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Books & Authors

On Plagues

Whether it's the Black Death, COVID-19, or any pandemic in between; plagues have always had the worst impact on marginalized people, and we ignore them at our own peril. This collection of plague narratives--both real and fictionalized--is sure to educate, thrill, and remind us of those universal truths.

 

Non-fiction

And The Band Played On by Randy Shilts

First published in 1987, this book was quickly recognized as a masterpiece of investigative reporting. An international bestseller, a nominee for the National Book Critics Circle Award, and made into a critically acclaimed movie, Shilts' expose revealed why AIDS was allowed to spread unchecked during the early 80's while the most trusted institutions ignored or denied the threat. A modern classic, it changed and framed how AIDS was discussed in the following years.

 

 

Pale Rider by Laura Spinney

In this gripping narrative history, Spinney traces the overlooked Spanish Flu pandemic to reveal how the virus travelled across the globe, exposing mankind's vulnerability and putting our ingenuity to the test. As socially significant as both world wars, the Spanish flu dramatically disrupted--and often permanently altered--global politics, race relations and family structures, while spurring innovation in medicine, religion and the arts. It was partly responsible, Spinney argues, for pushing India to independence, South Africa to apartheid and Switzerland to the brink of civil war. It also created the true "lost generation."


 

How To Survive A Plague by David France

A riveting, powerful telling of the story of the grassroots movement of activists, many of them in a life-or-death struggle, who seized upon scientific research to help develop the drugs that turned HIV from a mostly fatal infection to a manageable disease. Ignored by public officials, religious leaders, and the nation at large, and confronted with shame and hatred, this small group of people chose to fight for their right to live by educating themselves and demanding to become full partners in the race for effective treatments. 

 

 

Fever Year by Don Brown

New Year's Day, 1918. America has declared war on Germany and is gathering troops to fight. But there's something coming that is deadlier than any war. When people begin to fall ill, most Americans don't suspect influenza. The flu is known to be dangerous to the very old, young, or frail. But the Spanish flu is exceptionally violent. Soon, thousands of people succumb. Then tens of thousands . . . hundreds of thousands and more. Graves can't be dug quickly enough. What made the influenza of 1918 so exceptionally deadly--and what can modern science help us understand about this tragic episode in history? With a journalist's discerning eye for facts and an artist's instinct for true emotion, Sibert Honor recipient Don Brown sets out to answer these questions and more in Fever Year.

 

The Pandemic Century by Mark Honigsbaum

This book by a medical historian chronicles the last century of scientific struggle against deadly contagious disease--from the 1918 Spanish influenza pandemic to the recent SARS, Ebola and Zika epidemics--examining related epidemiological mysteries and the role of disease in exacerbating world conflicts.

Through colorful and engaging narrative, Honigsbaum probes the social context of early 20th Century America that led investigators to attribute differences in pneumonia rates among African Americans to racial factors compared with white soldiers at Camp Funston, Kansas, thought to be an early site of the 1918 influenza pandemic. 

 

 

Fiction

A Journal of the Plague Year by Daniel Defoe

In 1665 the plague swept through London, claiming over 97,000 lives. Daniel Defoe was just five at the time of the plague, but he later called on his own memories, as well as his writing experience, to create this vivid chronicle of the epidemic and its victims. A Journal (1722) follows Defoe's fictional narrator as he traces the devastating progress of the plague through the streets of London. Here we see a city transformed: some of its streets suspiciously empty, some—with crosses on their doors—overwhelmingly full of the sounds and smells of human suffering. And every living citizen he meets has a horrifying story that demands to be heard.

 

 

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Kirsten Raymonde will never forget the night Arthur Leander, the famous Hollywood actor, had a heart attack on stage during a production of King Lear. That was the night when a devastating flu pandemic arrived in the city, and within weeks, civilization as we know it came to an end.

Twenty years later, Kirsten moves between the settlements of the altered world with a small troupe of actors and musicians. They call themselves The Traveling Symphony, and they have dedicated themselves to keeping the remnants of art and humanity alive. But when they arrive in St. Deborah by the Water, they encounter a violent prophet who will threaten the tiny band’s existence. And as the story takes off, moving back and forth in time, and vividly depicting life before and after the pandemic, the strange twist of fate that connects them all will be revealed.

 

The Plague by Albert Camus

The people of North African coastal town Oran are in the grip of a deadly bubonic plague, which condemns its victims to a swift and horrifying death. Fear, isolation and claustrophobia follow as they are forced into quarantine. Each person responds in their own way to the lethal disease: some resign themselves to fate, some seek blame, and a few, like Dr. Rieux, resist the terror. An immediate triumph when it was published in 1947, The Plague is in part an allegory of France's suffering under the Nazi occupation, and a timeless story of bravery and determination against the precariousness of human existence.

 

 

 

Additional topical reading

The Coronavirus Prevention Handbook by Wang Zhou

For months, the novel coronavirus pandemic has been a worldwide health emergency. The virus was first identified in Wuhan, China. Now, from the medical experts there, comes the first authoritative, comprehensive guide to preparing for the ongoing epidemic (COVID-19). Written in plain language, here is information that will help readers and professionals understand the virus and protect themselves in the face of a possible outbreak. As COVID-19 continues to spread, preventative measures such as controlling the source of infection, early detection of patients, and cutting off transmission are imperative. With the number of reported cases of COVID-19 still growing daily, the information in this book could help you protect yourself and your loved ones.

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