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Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic

4.29  ·  Rating details ·  8,024 ratings  ·  862 reviews
“Science writing as detective story at its best.” —Jennifer Ouellette, Scientific American

A New York Times Notable Book of the Year, a Scientific American Best Book of the Year, and a Finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award.

Ebola, SARS, Hendra, AIDS, and countless other deadly viruses all have one thing in common: the bugs that transmit these diseases all origi
Paperback, 592 pages
Published September 9th 2013 by W. W. Norton Company (first published September 24th 2012)
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Tessa in Mid-Michigan I also think some parents would get upset over language. I don't know why it is such a big deal these days, but it is. Frequent use of s*** and p***…moreI also think some parents would get upset over language. I don't know why it is such a big deal these days, but it is. Frequent use of s*** and p*** and other words as well. Agree that sections are pretty technical, but selected passages could be extremely useful and helpful.(less)

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4.29  · 
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 ·  8,024 ratings  ·  862 reviews

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Best Eggs
This book is a very detailed look at zoonoses, diseases that cross from animals to people. If it hadn't been quite so detailed, it would have been a 10 star. What I have learned:

1. There are three sorts of host. There is the reservoir host that the disease resides inand may or may not cause disease. Then there is the amplification host where if the original host infects it, or if a vector (like fleas that carry it) does, it will the disease-causing pathogen will multiply to very large numbers. T
Oct 01, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
You have to understand. I have my phobias. So it makes for awkward social encounters. Like: “Mommy,” said the little girl in the elevator, “Why is that man holding his breath the whole way down from the 16th floor?” I have been known to say things like, “Will you please stop sneezing in the direction of my beer?” I went to a doctor’s office a few years ago. Nothing ultimately serious, but possibly so, so that I went for the quickly scheduled appointment even though I was already nursing a bad co ...more
Hannah Greendale
May 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Click here to watch a video featuring this book on my channel, From Beginning to Bookend.

Dec 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: fans of diseases, outbreaks, animals, public health, travel

David Quammen is prescient. He appears to have predicted the 2014 Ebola outbreak and ability to country jump years before it happened. Alright, maybe he isn’t a diviner; maybe he merely pays attention to the scientists around him. After all, there’s a reason he is has been given an Academy Award in Literature and is a three-time winner of the National Magazine Award. Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic explores the science behind human
Jan 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing
"A zoonosis is an animal infection transmissible to humans. There are more such diseases than you might expect. AIDS is one. Influenza is a whole category of others. Pondering them as a group tends to reaffirm the old Darwinian truth (the darkest of his truths, well known and persistently forgotten) that humanity IS a kind of animal, inextricably connected with other animals; in origin and in descent, in sickness and in health." This is what David Quammen preaches in Spillover: Animal Infections ...more
May 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biology
Quamman explores zoonotic diseases, infectious diseases caused by pathogens that “spillover” from animals to man. The pathogen may be a virus, bacteria or parasite. Zoonotic diseases include well known ones like Ebola, Lyme disease, SARS, and AIDS, lesser known ones like Hendra virus, Marburg virus and Q fever, and ones just being recognized as zoonotic such as some forms of malaria. Zoonotic diseases require a reservoir animal, an animal that sustains the virus without serious complications. Re ...more
Oct 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Full disclosure first, I'm a fan of this type of non-fiction. Laurie Garret - The Coming Plague, Richard Preston - The Hot Zone, Randy Shilts - And the Band Played On... the list goes on and on. I love this stuff. But having said that, this is truly the best thing I've ever read on the subject of infectious agents spilling over from their host species into humans. Brilliant, readable and absolutely spell-binding, Quammen's description of mutation, illness and the effect of human encroachment int ...more
Aug 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
Disclamer: I received this book from the Goodreads First Reads Giveaway program.

I'm very grateful that I did. I happen to be a physician, specializing in Public Health and Preventive Medicine. I work in an environment where epidemiology underlies everything I do. Therefore, I feel that I can give an especially educated evaluation of this book.

The first thing I would like to comment on is the cover. It's an eye-catching blurred photograph of a screaming mandrill. Everywhere I carried the book (wh
Sep 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to David by: Tony
A "spillover" occurs when a microbe crosses over from an animal to humans, as an infectious disease. David Quammen describes many examples of this: SARS, ebola, HIV, influenza, marburg and hendra.

Each chapter is a detective story--scientists, veterinarians and medical researchers are detectives searching for the source of a disease. The source is usually a reservoir--an animal that carries the microbe, but is not usually harmed by the microbe.

