hopes that it will be effective.
This list is not a complete guide for what you should know. But by reading these books myself, I found a lot of information about the virus, how simple safety measures are efficient, and the politics and philosophy surrounding the virus. Instances of humanity during the pandemic and the lessons we learned from the impact of the virus are showcased in these books as well.
Wuhan Diary: Dispatches from a Quarantined City
Original Book Author: Wang Fang or Fang Fang
Translation: Michael Berry
Wuhan Diary: Dispatches from a Quarantined City is a series of social media posts by prolific Chinese writer Fang Fang about her days during the Wuhan lockdown which was later collected and transformed into a book and translated into English by Michael Berry. The COVID-19 epicentre was in Wuhan, the same city the writer Fang lived in. After two days into the Chinese New Year on January 23, 2020, Wuhan went under lockdown. During the first lockdown, which would be followed many more governments across the world, Fang Fang documents her days under lockdown through Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter. She records her thoughts as she goes through social media news, anxiety and fear for her loved ones.
The book has been labelled as controversial, but on the contrary, the book is just a recollection of days under lockdown as Fang Fang does not provide any political notions in her book. This book, unlike the ones that followed (especially the last two books) does not delve into politics or theories about how the virus spread. It merely documents human life under lockdown, reflects the fears and worries a person has of the unknown.
In the end, as the writer's city does come out of lockdown, she can step outside with less worry. The new normal is now apparent, this book is more of a humane view of all the people working in the frontlines. Fang Fang does not forget to document how news about nurses or doctors came across her news feed and the saddening impact it had on her. The book also talks about the worries she had of her daughter not eating home-cooked meals. Lastly, this book will give the reader an insight into how the Covid-19 epicentre experienced the lockdown.
The Rules of Contagion: Why Things Spread and Why They Stop
Book by Adam Kucharski
The book by Adam Kucharski provides a mathematical explanation to why viruses like the coronavirus spread and how they eventually stop. The book is also based on the work of Nobel Laureate Ronald Ross who had discovered that mosquitoes were the preparators spreading malaria. Using Ross's idea in his work, Adam showed using mathematical models that the spread of the contagion would ultimately result in achieving herd immunity. In the book, Kucharski looks at how dependent and independent factors contribute to the spread of the virus.
The author also addresses how changes in society regarding obesity and smoking could lead to deaths. Furthermore, Kucharski talks about the spreading of fake news which is very relevant to our lives today. In this regard, he mathematically modelled this phenomenon in his book and proposed ways that can slow and stop it.
From fake news, bitcoin shopping, viral challenges to the Spanish flu, the book looks into how viruses spread from one person to another. The book is intended for a general audience and does not require in-depth knowledge of mathematical theories.
The COVID-19 Catastrophe: What's Gone Wrong and How to Stop It Happening Again
Book by Richard Horton
Richard Horton's book is an all-encompassing take about how world leaders, policy experts, international organisation officials fell into chaos during the pandemic resulting in countless preventable deaths. This book revolves around the politics surrounding Covid-19 including the responses of leaders like Donald Trump, Jair Bolsanaro and Boris Johnson.
There are seven chapters of the book which delve into how the health care system of different nations, politics, economics and globalisation dealt with COVID-19. A large portion of the book describes what Donald Trump has said and done. Additionally, Horton talks about China's handling of the virus. Even though the book is 130 pages long, there are repeated discussions about Trump which can feel repetitive. However, to understand how experts, world leaders and policymakers responded during the inception of the pandemic, this book is a must-read.
Pandemic!: Covid–19 Shakes the World
Book by Slavoj Žižek
Žižek, who is known as the most dangerous philosopher in the west, starts his book with a quote from the Bible. In the book, he raises questions about whether human beings can genuinely love one another without any physical contact which is a common phenomenon in the age of social distancing. He believes that maybe this will give humanity a chance to learn how vital physical contact is which many people take for granted.
In the book, Žižek talks about front line workers and their importance to society. Those who read Žižek's work know his stance on communism which he also talks a lot in this book. The philosopher points out that Covid-19 provides an opportunity to "re-invent communism based on trust in the people and science."
It is essential to understand that the points Zizek made in the book should be taken in their philosophical senses. For Zizek, true freedom can only be derived from a radical change during the crisis of global capitalism through disaster communism. The book Pandemic!: Covid–19 Shakes the World is what the world can be in the future. This book is a must-read if you want to debate on what kind of future lies ahead with the new normal.