Books by Mary Shelley
“One of the things that I actually find paradoxically comforting about The Last Man is that it’s so much worse than even the worst predictions about coronavirus. But while The Last Man is a work of fiction, it does capture some central ideas about epidemics that were ubiquitous in the early nineteenth century.” Read more...
Books on Living Through an Epidemic
Alex Chase-Levenson, Historian
by Mary Shelley
Mary Shelley started writing the Frankenstein story when she was 18, and it was published in London two years later. Her chilling tale of how Victor Frankenstein put together a creature by sewing together human parts is said to be the first true science fiction story. If you've never read it, or read it a long time ago, it's definitely worth picking up again, as the subtleties of the original book, entitled Frankenstein: the Modern Prometheus, may have been displaced in your mind by the various cartoons and monster-movies connected to the original only by the name 'Frankenstein' (and some people, who haven't read the book, think Frankenstein is the name of the monster, rather than the name of the scientist who put the creature together).
Read below why it's one of the books most frequently recommended by the experts we've interviewed—on subjects as diverse as fear of death, women and society, and transhumanism.
Interviews where books by Mary Shelley were recommended
Science Fiction Classics, recommended by Adam Roberts
The best sci-fi explores humanity’s anxieties and concerns and is in some sense about the future. But it doesn’t try to predict what’s to come. The literature professor and sci-fi writer recommends five classics of the genre.
The best books on The Gothic, recommended by Nick Groom
‘The Gothic’ can refer to ecclesiastical architecture, supernatural fiction, cult horror films and a recent subculture. Here, Nick Groom—who is professor in English at the University of Exeter and is also known as the ‘Prof. of Goth’—recommends five of the best books on the Gothic, showing how this term remains central to the way we think of our identities today.
Sarah Perry recommends the best Gothic Fiction
The Gothic puts flesh on the bones of our darkest fears, novelist Sarah Perry tells Five Books. Here, she chooses five favourite novels in this ‘irresistible’ genre.
The best books on Transhumanism, recommended by Mark O'Connell
The journalist and author Mark O’Connell explored the nature of transhumanism—the belief that technology will help us evolve beyond our current physical and mental limitations—in his award-winning book To Be A Machine. Here he selects five key books that speak directly to the movement.
The best books on Fear of Death, recommended by Sheldon Solomon
Existential anxiety drives our lives but most of us are too frightened to think about it, says psychologist and author Sheldon Solomon. He chooses the best books to get a better understanding of our fear of death.
The best books on Women in Society, recommended by Erica Jong
The celebrated feminist gives us her view of essential reading for women – and says the gender revolution is far from over
The best books on The Regency Period, recommended by Stella Tillyard
Bestselling novelist and historian Stella Tillyard says the 19th century Regency era was, apart from the duels and empire-line dresses, much like our own – a time of war and economic uncertainty.
Books on Living Through an Epidemic, recommended by Alex Chase-Levenson
The Covid-19 crisis is often described as an ‘unprecedented’ event, but in the past outbreaks of virulent disease were much more a part of our lives. Historian Alex Chase-Levenson, author of The Yellow Flag, recommends five books that focus on the experiences of those living through an epidemic.