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Get Well Soon: History's Worst Plagues and the Heroes Who Fought Them

4.25  ·  Rating details ·  9,887 ratings  ·  1,924 reviews
A humorous book about history's worst plagues—from the Antonine Plague, to leprosy, to polio—and the heroes who fought them

In 1518, in a small town in France, Frau Troffea began dancing and didn’t stop. She danced herself to her death six days later, and soon thirty-four more villagers joined her. Then more. In a month more than 400 people had died from the mysterious danc
Audiobook, Unabridged, 8 pages
Published February 7th 2017 by Blackstone Audio, Inc.
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Jennifer Wright Sorry for the belated response to this question! The shadow of AIDs and the ways it was mishandled definitely hung over the entire book for me as I wa…moreSorry for the belated response to this question! The shadow of AIDs and the ways it was mishandled definitely hung over the entire book for me as I was writing it (as COVID certainly would were I writing it now). However, I prefer to write about things rooted firmly in the past, and I don't think of the AIDs crisis as one that has passed. It exists today in the living memory of people in their 50's and 60's. Rather than learning about it from me, a lady who was born when the disease was at its height, I would vastly prefer people talk to those who lived through it. They're very much still around and can do more justice to their experience than I ever could. If you do not have members of your community who can share their experiences, there are dozens of accounts, plays and novels chronicling that very recent time. Some that I find very moving include:

Angels in America by Tony Kushner
And the Band Played On by Randy Shilts
How to Survive a Plague by David France
The Normal Heart by Larry Kramer
Chronicle of a Plague, Revisited by Andrew Holleran
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Average rating 4.25  · 
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 ·  9,887 ratings  ·  1,924 reviews

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Jennifer Wright
Sep 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  (Review from the author)  ·  review of another edition
Look: I'm quite fond of it. Five stars out of five, like Dorothy Parker and Oliver Sacks had a word baby. (I also wrote it, but am definitely not biased.) ...more
Mario the lone bookwolf
I know that it´s totally wrong to be amused or even laugh while reading books with such topics, but the author does such a great, entertaining, science-education job by combining the worst nightmares of plague history with wit and satire that it´s difficult to stay serious.

The key element here is Big History and that makes it an eyeopener because the medical books are just talking about the strange cures, the history books about the consequences on politics and warfare, the biology books about h
Mar 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
With the coronavirus and all the anxiety, this book got pushed up in my reading queue. I am very glad it was because this is terrific. Each chapter is devoted to a different pandemic and the selfless, smart people who saved us. It starts with a plague that I had never heard of that helped bring down the Roman empire, the Antonine plague. Rational and savvy, Marcus Aurelius did all he could to deal headlong with this scourge until he succumbed too.

The author, Jennifer Wright is funny and down to
Diane S ☔
Dec 19, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Reading a book on plagues may not be everyone's idea of a pleasurable way to spend their reading time, but that is exactly what I did. While I can't say it was pleasurable, it was certainly intriguing and informative. Plagues, many times changed the course of history, were used in our nursery rhymes , illnesses, like tuberculosis and EL were prevalent in art and literature. Many artists painted pictures of women dying from consumption, painting them as ethereal and haunting, thought beautiful at ...more
While entertaining at times, I was wanting more medical science, more about plagues and diseases- rather than commentary on pop culture references. There is a whole host of references in the back and it seems she had done her research-I had just wished she would have included more of it throughout rather than trying to be funny the whole time.

I also didn't like the shaming of people in this book who didn't live up to her opinion (yes she even did this after shaming someone to drive it home a se
Mar 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There are few plague and pandemic books I can rank up there as my absolute favorites, but this one comes awfully close.

Honestly, her clever and quippy and generally knowledgeable demeanor only enhanced the core facts of these "great" diseases that caused so much damage throughout history and closer to home.

And there are lots of heroes:

People who start using logic and common sense when so little of it is going around. (Cleanliness)
People who have more decency in them than practically everyone el
Mark Porton
Mar 28, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Get Well Soon by Jennifer Wright is certainly an apposite book for the times. The subtitle is History’s Worst Plagues and Heroes Who Fought Them, I would like to add “and anti-heroes”.

Wright’s style is easy to read and very conversational, she also editorialises a bit which is okay by me, nothing like an opinion in my view. Even though she doesn’t appear to come from a medical background, she has referenced countless sources. The list of references starts at the 70% mark on my Kindle. There’s lo
May 07, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: unreadable
I love a good disease book. Unfortunately, this isn't one.

Want to know why? Written in short, declarative sentences, with ample! misplaced exclamations!, too many self-referential "I" sentences, dated pop culture references and sophomoric efforts at humor, it reads like... Well, a sophomore's effort at a book report. Which is to say: it is actually not readable at all.

