This week’s headlines warn that the world could be on the brink of a coronavirus pandemic. As we try to stay informed, and monitor the latest updates, the following books serve to remind us that humans have confronted deadly viruses and epidemics throughout history:
RABID: A CULTURAL HISTORY OF THE WORLD’S MOST DIABOLICAL VIRUS by Bill Wasik, Monica Murphy
In this critically acclaimed exploration, journalist Bill Wasik and veterinarian Monica Murphy chart four thousand years of the history, science, and cultural mythology of rabies. From Greek myths to zombie flicks, from the laboratory heroics of Louis Pasteur to the contemporary search for a lifesaving treatment, Rabid is a fresh and often wildly entertaining look at one of humankind’s oldest and most fearsome foes.
POX: AN AMERICAN HISTORY by Michael Willrich
The untold story of how America’s progressive-era war on smallpox sparked one of the great civil liberties battles of the twentieth century surrounding vaccination. Pox introduces readers to memorable characters on both sides of the debate-from the doctors and club- wielding police charged with enforcing the law to vaccinate every citizen to the anti-vaccinationists, who stood up for their individual freedoms but were often dismissed as misguided cranks.
A National Bestseller, a New York Times Notable Book, and an Entertainment Weekly Best Book of the Year
It’s the summer of 1854, and London is just emerging as one of the first modern cities in the world. But lacking the infrastructure-garbage removal, clean water, sewers-necessary to support its rapidly expanding population, the city has become the perfect breeding ground for a terrifying disease no one knows how to cure. In a triumph of multidisciplinary thinking, Johnson illuminates the intertwined histories of the spread of cholera, the rise of cities, and the nature of scientific inquiry, offering both a riveting history and a powerful explanation of how it has shaped the world we live in.
SPLENDID SOLUTION: JONAS SALK AND THE CONQUEST OF POLIO by Jeffrey Kluger
In medical school when Franklin Delano Roosevelt was diagnosed with the disease shortly before assuming the Presidency, Salk was given an impetus to conduct studies on polio. Splendid Solution chronicles Dr. Salk’s race against time-and a growing epidemic that reached 57,000 reported cases in the summer of 1952-to achieve an unparalleled medical breakthrough that made him a cultural hero and icon for a whole generation.
THE GREAT INFLUENZA: THE STORY OF THE DEADLIEST PANDEMIC IN HISTORY by John M. Barry
The definitive account of the 1918 Flu Epidemic, The Great Influenza is ultimately a tale of triumph amid tragedy, which provides us with a precise and sobering model as we confront the epidemics looming on our own horizon. John M. Barry has written a new afterword for this edition that suggest ways in which we might head off another flu pandemic.
THE HOT ZONE: THE TERRIFYING TRUE STORY OF THE ORIGINS OF THE EBOLA VIRUS by Richard Preston
The bestselling landmark account of the first emergence of the Ebola virus.
For more on these and related titles visit: Pandemic history