Can you suggest some books for an Ebola leisure reader?
August 29, 2012 4:02 PM   Subscribe

Can you help me expand my “popular epidemiology” book collection by recommending books that are similar to The Coming Plague by Laurie Garrett and the following titles?

- Level 4: Virus Hunters of the CDC by Joseph McCormick and Susan Fisher-Hoch
- Virus Hunter: Thirty Years of Battling Hot Viruses Around the World by C. J. Peters and Mark Olshaker
- The Hot Zone by Richard Preston
- Ebola, Culture and Politics: The Anthropology of an Emerging Disease
- Deadly Feasts: The Prion Controversy and the Public's Health by Richard Rhodes

I’ve also read pretty much every nonacademic book written about historical Small Pox, Small Pox eradication, and “The Plague”.

I am particularly interested in viral hemorrhagic fevers, prions, the early days of HIV/AIDs research in Africa, and epidemiology in developing countries.
posted by pupus to Science & Nature (23 answers total) 63 users marked this as a favorite
Are you interested in historical fiction? I have read all of the books that you've listed and I also liked Ship Fever by Andrea Barrett. The title story is about the Irish immigrants who were quarantined at Grosse Point during a typhoid epidemic. There is also a great novel by Connie Willis which talks about a modern day scholar going back in time to the original plague.

But, to your specific request: Have you read Flu by Gina Kolata? What about the old books by Berton Rouche or this book about Typhoid Mary? New Guinea Tapeworms and Jewish Grandmothers: Tales of Parasites and People is an older pop epidemiology book that talks specifically about vectors and I found it a good read.
posted by jessamyn at 4:13 PM on August 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Historical ficition, fiction (no zombie plagues), and nonfiction all very much welcome!
posted by pupus at 4:15 PM on August 29, 2012

I really enjoyed The Ghost Map, which is about the cholera outbreaks in London in the 1850's.

Guys, cholera sucks really bad.
posted by chatongriffes at 4:21 PM on August 29, 2012 [10 favorites]

Disease-adjacent is the land of parasites, and Parasite Rex by Carl Zimmer.
posted by rmd1023 at 4:27 PM on August 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

"Rats, Lice and History" might fit your requirements.
posted by MonkeyToes at 4:31 PM on August 29, 2012

A classic is Albert Camus' The Plague.
posted by yclipse at 4:46 PM on August 29, 2012

Future epidemic: Margaret Atwood's "Oryx and Crake" and "The Year of the Flood"; a third book in the series, tentatively titled "Maddaddam," is in the works.
posted by MonkeyToes at 4:46 PM on August 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

Not a book, but it sounds like you'd like "This Week in Virology", which is a podcast. You might find some book recs from their website
posted by kathrynm at 5:52 PM on August 29, 2012

Geraldine Brooks's Year of Wonders is a novel about a town that quarantines itself during the bubonic plague.

The Great Influenza by John Berry is supposed to be good

and finally

No Time to Lose by Piot which is new (may 2012) about aids in africa.
posted by Calicatt at 6:07 PM on August 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

I love it when I come to MetaFilter and learn that the weird things I do aren't so weird at all. Nobody understands why I'd want to read about something "depressing" like epidemiology.

I would recommend:

The Epidemic: A Global History of AIDS, Jonathan Engel

The Origins of AIDS, Jacques Pepin

I also think And the Band Played On is a must-read.

If you're open to broadening the scope of your reading a bit, I enjoyed The Greatest Benefit to Mankind: A Medical History of Humanity.

There's also this list on Goodreads, which looks pretty awesome.
posted by easy, lucky, free at 6:08 PM on August 29, 2012 [3 favorites]

It's been years since I read it, and it's tangential to your question, but Judith Walkowitz's "Prostitution and Victorian Society: Women, Class, and the State" deals with England's Contagious Diseases Acts of 1864, 1866 and 1869.

