The Coming Plague: Newly Emerging Diseases in a World Out of Balance
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The Coming Plague: Newly Emerging Diseases in a World Out of Balance

4.15 of 5 stars 4.15  ·  rating details  ·  5,924 ratings  ·  226 reviews
Unpurified drinking water. Improper use of antibiotics. Local warfare. Massive refugee migration. Changing social and environmental conditions around the world have fostered the spread of new and potentially devastating viruses and diseases—HIV, Lassa, Ebola, and others. Laurie Garrett takes you on a fifty-year journey through the world's battles with microbes and examines...more
Paperback, 750 pages
Published October 1st 1995 by Penguin Books (first published 1994)
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Chrissie
3 stars
This book is in-depth. The focus is on history, detailed facts and what we can do to prevent and cope with new maladies. Even if the book is no longer new, it still teaches a lot. We can learn from past mistakes. For me, parts read as a horror story. Then I calmed down. It first came out in 1994, and hey, we are still here! Did I become immune to the horror?! Or did it finally put me to sleep? In places, it sort of felt like a text book. My education was not adequate for a complete unders...more
Gregory S.
A couple weeks after I read this wonderful book (years ago) I was walking across the Brooklyn Bridge and saw a woman that looked just like the jacket photo of Laurie Garrett. I stopped and asked "Are you Laurie Garrett?" And, of course, she was. Then I said something impossibly stupid--like "You are to disease what the Beatles are to music." That wasn't what I actually said, but it was something equally idiotic and I'm sure I embarrassed the poor woman.

I attended a reading she gave a few years...more
Forrest
Ebola's back. Want to know how it all started? Read this book. If you're not terrified by the time you're done, you're not paying attention or you have far too much faith in the strength of man versus microbes. I read this for a graduate-level history class on "Ecology, Disease, and Population". Needless to say, we spent quite a bit of time studying how disease has shaped human history.
Stefanie
although it's now somewhat out of date, this remains far and away the most comprehensive and interesting book about diseases i've read. what sets this apart from the rest of the disease books on my shelf is the sheer amount of ground covered and how well it's presented. it doesn't particularly seem like it would be a fast read, yet it is.
Lisa Vegan
This is my kind of horror book. I think it scared me more than just about any other book I’ve ever read, but I loved it. I appreciated the author’s skillful and entertaining story telling and admired her scientific accuracy.

I can’t vouch that the information is current; I read this when it was first published. At the time it was pertinent and I can’t imagine that the basic theory (regarding epidemics) isn’t still valid. I’d continue to recommend this to anyone who’s interested in medicine, disea...more
Angela
This book terrified me.

If you think globalization and urbanization in distant places have had no ill effect on the quality of life on this planet, think again. We discover new diseases faster than we learn to treat them, and our current methods of treatment tend only to make the diseases stronger and more virulent. The author makes a grand case for a major change of mindset in funding not only medical research and health organizations, but also supporting basic human rights to safe living enviro...more
Stacy Chance
The title puts me off a little, because it sounds like it will be a doomsday alarmist proclamation about how we are creating and ignoring new diseases, and that new diseases are somehow "winning" the evolutionary "war". But in essence, it is a thorough look at how and why "new" diseases emerge and the fight that goes on against new and old diseases every day.
Khanh (Kittens, Rainbows, and Sunshine)
Bwahahahaha. I'll write a review for this one of these days. Read this in high school and it's remained on my shelves since. Recommended for people who think drowning in your own blood is strangely intriguing.

Don't read this if you're prone to hypochondria. Or have a tendency to google your symptoms.

