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Pandemic: Tracking Contagions, from Cholera to Ebola and Beyond

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  1,502 ratings  ·  197 reviews
From the author of The Fever, a wide-ranging inquiry into the origins of pandemics

Interweaving history, original reportage, and personal narrative, Pandemic explores the origin of epidemics, drawing parallels between the story of cholera--one of history's most disruptive and deadly pathogens--and the new pathogens that stalk humankind today, from Ebola and avian influenza
Published February 23rd 2016 by Random House Audio (first published November 17th 2015)
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3.95  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,502 ratings  ·  197 reviews

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I am in the middle of reading Spillover and am enjoying it much more than this book. Pandemic is more current for certain, but David Quammen, the Author of Spillover, is by far more scientifically literate. Shah spends an awful lot of time focused on paradigm shifts in science. She even seems to have a really good grasp of Thomas Kuhn's arguments; and yet, she failed to realize the science she researched for this book has been pushed out by the very methods Kuhn elucidated in book, in fact the v ...more
Elizabeth A
Jun 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016, audio, non-fiction
I listened to the audiobook, which is narrated by the author.

When we think about Pandemics, most of us think about them in a historical context, and there seems to be this strange belief that we'll be able to successfully deal with whatever pathogens come our way with the aid of the super duper drugs churned out by Big Pharma. Boy, oh boy, are we wrong.

How the topics and events in this book are not the headline news every single night is something I simply do not understand. Well, I do understa
Atila Iamarino
Um livro que me surpreendeu. Fui ler esperando mais do mesmo, depois de ter lido obras como Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic e The Coming Plague: Newly Emerging Diseases in a World Out of Balance, mas felizmente fui surpreendido. Sonia Shah traz um conteúdo bem atualizado e pertinente, discutindo os fatores que favorecem novas pandemias e grandes porquês com muito poder de explicação (a melhor parte).

Nossa relação de nojo ou conivência com sujeira, que varia de acordo co
Why do some pathogens provoke yawns while others trigger panic?

Is it too much faith in medicine? Is it first-world arrogance? Is it the difference between vector-borne pathogens versus airborne or blood-borne? All of the above?

Shah manages to answer and analyze these kinds of questions while expertly retracing pandemics of the past centuries, and foretelling the ones of the future. Through her research and writing, it becomes clear how very delicate this balance is - the one that we created to
Mal Warwick
Feb 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
To judge from the over-the-top rhetoric on display among the Republican candidates in the 2016 Presidential primary campaign, many millions of Americans live in abject fear of immigration, terrorism, and having their guns taken away. It’s true there are genuine reasons to fear that our lives, our livelihoods, and our lifestyles might be disrupted in the foreseeable future. But they have nothing to do with immigration, terrorism, or hunting rifles.

Any logical, clear-headed look at the world aroun
Feb 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
Like I’ve been saying people need to stop asking for antibiotics before they get test results back and when they do get prescribed they need to take all of it. Bacteria want to survive and they mutate eventually we won’t have anything to combat them. Scary.
Ericka Clouther
One of the more interesting science books I've read in a long time, and one of the most important. I strongly recommend it to everyone. I'm also going to try some of the books recommended below.

The author does spend too much time on cholera history in the middle of the book- interesting but not the only focus of the book so it feels belabored. Power through it, it's worth it.
Feb 12, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A thorough look into the history of pathogens' interactions with humans, and the different factors that affected how quickly, and how far, they spread.

I love that Shah goes as far as to bring up the political, psychological, and ecological aspects, because those often get overlooked. For instance, many people would agree that Lyme disease is becoming more of a problem, but it's not always mentioned that it's partly because of the destruction of natural wildlife. (i.e., Deforestation ==> less
Victor Sonkin
The title says more or less all about it — and this is a striking and breathtaking account of epidemics worldwide, their past and (possible, scary, quite likely inevitable) future. A very good account.
Jun 21, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
PANDEMIC. (2016). Sonia Shah. ****1/2.
The last chapter in this eye-opening book is titled, “Tracking the Next Contagion.” To start it off, Ms. Shah quotes a comment from one of the attendees at her lecture: “Well, you’ve scared the shit out of me.” That was the same exact feeling I had. In her presentation, she managed to cover most all of the aspects of epidemics and pandemics that we need to know, for such scourges as malaria, cholera, to ebola and beyond. The various chapters provide informat
Feb 27, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: science
This was a decent book on how to prevent getting sick with the emerging virus du jour, but the tracking is mostly relegated to the history of the disease. There is a variety of diseases discussed, but the most in-depth disease (and one that comes up so frequently that this book should have just been about) discussed was cholera. So much cholera. Please note that the author is pro-vaccine. The author reads the audiobook and was pleasant to listen to but she pronounced certain words very different ...more
Jul 09, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting view of emerging pathogens by continually referring back to cholera and its history to compare it. The author is a clear writer, she did a lot of good research (including going to a wet market in China, which I wouldn't do for a million dollars, literally, as I have read a good deal about zoonosis and SARS), and I learned a heck of a lot about cholera.

