Critical Linking

Everyone Is Buying Novels About Epidemics: Critical Linking, March 11, 2020

Jamie Canaves

Contributing Editor

Jamie Canavés is the Tailored Book Recommendations coordinator and Unusual Suspects mystery newsletter writer–in case you’re wondering what you do with a Liberal Arts degree. She’s never met a beach she didn’t like, always says yes to dessert, loves ‘80s nostalgia, all forms of entertainment, and can hold a conversation using only gifs. You can definitely talk books with her on Litsy and Goodreads. Depending on social media’s stability maybe also Twitter and Bluesky.

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“More than 70 years later, the global threat of the coronavirus is sending today’s readers towards novels about epidemics in droves. Publishers around the world are reporting booming sales of books including La Peste, as well as Stephen King’s The Stand and Dean Koontz’s ‘frighteningly relevant’ The Eyes of Darkness, which has become the subject of conspiracy theories online owing to its prescience.

The 1981 novel about a fictional virus called ‘Wuhan-400’ – “China’s most important and dangerous new biological weapon in a decade” – leapt into third place in Amazon’s charts this week after a description of the illness was widely shared online. Ebook sales are up by an extraordinary 3,000% in just three weeks, according to the publisher Headline, which credited Koontz’s ‘extraordinary imagination and masterful storytelling'”.

But why no nonfiction?

“She told BuzzFeed News: ‘Over the past couple of years, I’ve received pictures from parents, whose children dressed up as my character, Riley, for World Book Day. That has been surreal but so heartwarming. As a parent, World Book Day allows me to indulge in the fun of bringing certain characters to life, as I acquire costumes for my children to dress up in. That usually involves some sort of makeshift creation and last-minute sewing.'”

I can’t pick a favorite they’re all so great!

“In fact, Hoover was not omniscient, but the next best thing: a librarian with an extensive card catalog. While librarians are often cheered for democratizing knowledge, controlling information is the underlying tenet of the profession—which is partially why the profession today is largely categorized within information sciences. Hoover understood this from the time he joined the Library of Congress as a clerk, his first job in Washington, in 1913. He created catalog cards for the collection, which was then a novel way of organizing libraries. This experience would later help him to index thousands of citizens he deemed radicals, as well as obfuscate evidence to avoid accountability. Hoover’s methods of manipulating information represents all that can go wrong when the principles of librarianship are used to combat public good.”

Lit Hub looks at how J. Edgar Hoover used the power of libraries for bad.