Top 5 flu books

You’re stuck in bed until the fever goes down, so you might as well read

The first day or two, influenza leaves you too sick to do much more than take acetaminophen, drink OJ and sleep. But after that comes the cranky, bored-out-of-your-mind-but-too-sick-to-go-out phase. What else are you going to do but read?

Relax, only one of these is nonfiction. But it’s really scary.

To help get you through the recovery phase, here are the top 5 flu books to read when you’re sick:

The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History by John M. Barry. This history of the 1918 influenza outbreak—it was called the “Spanish flu” in the United States—includes the best description of how the influenza viruses mutate for the general reader that I’ve ever seen.

The Stand by Stephen King. I’ve noticed that the people who hate this book really hate it, and the people who love it really love it. Whatever. Even if you don’t go for all the apocalyptic battle of good vs. evil stuff, the first third of the book contains a gripping and fairly realistic (for a pre-Internet and cell phone world) description of what a real superflu epidemic would look like. Go ahead, scare yourself to death.

Isolation Ward by Joshua Spanogle. Terrorists start an epidemic with an engineered virus that starts with flulike symptoms. Scary, fun and a quick read.

Pandemic by Daniel Kalla. Another very scary superflu-spread-by-terrorists novel, this one by the author of the absolutely terrifying “mad-cow disease in an ice cube” novel, Cold Plague.

Pale Horse, Pale Rider by Katherine Anne Porter. This book is three novellas by Porter, a master of short fiction. Pale Horse, Pale Rider is about a young woman and her lover who are caught up in the 1918 pandemic, and it takes its title from the book of Revelation, which predicts another sort of apocalypse.