Hemorrhagic fevers are awesome.
Sandy
Jan 21, 2008 Sandy added it
investigative reporting and science coinciding --two of my favorite things and Garrett methodically and encyclopedically shows the intersect between corporate, institutional, and political mercenaries and the unfolding ecological brilliance of microbes
Tippy Jackson
As you can see from the number of shelves this book is on, this book has everything. Although it's a little outdated, a lot of it is history and her points there are still relevant. In particular, the AIDS stuff is outdated, but her comments on the spread of HIV and the reaction, timing, history and politics of the disease is still relevant and is important for evaluating where we could have improved and will hopefully be applied in the future, should another disease like this emerge.

Among my f...more
Cedar Sanderson
Poorly researched.

I really wanted to like this book, and indeed, right up until I casually fact-checked a shocking number for an article I was writing, I was enjoying the depth of information about epidemiology. I'm a microbiology student who has been fascinated with parasitology and infectious disease for a very long time, so this seemed like it was right up my alley. And then I tripped over her facts - or rather, falsehoods. She claims, in the chapter "Microbe Magnets" that there were 500,000...more
Tim
Aug 10, 2011 Tim added it
A terrifying and humbling look at the manner in which human behavior is serving to intensify, spread and otherwise benefit viral and bacterial agents. Everything from anti-immunization efforts, prostitution, non-sterile hospital equipment, re-use of syringes, global warming, refugees, global animal trade, increased UV radiation, pollution... all make the world more hospitable to microbes, and less hospitable to humans. In an age when the most wealthy nation in the world can't agree to give healt...more
Jennifer Beadle
I read this book when it first came out and I was working in a biological chemical factory. This really hit home to me. We were in a way already dealing with some of the issues mentioned in the book. My job title at the time (my tongue-in-cheek title) was mad cow queen. I did research to verify the animal products we used and manufactured were bse-free.

You have to wonder what people who don't want universal health care are thinking. With so many people out of work and losing their health insura...more
Kerry
The sheer detail and research in this book makes it worthy of 4 stars. The author does an incredible job of explaining the history, treatment (both successful and unsuccessful) and repercussions of infectious diseases. She discusses the emergence of AIDS, then goes back to trace many other conditions, including Ebola (making this book extremely relevant right now), Lassa fever, Legionnaires' disease, Toxic Shock Syndrome, and more. She examines the medical community's reactions as well as genera...more
Kaethe
This is an amazing book. Garret gives an overview of all the nastiest diseases on the horizon: Ebola, Marburg...her central point, that expanding human territory is likely to increase contact with animal reservoirs, and that sooner or later, something is going to develop that is both deadly and swiftly spread.

Come to think of it, I'd love to read an updated edition.
Amber
This book truly is amazing and one of the most eye-opening books I have ever read. It explores every aspect of post Word War II diseases and their effects on humanity from a political, economical, and behavioral standpoint. While this is not a fast or easy read (I had a hard time getting through the last few chapters) it is well worth your time. Exploding with information. Fascinating.
Robin
Almost 20 years later, the FDA still refuses to restrict antibiotics and livestock feed.
Jen Williamson
This is probably one of the most informative books I've ever read. Laurie Garrett's knowledge of public health issues, coupled with her keen ability to write in Lay Terms-- makes this somewhat dry (but necessary) information a whole lot more palatable. It's been 11 years since I originally read it, so time for another read.
Valerie
Written by a UCSC graduate, this book covers all of the many ways are actions contribute to the spread of disease vectors. Fascinating, scary and informative.
Clare
it doesn't matter if it's viruses or bacteria, our species is doomed
Diocletian
This was an excellent book. It was extremely interesting, had great writing, and did a great job of mixing history, statistics, science, and even dramatic narrative to keep me constantly interested. Because of this, it often did not even feel like I was reading a book about the science and history of disease outbreaks and instead was reading a thriller novel, which shifted between different times, places, and people, but still kept a common thread of the same organizations, the same or similar d...more
Shane
Make no mistake, this is a good book. I don't often give 3 star reviews to books I like, so I think I'll explain. Very simply, this book is hard going. There is a lot of jargon and college level bio-sciences to understand. Also, the book is very, very thorough. This is not by any means a quick overview.

