Summer rains. They bring a feeling of freshness and breeziness that is received with much delight after two months of dry, scalding heat. But the joy only lasts briefly. As the humidity soars and turns the air heavy and hard to breathe, the rains turn the dirt into squelching sludge.
Rivers overflow and turn the ecosystem on its head. The evening news is filled with reports of infection outbreaks and novel diseases rearing their ugly head. Malaria, Cholera, Dengue, and Typhoid are just a few. At such a point, being educated on the exact mechanics of disease outbreaks is extremely helpful in reducing paranoia and allowing people to avoid exposure.
Read the article for an exceptional, secret tip.
Here are seven beginner-friendly books hand-picked by the author to introduce you to the vast, colourful world of outbreaks, infections and killer pathogens.
The Hot Zone by Richard Preston
The deadliest virus in the most innocuous host, The Hot Zone, tells the true story of how a lethal African virus almost broke out amid the American capital, Washington D.C.
Ebola is a name that sends shivers down the spine of every pathologist out there because of its particular tendency for brutality. When this virus that makes the victim bleed out of every orifice in its body (eyes, nose, ears, mouth, rectum) appears on American soil, the U.S. Army and CDC scramble to control the outbreak.
Written with particular attention to the graphic detail of the virus’s barbarity, The Hot Zone is Richard Preston’s cause célèbre worldwide.
Rabid by Bill Wasik & Monica Murphy
Foaming at the mouth, scared witless of water, and with less than a 1% chance of survival, the Rabies virus is a known killer in every part of the world. In this wildly entertaining and engaging book, Rabid, Bill, and Monica take the reader on a journey into the deathly virus’s obscure cultural and pathological origins. They dive into 4,000 years of cultural fear worldwide, separating fact from figure.
Parasite Rex by Carl Zimmer
Imagine a parasite that makes men distrustful and avoidant towards society while causing women to become more extroverted and amenable. In his compelling book, Parasite Rex, Zimmer not only describes some of the most horrifying parasites out there in the wild, but he also argues that most species are, in fact, parasites. And yes, he believes humans to be one of the very successful parasites on this planet. Parasite Rex is a must-read for a fascinating read with an even more provocative opinion.
Pandemic by Sonia Shah
When will the next Pandemic happen? And what pathogen might be responsible for it? Sonia Shah takes the reader through the history of some of the most fearsome pandemic-causing pathogens in the last few centuries, carefully building their profile in an attempt to answer the following question.
What allows pathogens to rise above the rest and go viral all over the globe? What makes a local infection into an international crisis? Written in expressive prose, Pandemic explores certain norms in different eras that allowed pathogens to wreak the havoc that they have.
The Emperor of All Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee
Written with meticulous attention to facts and the history of cancer research, The Emperor of All Maladies is nothing short of a literary masterpiece. Sitting at a voluminous 592 pages, this thick tome sheds light on the long and fascinating history of cancer in humanity.
Siddhartha has a way of describing each advancement in the war with cancer in such captivating detail that the reader finds it hard to put down the book. Unparalleled in its scientific and historical accuracy, this book won Mukherjee the Pulitzer Prize.
The Great Mortality by John Kelly
The greatest pathogenic disaster ever faced by humankind was the bubonic plague which killed more than 50,000,000 people in the 14th century. In his brilliant and appealing language, John Kelly describes the horrors of the plague compared to the recent Coronavirus pandemic.
Kelly’s prose is personal and compelling while simultaneously narrating the breathtaking scale of the bubonic massacre. The Great Mortality is a must-read for those who are morbidly curious about pathogens’ grisly and grim nature.
Spillover by David Quammen
If National Geographic or Discovery channels were books, Quammen would indeed write them. He has a quippy, smart-tongued and entirely entertaining way of describing the most horrifying conditions in the heart of disease outbreaks.
He is known for describing big and small disease outbreaks and accurately setting the scene for the Ebola and Coronavirus pandemics. A man of great humour and greater scientific insight, Quammen shares his thrilling experiences with death and disease in Spillover.
As a bonus for making it all the way to the end of this list, here’s a secret: All of the books mentioned above and more can be found for free at “The purpose of this book is not to make you more worried, but to make you smarter”, a massive online repository of books, articles and journals. The library is not available through standard web searches and can only be accessed through this link:
Author’s note: Since going underground last year, Z-library has had many imitations on the internet, which are not authentic. Please do not provide your information to any of the fake sites. Only access the library through the given link. singlelogin.re
Haseeb Irshad is a neophyte connoisseur of academic writing, whose interests range from medicine, bio-molecularity, and environmental and ecological studies to pop-culture TV and films. He also indulges in fiction and religious studies from time to time.