11 Reasons to Read STATION ELEVEN by Emily St. John Mandel

One snowy night a famous Hollywood actor slumps over and dies onstage during a production of King Lear. Hours later, the world as we know it begins to dissolve. Moving back and forth in time-from the actor’s early days as a film star to fifteen years in the future, when a theater troupe known as the Traveling Symphony roams the wasteland of what remains – this suspenseful, elegiac, spellbinding novel charts the strange twists of fate that connect five people: the actor, the man who tried to save him, the actor’s first wife, his oldest friend, and a young actress with the Traveling Symphony, caught in the crosshairs of a dangerous self-proclaimed prophet. {Goodreads}

Station Eleven popped onto my reading radar in 2014 when it was first published, intriguing me with its blend of post-apocalyptic plot, Shakespearian elements, and gorgeous cover design. Years passed and I never got around to reading it–that is, until recently when one of my friends mentioned that it’s one of her favorite books ever… and she had a copy of it with her in Oxford! How could I say no to this golden opportunity? I’m so glad I finally read Station Eleven, and here are 11 reasons why you should, too:

1. A creative twist on a popular genre. It’s no secret that post-apocalypse fiction and storytelling in both books and movies has become much more popular in the last decade or so. However, Mandel has breathed fresh air into this genre by adding a unique, creative twist on what you would usually expect. It doesn’t feel stale at all, which is greatly appreciated.

2. So. Many. Characters. There are so many characters in this book that sometimes it’s hard to keep track; however, I think Mandel does a great job of balancing their perspectives and stories within the context of the rest of the novel. Hearing from so many points of view also keeps the plot moving quickly.

3. Incorporation of different text formats. I love books that include emails, letters, texts, etc. between characters, and Station Eleven is no exception. Not only do they help keep things interesting by switching up the writing style, but they also make the characters seem more realistic.

4. Creepy, eerie, and suspenseful atmosphere. Reading this novel alone in your bedroom at night is sure to make you check under your bed twice before turning off the lights. Even so, I couldn’t put this book down because I was so invested in knowing what would happen next.

5. A gorgeous cover. How could I not give this amazing cover design some time in the spotlight?

6. Shakespearian elements. If you’ve been following my blog for a while (or have seen this post or this post) then you’re probably aware of my love-hate relationship with the Bard. I was worried that you would need actual knowledge of Shakespeare in order to enjoy this story, but fortunately that’s not the case. Still, I did enjoy the whole premise of keeping arts and literature alive in times of utter struggle.

7. Orchestra banter. I played in my school’s orchestra for about ten years growing up (go second violins!) so I really enjoyed the simultaneously witty and cheesy orchestra banter that went on between the members of the Traveling Symphony. Makes me miss my orchestra days!

8. Unsettlingly believable. Some books in this end-of-the-world genre tend to be a little far-fetched and unrealistic; however, I completely believe that some sort of flu like the one in Station Eleven could wipe out the planet some day. Scary!

9. Past, present, and future. Instead of focusing solely on what happens after society has collapsed, a significant portion of this novel takes place in these characters’ pasts, exploring how they got to where they are in the present time of the story. I love this narrative decision because it adds depth to the novel and makes the reader more invested in the characters by learning how far they’ve come up until this point.

10. Character-driven story. Unlike many novels in this genre, Station Eleven is largely driven by characters rather than plot, most likely due in part to the point previously mentioned. This was such a nice surprise!

11. The ending. Since this novel is focused more on characters than plot, the ending tied up many personal loose ends while leaving the plot or the future of the characters rather ambiguous. I thought it perfectly reflected the tone of the rest of the novel.

Have I convinced you to read Station Eleven? Have you already read this novel? What are your thoughts on it? Let me know in the comments section below!




20 responses to “11 Reasons to Read STATION ELEVEN by Emily St. John Mandel”

  1. I read this on kindle, so i’m not sure everything appeared as it did in the book, but only after i finished i realised there were pages of the comic book the characters read included. That was a nice touch!

    It was a weird book nevertheless. I read it in one day, but at the end i was like “whaaaaaat???” 😀 Was totally not what i expected based on the blurb.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I felt the same way! Definitely not what I was expecting… and the ending did feel a bit strange. Still a great read, though!


  2. I loved Station Eleven! I generally don’t like post-apocalyptic novels because, like you said, they often seem far-fetched. But Mandel’s story feels so gritty and real that it’s unnerving. I’m glad you liked it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s a really great way of describing it! I feel like this is the kind of apocalypse that actually has a chance of happening…. very unsettling!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Have you convinced me to read Station Eleven? Yes! 🙂 My summer TBR is expanding and shaping up. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m so glad!! Definitely let me know what you think of it whenever you get around to reading it 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. That cover is gorgeous!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know, right?! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Great post!! I agree with all your points. I read it earlier this year and fell in love with it. It’s such a beautiful story!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. What a great review Holly! Unsettlingly believable really captured me. I love dystopian but you are quite stretched to believe what is happening most of the time. This sounds adult in the best of ways! ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Dani! A sense of believability is something I always look for in sci-fi/dystopian books. It makes them so much more suspenseful and exciting to read because you really become invested in the story 🙂


  7. Molly's Book Nook Avatar
    Molly’s Book Nook

    I’ve had this on audiobook for a while and just haven’t started it yet….but I had no idea it had letters & emails etc?! Now that I know that I kind of want to get a physical copy instead!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The audio book could be really cool though, especially if they have different voice actors for different characters/forms of writing. I felt that way about Illuminae, though– I was glad I picked up a physical copy! 🙂


  8. I loved this book, for many of the reasons you mentioned. It had such good character development and so many layers. If you loved the Shakespeare elements in this one, have you read Hag-seed? One of the best books I’ve read about a Shakespeare play.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve never read Hag-seed but I’ve heard great things about it. Do you know which Shakespeare play it’s based on? 🙂


  9. This post caught my eye because of the book’s cover — it really reminds of Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock’s book, The Smell of Other People’s Houses 😊 This seems like a really interesting book that I haven’t heard of ’til now, so I’m definitely going to keep it on my radar! Hopefully I’ll also be able to relate to the orchestra banter? (I play the flute 😋)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oooh yes, there is plenty of orchestra banter to go around! 🙂 I’ve never heard of The Smell of Other People’s Houses before– would you recommend it?

      Liked by 1 person

  10. […] 8. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. One of the friends I met abroad lent me her copy of this while we were at Oxford because it was one of her all-time favorite books. I love reading people’s favorite books–it feels like peeking through a tiny window into their bookishness. (Let me know if you also feel this way!) While this book is somewhat frightening in its realistic potential (LIKE RIGHT NOW), I would recommend it if you’re looking for something relating to a pandemic. (My review.) […]


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