Take away: human nature hasn't changed since cholera was an epidemic in the U.S. and advances in science have been undermined by human
Pretty good. I do like how Shah tried to organize the material into chapters according to the ways infectious diseases take advantage of human behaviors to spread into pandemics. However, that meant the narrative ping-ponged around between different diseases and often felt too disjointed for my taste. More distinction should have been made between the different modes of transmission of the different agents (she did cover cholera fairly extensively). I have a lot more "insider baseball" informati ...more
Joanna Taylor Stone
Jan 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook
Missed my calling as an epidemiologist for sure. Loved this and think it's important reading in the nearly post-antibiotic age in which we live.
Terrifying! But I couldn't put it down -- tons of interesting history, thoughtful analysis, and musings on the future.
Feb 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, science
I have been hospitalised thrice: twice for dengue, and once for typhoid. These events occurred about a year or two years apart, and all of them happened when I was in grade school. The first incident (dengue) happened when I was around eight or so, and the experience has left me with a deeply-ingrained, almost visceral, fear of hypodermic needles of any sort. This meant, of course, that the subsequent hospitalisation incidents were horrifying to me even if I was being treated at very good hospit ...more
Sep 06, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A lot of focus is on cholera. I would have liked to see more pathogens addressed but that may be a bit unfeasible. Also a pretty interesting history of epidemiology, how it came to be and how it functions today.
Apr 28, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Troubling subject, fun book. In addition to covering the core subject well, the author is great at going into relevant historical subjects that you wouldn't necessarily expect but shed new light on the subject.
Joshua Byrd
Sep 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Insightful and informative.
Mar 09, 2019 rated it liked it
3.5 informative but dry.
Jun 11, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: medical
Decent read about the science, politics, and history of pandemics. Shah focuses primarily on cholera and ebola. The most interesting parts for me were how pathogens spread in history versus modern times and a small piece about ancient pathogens and their influence on the evolution of our DNA, a subject she just touches but definitely something I want to read more about. For a more comprehensive and educated account on this subject matter I recommend reading ‘Spillover’ by David Quammen.
Tessa in Mid-Michigan
Excellent read! Here's my review:

Tessa’s Nonfiction Recommendation: Pandemic by Sonia Shah

Even after reading lots of books on infectious disease, I’m still always interested in a new one. Shah’s newest book, Pandemic, covers new developments and old patterns clearly and factually—and it is, at times, ominous and chilling. The current status of contagions and public health which Shah exposes is riveting, with fascinating details and previously unknown conclusions (to me, at least).

Shah loops the
Well that was a thousand different kinds of depressing.

That's not the fault of the book. The book gives a nice overview of the spread of contagious disease and how we as a society handle it. Spoilers: we are horrible. Aaron Burr doubly so.

I did have a few issues with the book. First of all, it was read by the author, and normally I really like that, and am willing to concede a few idiosyncrasies in that case. However, there were a couple words that Shah kept mispronouncing that were driving me u
Katie/Doing Dewey
Summary: I couldn't ask for more than from my nonfiction than this engagingly told story with its mix of history, science, and important predictions about the future of medicine.

Although every pandemic seems uniquely and surprisingly deadly, there are some common principles that can be  learned from our past. Using cholera as a case study, Sonia Shah describes some of the factors that can lead to pandemics. She also explores how those factors have changed or stayed the same over time and describ
Lisa Eckstein
Oct 18, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2016
This is a rare nonfiction read for me, but I was thinking about pandemics, because who doesn't, and I remembered hearing good things about this book when it came out earlier this year. It's packed with fascinating, terrifying details, presented in a highly readable narrative.

The book examines the factors that lead to diseases spreading and considers how they came into play during past outbreaks, comparing long-ago and recent scenarios. Some of the facts bode poorly for the future, as when Shah e
Michael Flanagan
Mar 17, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: medical, science
Pandemic tells the story of how pathogens evolve, spreads and crosses over the specie boundaries to lay waist to us humans. Sonia Shah looks at both the history and what the future holds for us in regards to Pandemics the event that strikes fears into all,.

The author uses the history of Cholera to thread all the chapter together as she covers how pandemics happen to the conditions that makes pathogens a mass killer. Each chapter builds the readers knowledge and scares you just a little bit more
Nov 15, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm always up for an interesting read about infectious diseases/pandemics, etc., but for some reason I just couldn't get into this one as much. It felt more like the author really wanted to tell a history of Cholera epidemics (which would have been fine), but then awkwardly slapped on material about SARS, Ebola, and a few other epidemics just to take up more space or perhaps cover diseases that have more "in your face" media coverage. For those interested in epidemics/pandemics/infectious diseas ...more
Feb 02, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wow... scary, enlightening and very interesting. It's weird how much I enjoyed this book. It was terrifying don't get me wrong, but I found it fascinating looking at these diseases in this way. If you have any interest in science I think you will find this educational as well as enjoyable.
A rather terrifying investigation into pandemics, past and future, while comparing them to cholera in the nineteenth century. Lots of detail, although a few factual inaccuracies in some historical parts.
Mar 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Scariest book ever!
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Sonia Shah is a science journalist and prize-winning author. Her writing on science, politics, and human rights has appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Foreign Affairs, Scientific American and elsewhere. Her work has been featured on RadioLab, Fresh Air, and TED, where her talk, “Three Reasons We Still Haven’t Gotten Rid of Malaria” has been viewed by over 1,000,000 people aro ...more
“In the nineteenth century, cholera struck the most modern, prosperous cities in the world, killing rich and poor alike, from Paris and London to New York City and New Orleans. In 1836, it felled King Charles X in Italy; in 1849, President James Polk in New Orleans; in 1893, the composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky in St. Petersburg.” 3 likes
“Globally, 12 percent of bird species, 23 percent of mammals, and 32 percent of amphibians are at risk of extinction. Since 1970, global populations of these creatures have declined by nearly 30 percent. Just how these losses will shift the distribution of microbes between and across species, pushing some over the threshold, remains to be seen.53” 1 likes
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