If You Loved 'Station Eleven,' Try Reading These 9 Books, Too
In Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven , a ruined post-apocalyptic world is transformed into something eerily beautiful by the existence of a traveling theatre troupe who seek to bring entertainment and enlightenment to the various towns they pass through year after year. Mandel’s vision of the future may be a bleak one, but the author offers up hope in some unexpected packages as her wonderful new novel winds onward.
Station Eleven imagines that the world as we know it has been destroyed — utterly, irrevocably, and swiftly — by the outbreak of the so-called “Georgia Flu.” Mandel’s book easily slips between timelines, exploring life before, during, and after the outbreak, while also trading off various, loosely connected narrators. The book is mainly preoccupied with a traveling theater group who stumble upon a strange new cult that’s taken over a town they’re used to (quite happily) visiting, and the fallout from that discovery, though the book also tackles ideas related to celebrity, fame, wealth, love, and the arts. Sound like a lot? It is, but Mandel’s book is so snappy and fresh that the pages just fly by. Frankly, I’d love to read a sequel, and I rarely feel that way.
Mandel herself offers up a reading list at the end of her novel — how convenient and considerate! — but I've spun off that just a little bit to include a few other picks I'm (mostly) sure she would approve of. If you've already read (and loved) Station Eleven, here are nine other books you’re going to eat right up.
If you just want to read another novel about humans attempting to make it in a post-apocalyptic world, try Justin Cronin's The Passage
Mandel actually mentions Cronin's 2010 book in her own novel, as the works share some major similarities. Cronin's book is the first of a planned trilogy that spans nearly one hundred years on a virus-ravaged Earth. Although there are some apparent differences between the two novels (Cronin's novel is overrun by vampire-like beings, for one, while Mandel's is, well, not), the spirit between them is nicely matched, and Mandel herself seems to be a fan, so it's kind of a no-brainer.
If you'd like to try another story about a girl trying to survive an planet-shattering event, pick up Karen Thompson Walker's The Age of Miracles
As Station Eleven frequently changes narrators and perspectives, it doesn't really have a single voice to rely on, though young Kirsten Raymonde, who appears throughout the book and is actually a member of the theatre troupe as its heart, is a good bet for its "true" narrator. In any case, there's a major sense of feminine perspective that runs through the novel, and Walker's The Age of Miracles similarly echoes that. Although Walker's novel is about a different global crisis — instead of a virus ruining the world, it's the Earth slowing on its axis — it explores many of the same ideas as Mandel's novel, and it also offers up a memorable narrator in the form of young Julia.
If you want to give the multi-narrator format another go, Eleanor Catton's The Luminaries is a solid bet
And when you're done with this one, I've got nine more books for you to try out, too!
If the traveling nature of the book appealed to you, go a bit darker with Cormac McCarthy's The Road
McCarthy's own depiction of life after global tragedy undoubtedly influenced Mandel's novel (she even includes The Road on her own reading list), and the books share plenty of similarities. McCarthy's vision of a traveling world is much darker than Mandel's, but the DNA is very much the same.
If you loved the book's spooky airport setting, go for a classic like Stephen King's The Langoliers
Mandel's novel eventually makes its way to an airport that has been retrofitted to hold a small piece of the surviving population, a pretty great setting with plenty of cool possibilities. Although King's novella (you can find it in his book Four Past Midnight) is only partially set at an airport, the eerie sense that something isn't quite right pervades both works, and The Langoliers offers up a new perspective on the setting.
If you want to read another modern classic about infectious diseases, Stephen King's The Stand is unmatched
Yes, more King! When it comes to modern, post-apocalyptic visions, King is unmatched. His The Stand may be a hefty read, but it's a very satisfying one, the kind of novel that will inevitably influence your readings of other books like it. Take some time for this one.
If you're looking for another book about dangerous cults, Tom Perrotta's The Leftovers is a good pick
Kirsten and company run afoul of a strange new cult when they roll into a familiar town they haven't visited for nearly two years. It's a big shock, but it's also not entirely unexpected, considering that Mandel's book so acutely examines the different ways that people react to world-changing upheavals. Perrotta's The Leftovers does something similar, inventing a new cult that attempts to deal with the sudden disappearance of some of the world's population. Both cults are eerie and strange, and both have very unsettling leaders at their center.
If you are hungry for a modern take on King Lear, Jane Smiley's A Thousand Acres is the standard-bearer
Kirsten's theatre troupe performs a lot of Shakespeare, but Station Eleven is preoccupied with King Lear above all other of his plays. In fact, it's King Lear that a kid Kirsten is acting in the night before the flu breaks out and destroys the world, and that performance is often referred back to through a number of characters' different perspectives. Smiley's A Thousand Acres is not just the greatest example of a modern spin on King Lear, but Shakespeare's works in general. Bonus: You can watch the Michelle Pfeiffer-starring film based on the book after reading!
If you want to read another book by Mandel, you'll love The Lola Quartet
Station Eleven is Mandel's fourth book, but it shares plenty with her third outing, The Lola Quartet. Mandel again tackles a world at an end (in Lola, it's more of a financial collapse, but the feeling is the same) and what happens when people have little left to live for.