Narrative Nonfiction Review: The Premonition

June 9, 2021 Uncategorized 7 ★★★★★

Narrative Nonfiction Review: The PremonitionTitle: The Premonition: A Pandemic Story
Author: Michael Lewis
Source: Library
Links: Bookshop (affiliate link) |Goodreads

Summary: Every reader should check out this gripping, accessible story of the US COVID response.

As the New York Times Book Review-er John Williams says in a cover blurb “I would read an 800-page history of the stapler if [Michael Lewis] wrote it”. I know this is true, because I’ve already books by him on stats in baseball (Moneyball) and the housing crisis (The Big Short). However, I thought this was by far the best of his books I’ve read and I think part of that was due to the fascinating topic. Here, the author looks at the state of pandemic preparedness in the US pre-COVID. Then the second half of the book gives us an insider look at people who did their heroic best during the early days of the COVID crisis and at why our systems failed anyway.

I must admit that this is a book I just want to rave about and then shove into your hands as much as its one I want to write something sensible about. There are a few distinct qualities that made me love it though. The author does a great job explaining technical info. In this case, some of his best explanations come from the people he covers. They’re used to explaining things to non-experts and they use analogies to do this very well.

The author also picked two incredible people to focus on. Doctor and self-taught epidemiologist Carter Mecher is likely to feel like a familiar figure to anyone who has read The Big Short. He’s a quirky, clever person who seems more personable than the brilliant analyst Michael Burry, but has a very similar gift for spotting connections others miss. Santa Barbara County Chief Health Officer Charity Dean is easily the most impressive person I’ve read about. It seems that she’s a rarity in her field as someone willing to lose her job for making decisions that might either be overreactions or save a ton of lives. The choice to err on the side of caution while the pandemic silently raged struck me as one of the greatest errors in the US response to COVID. Dr. Dean would not have made that mistake. I was in awe of her ability to decisively make life-or-death decisions that people would only notice if she got them wrong.

As you can tell from my description of Dr. Dean, this was a story with gripping stakes. It was infuriating to watch the system to fail, but inspiring to know that people like her are trying to make sure this never happens again. I couldn’t put this book down. If it’s made into a movie – and I very much hope it is – I’ll be first in line to see it. Definitely one of those books I recommend to every reader. It’s so accessible and, especially if you’re in the US, so relevant that I think even people who don’t typically read nonfiction are likely to enjoy this one.

7 Responses to “Narrative Nonfiction Review: The Premonition”

  1. Heather

    I’ll have to pick this up now. I just picked up Wright’s Plague Year. Yep, reading all the Covid books now. I don’t know how I missed this one!
    Heather recently posted…June Is HereMy Profile

    • DoingDewey

      I have to admit that I’ve mostly not been ready to read about COVID yet, but I do really like Michael Lewis and the premise of this book, with a focus on the lead-up to 2020, appealed to me enough that I made an exception 🙂 Have you read any you’d particularly recommend?

  2. Rennie

    Welp, immediately onto the list it goes (ugh, 255 holds on the physical book and 710 on the ebook…it’s gonna be awhile). I hadn’t even heard of this one and I don’t know how, because I’ve been trying to keep up with what Covid-related analysis is coming out. I’m excited for Lawrence Wright’s The Plague Year because he for me is exactly what’s described in that quote – I think in my review of his last book I said I would read a book about his breakfasts if that’s what he wants to write next. So I’m really enthusiastic about an author who feels similarly for you 🙂 And it sounds like he selected some excellent figures to tell this story. Wonderful review, I’m so looking forward to this!
    Rennie recently posted…Love, Loss, and What Fish AreMy Profile

    • DoingDewey

      Honestly, I’m always going to be surprised if you’ve not heard of a book I suggest already because you’re always so on top of reviewing new releases! Sorry to hear there are so many holds; hopefully there are lots of copies too.

      Sounds like I may need to check out Lawrence Write as well! I’ve been hesitant to start in on the books about COVID, but I really enjoyed this one and didn’t find it too much to deal with after the past year, so I’m open to trying another one 🙂

    • DoingDewey

      Oh boy! It’s cool you have that connection to the book, but yes, very good that you’re not with that doctor anymore. I really enjoyed this one 🙂

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