Tuesday, April 26, 2016


Cholera. Ebola. Aids. West Nile Virus. Did you ever wonder the exact source of these epidemics? Pandemic by Sonia Shah is an amazing new book that presents the scientific, social, economic and geographic origins of a great many pathogens and how they emerge and then re-emerge in present day.  A compelling book on which readers will have a laser focus, Pandemic doesn’t require a scientific background to enjoy. Instead, it is non-fiction reading at its best, offering both food for thought and facts that call for later discussion. Book groups should take note of this fascinating book.

One of the most interesting revelations in Pandemic is the role commerce and transportation have played in the spread of disease. While the destruction of rain forests has led to the closer proximity of animals and beasts and allowed microbes to infect people, the vast reaches of ships and airplanes have allowed the infected to spread contagious disease throughout the world.  Author Shah highlights the history of cholera and how it spread from rural India to cities like Paris, London and even early New York. The role of fresh water as a simple antidote to cholera is particularly interesting. Ms. Shah’s last chapter called Tracking the Next Contagion will fascinate.

Look to the Monrovia Public Library for Pandemic as well as other books on epidemics. Flu by New York Times science writer Gina Kolata is about the 1918 influenza. Plagues and Peoples by William McNeill is the classic book on how disease affected history and details the role of the Black Plague. In The Cruelest Miles author Gay Salisbury tells the story of the Alaska diphtheria epidemic of 1925 and how only sled dogs, led by the famous Balto, could bring the antitoxins to the snowed in region.

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