You may also be interested in this previously, "A Year of Reading Plague Novels." Or in this one: "Non-fiction books about disease."
posted by MonkeyToes at 6:28 PM on August 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

Connie Willis's Doomsday Book – historical fiction with buboes has never been so good.
posted by zippy at 6:28 PM on August 29, 2012 [5 favorites]

Many great recs here! This is my favorite area of non-fiction too. I love And the Band Played On, The Great Influenza (fantastic; one of the best of the genre in my opinion), The Ghost Map, and Doomsday Book, so seconding those.

Pox: Genius, Madness, and the Mysteries of Syphilis is pretty good.

For prions, you want The Family That Couldn't Sleep. Scary!

Fever 1793 is a great YA fiction about the yellow fever epidemic in Philadelphia in 1793; I really enjoyed it.

The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer is supposed to be excellent, but I haven't read it yet.
posted by min at 6:46 PM on August 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Read any Paul Farmer? If you're into both HIV and epidemiology in developing countries he's one of the biggest names in the field these days. Pathologies of Power is great, if a bit more on the academic side. Mountains Beyond Mountains is apparently a good less-academic distillation of some of his ideas, but I haven't read that, only Farmer himself.
posted by ActionPopulated at 7:14 PM on August 29, 2012

I have all of your titles on my shelf! Fascinating stuff. I liked this too, even though it seemed hyperbolic.

+1 to 'The Emperor of All Maladies'
posted by j_curiouser at 8:52 PM on August 29, 2012

In the historical fiction genre, Neal Stephenson's Baroque Cycle deals with disease in the 17th century at several turns, including bubonic plague, smallpox, and deficiency diseases common to sailors. The most extensive is probably a description of London at the time of the Plague of 1664-66.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 9:42 PM on August 29, 2012

Slightly off-topic is Vaccinated: One Man's Quest to Defeat the World's Deadliest Diseases by Paul Offit. It is a fascinating and well written story about the man who developed NINE of the fourteen vaccines that are recommended kids get today.
posted by vespabelle at 10:33 PM on August 29, 2012

Code Orange is another YA novel, this time about what might be an accidental smallpox release. Fun, not that scientific.

The American Plague is not about the plague, but about yellow fever and contained lots of interesting historical detail about its spread up the Mississippi and river town quarantines that I wasn't aware of previously.
posted by clerestory at 11:05 PM on August 29, 2012

The Wisdom of Whores may fit the bill. The author is an epidemiologist who has done a lot of AIDS research in Indonesia. I haven't read any of the other books on your list but I really enjoyed this one. She's also done a TED talk that is like a mini book summary if you want to check that out first.
posted by 9000condiments at 2:22 AM on August 30, 2012

The Great Influenza.
posted by futz at 4:01 AM on August 30, 2012

Guns, Germs, and Steel, by Jared Diamond takes a somewhat more meta approach to germs. And if you like that, his Collapse.

A Plague of Prisons: The Epidemiology of Mass Incarceration in America isn't exactly what you're asking for, but you may still find it interesting (caveat that I'm currently reading it and only part-way through.)

Second the Paul Farmer.

And dear god I hate And The Band Played On.
posted by gingerbeer at 5:40 PM on August 30, 2012

I liked Gina Kolata's Flu better than Great Influenza.

Polio: An American Story is an interesting blend of epidemiology and 20thC political & charitable practices. The Colony is one of the better books on American responses to Hansen's Disease/leprosy; the American Experience episode (probably still on Netflix streaming) about the Carville hospital in Louisiana is better than the books I've seen about Carville.

I assume you've read The Speckled Monster? It's my favorite smallpox book. Rabid looks promising; it's in my to-be-read pile.

Karl Taro Greenfeld's China Syndrome is a captivating (and sometimes highly discomfiting) description of how avian flu evolved into the SARS pandemic. The opening scenes are not for the faint of heart.

(sorry for lack of links - am on my phone)
posted by catlet at 8:05 PM on August 31, 2012

Response by poster: Paul Farmer is personal hero of mine. I was really glad to see his work recommended here!
posted by pupus at 8:16 AM on September 3, 2012

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