Author: Sonia Shah
Links: Bookshop (affiliate link) |Goodreads
Summary: I couldn’t ask for more than from my nonfiction than this engagingly told story with its mix of history, science, and important predictions about the future of medicine.
Although every pandemic seems uniquely and surprisingly deadly, there are some common principles that can be learned from our past. Using cholera as a case study, Sonia Shah describes some of the factors that can lead to pandemics. She also explores how those factors have changed or stayed the same over time and describes some of the challenges that might face us when the next pandemic strikes.
I enjoyed everything about this book. I love learning about science and history and this was a great mix of both. The author’s choice to organize this book with one topic per chapter and with a focus on one specific disease as an example was inspired. It made the discussion of factors that contribute to pandemics more than hypothetical. She also didn’t hesitate to bring in discussions of other diseases and her personal experiences when they helped make a point, so the focus on cholera wasn’t limiting. The book seemed well cited (I didn’t vet her sources, but there were citations where I felt they were needed) and I was impressed by the author’s expertise.
My only possible complaint is that I wish this book were longer and that’s not because I feel it was lacking in any way. I just would have liked to read more! The book was engaging and covered topics in science and history that are of great interest to me. Despite the focus on possible future pandemics and the frightening nature of some of the information the book contained, the author didn’t come across as a fearmonger. I enjoyed learning a lot of fun facts, but also information I think everyone should be aware of about the way pandemics arise. If this topic at all appeals to you, I’d recommend picking this up.
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This sounds like the books I used to enjoy so much. Thanks for the review!
I’m glad you enjoyed it 🙂
Lory @ Emerald City Book Review
This fits firmly into the category of “books about scary topics” that I’m trying to push myself to read this year. I’m glad to know that the author doesn’t come across as a fearmonger though. Sounds like one I should put on my list.
That’s interesting! Do you have a hard time getting yourself to read about scary topics like this, that are more global catastrophe than personal trauma? I love picking up books like this, but ones about a personal trauma are much harder for me to talk myself into. Missoula has been a tough read for me so far, for example.
Lory @ Emerald City Book Review
That is a good question. I think I have resistance to both for different reasons. However, once I get into the books I tend to find them fascinating and be glad that they have expanded my knowledge of the world, even though the realities they expose are difficult to face. Just Mercy, Being Mortal, and Missoula have all been examples of this. (Why are all the “i’s” missing from comments on this post, by the way? How weird.)
That makes sense! I think I’m the same way. I’m not sure about the ‘i’s. I think they’re showing up for me.
i can imagine this would create some nervousness about the future. sounds good though
It particularly made me rethink visiting tropical countries and southeast Asia and even state fairs with pigs. All seem to be areas that create a higher risk of an animal pathogen moving into the human population and I’d rather not be around if that happens!
Oooh… more science and history! This sounds interesting!
Definitely my favorite subjects! 🙂
Jenny @ Reading the End
Can I ask how her citations were? Because I read an earlier book by her, The Body Hunters, and it was SUPER interesting, but her citations were all over the place — like, she’d cite data based on a company’s press release, rather than citing the study the press release was about. IT MADE ME ANTSY. Maybe everything she said was right, but I just felt like, aaaaaa, what if this is all untruuuuuuue?
On the other hand, it sounds like Pandemic is more sort of in her wheelhouse as topics go? So it’s probably much better about that.
I’ll be honest – I noticed that she included a lot of citations and was more likely than most authors I read to have a citation where I felt one was needed, but I didn’t check what most of them were. Skimming them, it does look like she cites a lot of peer-reviewed journals, books from university presses, and the CDC, so that seems good. But I don’t have a comprehensive answer. I love that you care about citations too though! They’re one of my biggest complaints with pop-science and history authors. I want more!