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The Pandemic Century: One Hundred Years of Panic, Hysteria, and Hubris

3.86  ·  Rating details ·  801 ratings  ·  153 reviews
Ever since the 1918 Spanish influenza pandemic, scientists have dreamed of preventing catastrophic outbreaks of infectious disease. Yet despite a century of medical progress, viral and bacterial disasters continue to take us by surprise, inciting panic and dominating news cycles. From the Spanish flu to the 1924 outbreak of pneumonic plague in Los Angeles to the 1930 “parr ...more
Hardcover, 464 pages
Published April 9th 2019 by W. W. Norton Company (first published 2019)
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Charlene
Apr 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
Each time humans have faced a pandemic, they have been woefully underprepared. A year ago, Mark Honigsbaum published this book to serve as a warning for the coming "germ x". In order to help society understand how important it is to prepare for pandemics, Honigsbaum detailed the last 100 years of pandemics that caught humans all over the globe by surprise. He did an excellent job of illustrating the biology happening in the animal body as well as the political and social scene that played out ar ...more
Bryan Alkire
Oct 30, 2020 rated it liked it
Worth reading once. Decent overview of the pandemics from 1918-2015. I’ve read a lot about some of these over the years, but this is a decent synthesis. It would be a good introduction to these pandemics if one hadn’t read anything about them before. Of course, the chapter on SAARS is the most relevant right now as it was a Corona virus. Where this book fails is historical overreach. Events other than pandemics seem to be plunked into the narrative regardless of whether they have anything to do ...more
Andy
May 05, 2019 rated it it was ok
Thoroughly unnecessary. The intro promises some kind of a new paradigm for understanding pandemics, but opportunities to explore important new angles are merely hinted at. For example, on the very last page, the author mentions in passing that the WHO was accused of "faking" the 2009 "pandemic." Huh?! That's something that's not in the old flu books and would be worth investigating, particularly for the advertised focus of "panic, hysteria, and hubris."

Instead, the author just keeps echoing the
...more
Amy
I'm interested in public health, so when I spotted The Pandemic Century on the new book display at my local library, I picked it up. I have to say, though, my view of the book is mixed at best. I have read a bunch of other books about two of the epidemics that chapters of The Pandemic Century focused on: the 1918 flu epidemic most commonly known as the Spanish flu and the little known early 1900s plague epidemic in California. Neither portrayal/explanation of these two epidemics were particularl ...more
Stephen
thanks to netgalley and the publishers for a free copy copy in return for an open and honest review

This book has been updated since the hardback edition to include Covid19 virus which is currently spreading around the world. found this book interesting to learn about different pandemics since the spanish flu of 1918 and hows humans interact with ecology and nature which can created new virus to test the human body from Sars, Hiv, Aids, Parrott fever and man continual fight against new virus. The
...more
Kimba Tichenor
Aug 28, 2020 rated it liked it
I had hoped for a book that moved beyond the medical paradigm to explore how pandemics impact the social, political, and cultural sphere. This is not that book. Although there are a few interesting discussions about how technological advances have left us vulnerable to new diseases and how media coverage impacts scientific research of disease outbreaks both positively and negatively, such topics are never fully explored. The human dimension of pandemics hinted at in the book's subtitle never mat ...more
Melora
May 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science-ish
3 1/2 stars, rounded up because I "read' this with my ears and that might have contributed to my attention wandering issue.

There is a whole lot here that's interesting. Governmental and public response to outbreaks of infectious disease apparently don't change much. With each disease, Honigsbaum describes governmental denial, footdragging, and cover-up, and the public's inclinations to latch onto conspiracy theories and resist preventative measures suggested by doctors and scientists. Anti-vaxxe
...more
Alyssia Cooke
Nov 05, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction, arc, medical
Non-fiction isn't something I frequently read, but this seemed highly topical and a way to introduce myself back into reading non-fiction. However, whilst there are some really interesting facts in here, and it covers the main pandemics of the century in detail, it suffers significantly from a few crucial flaws that heavily impacted on my enjoyment of the book as a whole.

Firstly, the vast majority of the book is completely US-centric, with other countries getting barely a mention in passing eve
...more
Leah
Sep 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
This book is massive and really in depth. Too in depth for what I'm interested in but very well written and researched.

It has every plague every doctor every research every scientist every news report about everything lol Which is amazing if you're super interested in the topic. This is why I gave it 4/5 stars, would I read it again? Proooobably not lol it's a bit TMI

Parrot fever was something I had never heard about so that was pretty interesting
...more
Babbs
"Whether familiar or not, however, each of these epidemics illustrates how quickly the received medical wisdom can be overturned by the emergence of new pathogens and how, in the absence of laboratory knowledge and effective vaccines and treatment drugs, such epidemics have an unusual power to provoke panic, hysteria, and dread."

The longer it has been since I finished this read, the more I find myself thinking about it--particularly in light of current world events. Often when science isn't adva
...more
Melanie
Dec 21, 2020 rated it really liked it
I have read many books on the different kinds of plagues and pandemics throughout history. This book provides of good summary of many with a large focus on Zika Virus, which was new at the time. Overall, I felt it provided good information and also referenced other books I have read.
Kevin Whitaker
Feb 19, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: history, misc
Read this for obvious newsy reasons, and it was okay. It contains a lot of detail that I didn't really find interesting, and the storytelling was hard to follow in places. I also didn't get a great sense of bigger-picture themes, aside from two that were hammered again and again. But ultimately it did give me a better understanding of pandemics in general and especially the examples covered here.