Too bad, especially given that it's clear Wright did a ton of research on these topics. If only the maturity of the research ef
Mar 14, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Yes, I am currently reading 4 books because I have no chill and my anxiety is making it difficult to concentrate on one thing at a time. So obviously I want to read about disease.

Facinating and insightful non fiction, this manages to present the terrifying reality of plagues and disease in an accessible way with witty comments and playful pictures scattered throughout. It's engaging and quick to read while remaining entertaining and informative - which can often be a difficult line to tread in n
Heather K (dentist in my spare time)

I loved Get Well Soon: History's Worst Plagues and the Heroes Who Fought Them so, so much. In fact, I think it's in my top three non-fiction audiobooks ever.

I'm an unabashed science geek, so it's really no surprise that I was drawn to this one. I'm a devotee of authors like Mary Roach, so humor mixed with science-y non-fiction is sort of my weakness. However, even I was pretty amazed at how much I adored this story, even more so because I tend to shy away from anything sad or depressing.

* A Reader Obsessed *
5 Stars

No one is more shocked than I for thoroughly enjoying this because I don’t even come close to being a history buff nor even the occasional dabbler in various such things.

To put it succinctly, the real terror is the devastation disease can wreak on the human population, and this highlights some really truly scary awful times and what went oh so wrong but also thankfully, what went right.

To say the least, this was highly entertaining in all its gory horror. It was delivered with smarts, hu
Angus McKeogh
Jan 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great book to start the year on. 5 stars. Should be required reading for every vaccine denier, religious zealot, general hater of anyone with a different lifestyle, or any combination thereof. Wright pulls no punches and has great hopes for mankind. Look at history people. We can’t really afford to repeat it.
Apr 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"The purpose of this book is not to scare you. Instead, like all good books, it is intended to distract you from the screaming baby one aisle over from the airplane where you are currently trapped for the next five hours."
This book was a blast. The history is fun and engaging and crazy. (Did you know that the crazy anti-plague beak doctor costumes kind of worked? I didn't.) And the author's commentary is brash and opinionated and purely entertaining.

The Antonine plague: apparently Galen was
So, those of you who know me are probably not at all surprised that I read or loved this book. I love some interesting sciencey nonfiction, whether it's where we come from, how we live and think and behave, things that kill us (this is one of those!) or what happens to us after we're dead, I likes them. And I love audio for these kinds of books. It's the best of both worlds - I get to learn about something new, and at the same time not get bogged down in footnotes or graphs or what-have-you.

Mar 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is by far the BEST book on diseases imaginable! It's also one of if not THE best non-fiction book I've ever read.

Throughout history, humans have encountered all kinds of diseases. Naturally, we didn't always have the medical tools available to us now. This book details the emergence of a number of well-known plagues as well as how they spread, how bad it got, the steps taken by those trying to find a cure and where we stand now.

We thus learn of the antonine plague, bubonic plague, dancing p
Mariah Roze
Feb 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Mariah Roze by: Matt
Sooooo good! Another 5 star book :)

"In 1518, in a small town in France, Frau Troffea began dancing and didn’t stop. She danced herself to her death six days later, and soon thirty-four more villagers joined her. Then more. In a month more than 400 people had died from the mysterious dancing plague. In late-nineteenth-century England an eccentric gentleman founded the No Nose Club in his gracious townhome—a social club for those who had lost their noses, and other body parts, to the plague of syp
If you're interested in plagues and epidemics you're probably already familiar with the diseases in Get Well Soon. The book is light on medical science and heavy on pop culture references. The author's juvenile humour isn't amusing, especially her gleeful shaming of everything she disagrees with.

You might also enjoy:
The Hypochondriac's Pocket Guide to Horrible Diseases You Probably Already Have
Beating Back the Devil
The Coming Plague
The Ghost Map
Panic in Level 4
The Demon
Suanne Laqueur
Mar 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
(Touches forehead) Do I feel hot? Am I running a fever? I'm running a fever, aren't I. Is that a spot? Is this a lump a buboe? I must be dying...

Hypochondriacs will just LOVE this dark, fascinating, terrifying and often hilarious read. You feel like shit for thinking it's hilarious but gallows humor serves a certain purpose. Also, it was meticulously researched out the wazoo: the book ends at 75% and the rest is footnotes and annotations. (Yay, footnotes and annotations!)

