The Coming Plague

Recommendation: For the morbidly curious or attracted to problem solving

Where to read: In bed

Read with: Gin and tonic, for the quinine of course

In brief: Worried about Trump with a nuclear arsenal or the effects of man-made climate change? Fear no more! There are lots of microbes out there and they’ll kill you way faster


I would highly recommend giving this a read if you have any interest in infectious disease. It’s on the older side (1994) but prescient and along with The Hot Zone, is one of the classics of the genre.

It came in for some criticism for its length and the sheer number of topics covered and that is probably fair. To be quite frank, it doesn’t completely hold together – it’s comes across more as miscellany than narrative as Garrett meanders between a couple of chapters on specific diseases in detail (ebola and machupo), comments on the effects of globalisation and poverty and an extended discussion across several chapters on HIV/AIDS.

That said, it’s satisfyingly in-depth, except to the extent that merely reading it will pique your curiosity/drive you nuts, takes a wonderfully empathetic approach to patients and creates a vivid cast of characters in the doctors and “disease cowboys” trying to track the nasties down.

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