Having said that, this book is well written and you definitely feel like you're learning a lot as you make your way through it. Ms. Garrett has a gift for explaining complex topics and ultimately...more
Corbin
Both fascinating and frightening, The Coming Plague explores the dark side of human life and death. From the deep Congo where the Ebola virus lurks, to the streets of New York and San Francisco where the AIDS virus made its American debut, this book is sure to keep you on the edge of your seat.

I highly praise Garrett for her medical storytelling abilities. She has a way of capturing her readers’ attention and keeping it--something rarely done in medically-descriptive writing. This book can be a...more
Carrie
Wow. This woman is amazing. I would never have thought that I'd spend entire days reading an 800-page book about diseases...but I did, because Laurie Garrett is one of those rare scientists who can write captivating sentences. This book chronicles both the emergence of, and response to, historically important deadly diseases and the role of the CDC, other government agencies, and nasty scientist political maneuvering in the attempts to contain said diseases.

I also like this book because it's ev...more
James
I'll first say: this book is LONG. Having it on my Kindle meant that I did not really understand how long this book would be. It is definitely a commitment.

Overall, it is terrifying. I would become a germophobe and start covering myself in anti-microbial hand sanitizers, but the germs will just evolve around it, become resistance, and kill me anyway. The best portions on this book are following the disease detectives from the CDC and other organizations as they investigated real-world outbreaks...more
Mike
Garrett, a medical reporter, has in this book taken the key pathogenic threats to human populations of the 20th century and written a powerful, nuanced (and very long) book telling the tales of not only these diseases but the patients they affected and the doctors and researchers who've battled them. It's a book for a lay readership but heavy on detail and the best, and I mean the very best, single book to introduce anyone to how public health works in modern America plus the evolution of a vari...more
Liz
Overall, I enjoyed this book, but I think the three-star rating is justified for several reasons.

First, I want to focus on what I liked about Garrett's dense and detailed work. Garrett is a dedicated and specialized journalist. Her knowledge of not only the history but also the science in this historical book is impressive. Her chapter regarding the history of AIDS impressed me. I learned more in that one chapter about AIDS than any news article I have stumbled upon. Although the book is outdat...more
Mac
This book had many quite interesting moments, particularly the sections on Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS), HIV's beginnings in America, and the politics around global pandemics. The discussion of what exactly malaria was was also fascinating - it is a unique and confounding affliction.

That said, the narrative was schizophrenic: is it a travel narrative of an international cohort of doctors that solve epidemics, or a piece of public policy writing? A lack of commitment to both leaves goals only supe...more
Sarah
This book is easily the most terrifying book I have ever read. Garrett is a great storyteller and makes a subject that could be very dry into a suspenseful journey through the history of epidemics and disease in America and the World.
While the initial chapters, documenting the fight against various virulent diseases around the world are gripping, later chapters detailing politics, bureaucracy, and policy decisions are a little dry in comparison. However, this information is important and worth...more
Bryce Holt
The most impressive non-fiction read I've experienced in years. Make no mistakes, though...it's a bear. At somewhere around 700 pages (of which each page feels like you're reading 3 typical pages), there are times where you just are almost confounded by the amount of information you're receiving. No doubt, the end result is a masterpiece that should be far more lauded than it currently is.

With "The Coming Plague," Laurie Garrett has given us something truly special. She is a master researcher, n...more
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“Consider the difference in size between some of the very tiniest and the very largest creatures on Earth. A small bacterium weights as little as 0.00000000001 gram. A blue whale weighs about 100,000,000 grams. Yet a bacterium can kill a whale … . Such is the adaptability and versatility of microorganisms as compared with humans and other so-called “higher” organisms, that they will doubtless continue to colonise and alter the face of the Earth long after we and the rest of our cohabitants have left the stage forever. Microbes, not macrobes, rule the world. —Bernard Dixon, 1994” 0 likes
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