Three things I learned:
1.The deadliest outbreak of the last century, the Spanish Flu, had an oddly
...more
Lily Nesbitt
I really enjoyed the premise of this book and it told me a great deal of things I didn’t know already- if you’re interested in public health and history this is for you!

Not sure if it’s because a lot of the science I read is in lectures and in papers but I would have loved to see some comparative graphs and more facts/figures but that’s purely because of how I learn.

Florin Pitea
Feb 17, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Quite interesting and informative.
Becky
Feb 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A fantastic book that covers in detail the pandemics that have taken place over the last 20th century. The chapter on SARS was particularly illuminating given what is now happening with Covid19. The chapter on HIV AIDS too was fascinating. Highly recommend this book.
Margaret Heller
Oct 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, science
I couldn't put this down, but it might just be me. ...more
Ben Rogers
Great book.

New normal. Stay home and read books!

3/5
Zulfiya
Jul 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
Yet again, the goodreads rating system does not allow me to give full credit to this book. It is definitely a 3.5, closer to four stars,so four stars it is.
The book offers an interesting perspective on major epidemic breaks that happened within the hundred year span, and it is accessible to anyone who is not a professional but is interested in public health issues.
There are a lot of things I really liked about the book.
a. I liked the historical perspective and the overall trend in treating ep
...more
Joe Kessler
Apr 03, 2020 rated it liked it
With a few caveats, this is an informative look at massive disease outbreaks from the 'Spanish' influenza of 1918 through more recent crises like Ebola, Zika, and SARS. The book could have been structured better in terms of an overarching message or narrative throughline, and I wish author Mark Honigsbaum had focused more on preventative measures / recovery rather than just how the individual epidemics spread and were eventually detected. I also don't love how often he emphasizes historical scie ...more
AJ Payne
Probably 3.5 stars because I love the subject material.

I'm always interested in books about epidemics and pandemics, and this one seemed to be interesting in taking a look at the sociology of it (or at least, the title suggests that it will), but that didn't happen in any meaningful way. Sure, panic and hysteria were talked about, because it's really easy to panic when it comes to pandemics and all the unknowns, but this didn't really dig into it.

What this book is, is an outline of several possi
...more
Miguel
Jul 11, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
With the Covid-19 crisis in full bloom, The Pandemic Century is a good reminder that we’ve been here before. It’s the story of disease outbreaks of the last 100 years, starting chronologically from the 1918 Spanish influenza outbreak up to the Zika spread in Brazil and. Little known (to me at least) were the bubonic plague scares in San Francisco in the 20’s as well as later that decade with the outbreak of Parrot fever, thus it goes into social as well as biological aspects as apparently owning ...more
Everydayreader1
Jun 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
The current outbreak of Covid-19 has prompted me to read several titles about pandemics. The subject interests me greatly. This book is the latest one I've read. It has plenty to recommend it. Mark Honigsbaum traces the history of various pandemics and outbreaks around the world, going into much detail about several of them.

What I found particularly fascinating is his exploration of not only the scientific aspect of these outbreaks of disease, but also the politics reflected in the recognition a
...more
Tõnu Vahtra
Apr 04, 2020 rated it liked it
It's a good informative book if you are not familiar with the major pandemics during the past 100 years (1918-19 Spanish Influenza, 1924 pneumonic plague, 1930s parrot fever, HIV, SARS, Ebola, Zika and even COVID is briefly mentioned. The book illustrates how easily viruses are spreading globally today and what are the consequences of under-reacting to an emerging pandemic or not taking enough efforts to limit the spread of a pandemic. Also the role of different animals in carrying the viruses i ...more
Sue Pirolo
Sep 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Very interesting/informative, including a couple smaller pandemics I hadn't heard about. Each pandemic Honigsbaum expertly summarizes exposes man's contribution to, and in some cases, responsibility for, the outbreak and spread. We need to do so much more to prevent pandemics from occurring, and to act quickly/appropriately at their onset... but sadly, as we've seen with COVID-19, that takes preparation and leadership which is so frequently lacking. We need to get our act together before the nex ...more
Ruth
Nov 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
Maybe don't read if you're paranoid about getting sick or prone to anxiety; other than that, you might enjoy this engaging overview of 100 years' worth of pandemics, their causes and effects. Plus sharks. ...more
Bookjazzer2010
Mar 21, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2020
Educational. Lots of statistics and history. Pretty dry, but it was good to learn how the world handled previous infectious diseases.

Hoping those in charge of the current pandemic can avoid repeating the mistakes of the past and will search for better solutions!
Martin
Sep 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Essential reading for understanding failures in learning from history, the failures of the Trump administration in dealing with the current pandemic, and human failure to believe in scientific solutions, and, the shared sacrifice needed for survival - recommended fall all readers
Nicole
Jul 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The premise of this book, unlike some similar ones I’ve read, is not that climate change or other human interference is to blame for the pandemics if the last century. Rather, it’s our hubris at believing we have conquered illness that has allowed these pandemics to spread. I captured several great anecdotes from this book to use in my classes on bias and errors in decision making. My favorite was when a paper written by a large group of renowned scientists was rejected from a leading medical jo ...more
Cheryl Campbell
Apr 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
Excellent book to read during a pandemic. It takes some real sleuthing to figure out the source and means of spread of a pandemic. My thanks to the author for using real-world stories to demonstrate just how intricate and prolonged an inquiry it is. Good read.
Andrea Dowd
Aug 03, 2020 rated it liked it
"The Pandemic Century" was an interesting, enlightening, and frightening read at this time of pandemic. I didn't necessarily agree with Honigsbaum's premise of the medical professionals being the main cause of panic/hysteria, but I agree that it is a part of a problem we humans can't seem to get right after millennias of pandemics. ...more
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