And--now here's the best part--Quammen is not a stay
(4.5) This exposé of zoonoses (diseases passed from animals to humans) is top-notch scientific journalism: pacey, well-structured and entirely gripping. Although it’s a rather sobering topic, this is not scare-mongering for the sake of it; indeed, Quammen frankly concludes that we are much more likely to die of heart disease or fatal car crashes: “Yes, we are all gonna die. Yes. We are all gonna pay taxes and we are all gonna die. Most of us, though, will probably die of something much more mund ...more
Parker F
This book was an exciting and informative tour of zoonotic diseases, but the fragmented style diminished my enjoyment. Quammen practices an annoying form of gonzo journalism in which he needlessly inserts himself into the narrative because he is too lazy to do otherwise.

There are numerous throwaway chapters that are included for no other reason than because Quammen made a trip or did the interview. For instance, many pages are devoted to the unenlightening tale of a scientist who accidentally p
Pure class from beginning to end - the best science journalism I've read.

It was completely coincidental that I read this just before the 2014 Ebola outbreak... but that did sort of reinforce why this is essential reading!

Plenty of other goodreads reviews have given superb summaries of the content of the novel, so I'll only touch on that briefly - but here's why I personally loved it:

I originally put this on my long-list as research reading. There's a novel I want to write (one day!) that is set
Is it possible to "really like" a book like this? I think I may have shortchanged this book with the three star rating. Hmmm.

But I digress.

It is official- I now know too much. Most of us have probably spent some amount of time thinking about a pandemic. How could we not? Reading this book will not ease said fears. It is unsettling to read how easy it is for an infection to *spillover* (sorry) from animal to human. This book reveals just how easy it is and gives you enough information to scare t
May 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I found this book fascinating. When I originally got it out of the library, some of my friends were a biiiit concerned that given my GAD was health-focused, this would just make me have a panic attack. I'm happy to report that I was simply happily curious, digging around with great enthusiasm, stopping to google things, etc.

In terms of the level this is at, it's perfectly comprehensible to anyone, I would say. Granted, I do have a background in reading plenty of popular science, an A Level in bi
Oct 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Thrilled to see that David Quammen had a new science book, I snatched this up. It’s been 15 years since his book "Song of the Dodo” about island biogeography, which remains at the top of my favorite non-fiction.

Can one *enjoy* a book about infectious disease? Anyone who's read Richard Preston's “The Hot Zone” will guiltily admit, yes (interestingly, he takes Preston to task for overplaying descriptions of Ebola infection. “Bleeding out" is not accurate.)

There is inherent narrative drama in the
Apr 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Superb! David Quammen brings to life the stories of a wide variety of infectious diseases and their spillover from animals to humans. David is a great writer, his narrative drive and prose are magnificent. He does this while presenting the science in a very accessible yet amazingly informative way.

What is astounding is the amount of work and research that must have gone into this book. David conducted a seemingly endless amount of interviews with scientists, researchers, doctors. To say he took
Arun Divakar
Oct 27, 2016 rated it really liked it
The hubris of homo sapiens lies in believing that it holds sway over this planet but then hidden away from anything but the most powerful electron microscopes are organisms that can wreak havoc on all of us. These microorganisms are hardy, smart and incredibly adaptable when it comes to the question of how to survive and thrive among the biodiversity of the earth. If you were to romanticize the whole concept then it becomes very easy to paint the pathogen as the most dreaded enemy of mankind/ na ...more
Kaethe Douglas
This is a book about zoonoses, diseases that come to humans from other animals. It is scary, sure, because there are always new microbes out there ready to go rampaging through our vast society. It is also rather comforting, both the methodical search for vectors and reservoirs, the details of transmission and treatment, the stream of breakthroughs that enable researchers to locate and sequence. And through it all, Quammen maintains a casual, light conversational tone, reassuring the reader that ...more
Nov 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Anna by: carol.
This is informative, interesting and entertaining. Parts of it read as a detective story, as the author describes the quest to identify pathogens, and the routes that can lead those pathogens to cause human disease. The approach encompasses the ecological as well as the evolutionary factors that lead to zoonotic diseases.
As I read, I took copious quotes from every chapter. As David Quammen says it much better than I can, I am going to copy some of them here. I will use spoiler tags for my summar
Mal Warwick
Nov 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
Where Do "Emerging Diseases" Emerge From?

AIDS, Ebola, Marburg, SARS, H5N1 — every one of the world’s scariest diseases is a “zoonosis,” that is, a virus harbored by animals and transmitted to humans, often by other animals, in a complex minuet that often stretches out into decades.