I felt personal connecti
May 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Who knew that a book on diseases could be so entertaining? Get Well Soon is a compassionate, witty and scary history of plagues. Wright's commentary manages to be scathing and funny without being flippant. She is passionate about the devastation of disease as well as the heroes and villains who have helped or hindered mankind. This is an amazing book - thought-provoking and unputdownable! ...more
Madalyn (Novel Ink)
this is some of the best nonfiction I’ve read in a long while. seriously, what a gem. I loved this.
Mike (the Paladin)
I have for a long time been interested in plagues both their causes and results. For instance the Black Death was largely spread by the fleas from the ubiquitous rats in the cities. Just one odd fact I came across (before I read this book) was that since cats were regarded as evil the people in London and other European cities ran around killing cats...thus helping the spread of rats.

Here Ms Wright does her best to tell the story of several plagues down through history. While she never belittles
Initially I was skeptical about this one due to the author's ill-supported claims that the Antonine Plague caused the Roman Empire to fall (“was a very significant contributor to the decline” would have made me less uncomfortable), but, as it turned out, that first chapter was the only one where her “history” struck me as noticeably iffy.* Telling the stories of various plagues throughout history, Wright explores each plague (she includes fourteen of them) from the level of bacteria to that of g ...more
BAM Endlessly Booked

Absolutely fascinating! Everything is covered from leprosy to lobotomy. Not only are the causes discussed, but also we hear about the conquerors of the horrid diseases that, believe it or not, do not all exist solely in the past. I recommend the audio book; the narrator is excellent.

P. S. The epilogue that discusses AIDS is absolutely heartbreaking
Brendan Monroe
There’s nothing I find scarier, or more fascinating, than a viral epidemic. Growing up, I read books like The Hot Zone: The Terrifying True Story of the Origins of the Ebola Virus and I’m still convinced, deep down, that half of humanity will one day be wiped out by an incurable contagion like Ebola.

When Ebola itself made a comeback in 2014, I watched with horrified fascination as the disease spread to countries where it had never appeared before, like the United States. Remember Kaci Hickox, t
Mar 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If a book on plagues, polio, leprosy, and other horrific diseases of (mostly) times past doesn't sound like your idea of an enjoyable read, it's probably because you haven't read Jennifer Wright's extremely engaging and very enjoyable book "Get Well Soon". This book is full of fascinating (and yes, at times gruesome!) details about some of history's worst diseases. Whilst this would normally make for a rather depressing (though still interesting) read, Ms. Wright writes in such a witty manner th ...more
Jan 31, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I planned on a four star rating but the more I read, the more I liked it. So I gave it 4.5. I've read several books about epidemics, plagues and am always fascinated by how diseases and their victims are treated. The author has done a tremendous amount of research and also has a sense of humor, just enough to get you through some of the horrible aspects of these epidemics. A quote from the leprosy chapter about Father Damien, the priest who went to live and care for the lepers on the island of M ...more
I thought the premise for this book sounded really interesting. However, I got about 150 pages into it, and found that it just was not holding my interest. While the author's commentary was humorous at times, for the most part I didn't care for it. Also, I realize that this was an Advance Reading Copy, but truly, it was the worst-edited ARC I've ever read - and I've read more than 100. It was so poorly edited that it was distracting - sentences didn't make sense, words were missing. Maybe that h ...more
Perhaps it is an indicator of my improving mental health (it is), but I really enjoyed this book! In a morbid, worrisome, fun kind of way. Get Well Soon is a book about famous plagues and diseases (and lobotomies? for some reason?) and not only was it a fast, interesting read, it was also funny (obviously, humor is subjective, and I've seen several reviews saying the humor missed the mark for them, but it hit 100% for me—it helps that the audiobook narrator Gabra Zackman has a great deadpan deli ...more
It is not OK for authors to give themselves 5* reviews. It can dramatically skew the ratings for new books and defeats the purpose of Goodreads.

Update July 2018:
I apologize for upsetting some Goodreads friends with this review. Please see comment stream below for an interesting discussion.

I am clearing the 1* rating now, because I appreciate the argument from friends that this undermines my other reviews more than it has any chance of changing behavior/policy on Goodreads.

The issue I was brin
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Berkshire Book Bee: Health and Medicine 3 8 May 20, 2020 03:32PM  
Bookworm Bitches : April 2020: Get Well Soon 3 62 Apr 13, 2020 10:07AM  
Play Book Tag: Get Well Soon- Jennifer Wright- 3-ish stars 4 25 Jan 11, 2018 11:43AM  

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“When we are electing government officials, it is not stupid to ask yourself, “If a plague broke out, do I think this person could navigate the country through those times, on a spiritual level, but also on a pragmatic one? Would they be able to calmly solve one problem, and then another one, and then the next one? Or would bodies pile up in the streets?” 30 likes
“Persecuting religious minorities is always ill-advised, every single time it occurs in history. I have never in my research found an instance where a historian says, “Wow, we were on the right side of history for torturing Group X back then.” 19 likes
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