Today as I finished reading The Unthinkable by Amanda Ripley (a book I discovered through The Thesis Whisperer), it dawned on me to share with you this short list of books on pandemics. This is probably the best time to grab one of these and learn about how humanity has dealt with past pandemics. Since the existence of humankind on this planet, viruses, infectious diseases, plagues and epidemics have always been a key factor in shaping up the human experience. Our story with them, as Oldstone argues, is “a story of fear and ignorance, of grief and heartbreak, and of great bravery and sacrifice”.
The books below will take you into a historically and educationally insightful journey into the world of pandemics and will introduce you to the stories behind the most devastating epidemics in human history (e.g., the Great Influenza, the Black Death, Ebola, Cholera, etc) and how they have forever changed the world, stories that bear much resemblance to the one being constructed right now as we deal with the current pandemic.
Please note, the links below are Amazon affiliate links enabling me to earn from your purchases.
1- The Great Influenza: The Epic Story of the Deadliest Plague in History, by John M. Barry
“The Great Influenza provides us with a precise and sobering model as we confront the epidemics looming on our own horizon. As Barry concludes, “The final lesson of 1918, a simple one yet one most difficult to execute, is that…those in authority must retain the public’s trust. The way to do that is to distort nothing, to put the best face on nothing, to try to manipulate no one. Lincoln said that first, and best. A leader must make whatever horror exists concrete. Only then will people be able to break it apart.”
2- Deadly Companions: How Microbes Shaped Our History, by Dorothy H. Crawford
“Beginning with a dramatic account of the SARS pandemic at the start of the 21st century, she [the author] takes us back in time to follow the interlinked history of microbes and man, taking an up-to-date look at ancient plagues and epidemics, and identifying key changes in the way humans have lived – such as our move from hunter-gatherer to farmer to city-dweller – which made us vulnerable to microbe attack.”
“La moria grandissima began its terrible journey across the European and Asian continents in 1347, leaving unimaginable devastation in its wake. Five years later, 25 million people were dead, felled by the scourge that would come to be called the Black Death. The Great Mortality is the extraordinary epic account of the worst natural disaster in European history – a drama of courage, cowardice, misery, madness, and sacrifice that brilliantly illuminates humankind’s darkest days when an old world ended and a new world was born”
4- Pandemic: Tracking Contagions, from Cholera to Ebola and Beyond, by Sonia Shah
“Interweaving history, original reportage, and personal narrative, Pandemic explores the origin of epidemics, drawing parallels between the story of cholera – one of history’s most disruptive and deadly pathogens – and the new pathogens that stalk humankind today, from Ebola and avian influenza to drug-resistant superbugs.”
5- Viruses, Plagues, and History: Past, Present and Future, by Michael B.A. Oldstone M.D.
“The story of viruses and humanity is a story of fear and ignorance, of grief and heartbreak, and of great bravery and sacrifice. Michael Oldstone tells all these stories as he illuminates the history of the devastating diseases that have tormented humanity, focusing mostly on the most famous viruses. “