AIDS, for example. According to the latest research, reported by David Quammen in Spillover, Patient Zero was not that French-Canadian flight attendant you may have read about who went amok in the 1970s but a hunter in
Apr 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I try not to read books that make me paranoid or hypochondriac — and that's not the intention of this book — but I'll think twice next time that I'm in some exotic place and close to wild animals. The Monkey Forest in Bali was mentioned in this book in relation to herpes B (a deadly disease caused by a spillover from macaques monkeys to humans). Thanks goodness I feel a visceral revulsion towards monkeys. I didn't hand-feed any or let them climb up my head and shoulders so that I can take a pict ...more
From start to finish, this book was nothing short of SPECTACULAR! It is longer than most science/ medicine books, but do not let that deter you. I was extremely sad when this book ended. I wanted more!

In the middle of reading this book, I made the mistake of putting this book on pause to read the more recent Pandemic by Sonia Shah. Science is obviously not the authors strong suit. It was extremely disappointing. It might fly with people who are less scientifically literate. She had more up to da
Emma Sea
Nov 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely splendid. The very best kind of science writing. And Quammen sure knows how to leave his readers with a gripping hook for the next-but-one chapter, which kept me eagerly whipping through all 500+ pages.
Nov 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
First things first. I hate when I look at a nonfiction book table of contents and can’t tell by the name of the chapters what they cover. For those who feel the same, here is the annotated table of contents:

I. Pale Horse (Hendra virus)
II. Thirteen Gorillas (Ebola virus)
III. Everything Comes From Somewhere (Malaria)
IV. Dinner at the Rat Farm (SARS)
V. The Deer, the Parrot, & the Kid Next Door (Q Fever, Psittacosis, and Lyme disease)
VI. Going Viral (General Virus Stuff, but Especially HIV)
Dec 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I see why Quammen is so well thought of. Spillover was amazingly informative, had a near perfect execution, explained very difficult, scientific subjects in a manner that a reader with little science background could understand without making it so dumbed down that the same reader found themselves lost in a nexus of weakening metaphors and feeling insulted (I'm looking at you, Winchester). This is how you speak to your audience! You do not dumbdown, but rather heighten the discourse and inform. ...more
Derrick Witness
Nov 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
What a frightful but entertaining read!! David Quammen is a brilliant scientist and storyteller all at once. He weaves narrative storytelling and science seamlessly like its the easiest thing ever. That's the source of the overall brilliance of the book. Quammen manages to use his own personal experiences with disease scientists at the centre of the research and others in the thick of things to make the book more entertaining. Billy Karesh studying chimps in Moba Bai, Beatrice Hahn at the heart ...more
Jan 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, science
A rather chilling book about how diseases make their way from animals to humans, often with deadly consequences, and nobody really knows why.

Lots of science about diseases, vectors, germs, and all the rest, but the frightening thing is how little we actually know about this sort of thing.

Very educational.
Nov 08, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: medicine, 2012, science
This book is about zoonoses--illnesses that spread from animals to people. It describes the typical process: the virus or bacteria lives, long-term and harmlessly, in a reservoir species. When it infects an amplifier species, it can spread more quickly to humans. For example, the Hendra virus has its reservoir in flying foxes (large Australian bats), but when it infects horses, it can spread to people, who are in much closer contact with their sick horses than with bats.

Not only are zoonoses th
Oct 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is a gripping tale of disease “spillover” that will thrill those interested in science – and probably many who aren’t. After all, we all get sick occasionally. Quammen looks at the ways pathogens (usually viruses) have spilled from animals to humans. He traces the origins of, among others, Ebola, SARS, bird flu, Lyme disease, and AIDS. These zoonotic diseases can escalate rapidly into global pandemics when human-to-human transmission occurs.

For five years Quammen trailed scientists in
A very good bok with scientific, yet approachable explanations to why zoonoses (animal diseases that infect humans) are so scary and deadly, especially when it comes to certain new viruses. The fact is zoonotic viruses and other diseases infect humans on a regular basis. I know; I was infected with ringworm (Dermatophytosis) by my kittens a few years ago - it's a fungal infection that spreads like fire. No fun but no biggie either. But any pet owner knows the drill on vaccinations for rabies and ...more
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David Quammen (born February 1948) is an award-winning science, nature and travel writer whose work has appeared in publications such as National Geographic, Outside, Harper's, Rolling Stone, and The New York Times Book Review; he has also written fiction. He wrote a column called "Natural Acts" for Outside magazine for fifteen years. Quammen lives in Bozeman, Montana.
“Alternatively, anyone who favors Intelligent Design in lieu of evolution might pause to wonder why God devoted so much of His intelligence to designing malarial parasites.” 8 likes
“This form of interspecies leap is common, not rare; about 60 percent of all human infectious diseases currently known either cross routinely or have recently crossed between other animals and us.” 4 likes
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