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The Rules of Contagion: Why Things Spread - and Why They Stop
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The Rules of Contagion: Why Things Spread - and Why They Stop

3.88  ·  Rating details ·  1,359 ratings  ·  197 reviews
Un virus mortal se extiende repentinamente en la población, un movimiento político se acelera y luego desaparece rápidamente, una idea avanza como un incendio forestal, cambiando nuestro mundo para siempre… El mundo está más interconectado que nunca, nuestras vidas están formadas por brotes de enfermedades, de desinformación o incluso de violencia que aparecen, se propagan ...more
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published February 13th 2020 by Wellcome Collection
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Paul Fulcher
Apr 01, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020
This is both an oddly well and oddly badly timed book as epitomised by this quote:

As infectious diseases wane, attention is gradually shifting to other threats, many of which can also be contagious.

Adam Kurchashki is one of the epidemologists leading the modelling effort for the UK Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling, which advises the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies who in turn advise the UK government on Covid 19.

If you're not following him on Twitter you should (@AdamJK
Feb 27, 2020 rated it liked it
I must admit to being a little disappointed in this book, but it is my own fault. I was expecting a discourse on the spread of diseases but instead found a book on the mathematics and vectors of why things spread (Yes, just like the title says.). Though the author works for the CDC he draws many of his examples and theories from economics. The writing is engaging and at times witty, still, I felt the author made his point early in the book and the rest was reiteration.
Apr 13, 2020 rated it liked it
The Rules of Contagion is slightly out of my wheelhouse, being less about infectious disease and more about the principles underlying all kinds of contagion. Certainly, there are many examples taken from infectious disease, and it's a rather on-the-nose choice to read in the current climate (for posterity: I write this review in the midst of the UK's lockdown to prevent the spread of SARS-CoV-2)... but a good amount of it is discussing other ways of "going viral": computer viruses, internet meme ...more
Mario Hinksman
Mar 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
A prophetically timed book from an associate professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

The author has a gift for writing, as well as maths and epidemiology. The first chapter seemed quite brilliant how he wove his early life experiences into the wider theme of humanity's battles with disease over millennia. Early pioneers like Ronald Ross who discovered that malaria was not caused by 'bad air' which gave the disease its name but by by mosquitoes. John Snow and his work on c
Peter Tillman
Here's the Inquisitive Biologist's take. It's certainly a timely book!
"Kucharski is uniquely positioned to write a wide-ranging book like this. Next to his current position, he is trained in mathematics and did a spot of interning with a bank when the 2008 financial collapse hit. As such, he is at ease explaining both epidemiology and investment banking. ...

Particularly relevant to this moment in time are the epidemiological details, the titular r
Apr 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This was an excellent book. Author Adam Kucharski takes a deep dive into the topic of contagion; in financial bubbles, disease, and social behavior.
"The Rules Of Contagion" starts off with some basic epidemiology; The SIR Model, and S-curves.
It continues on, telling the reader about financial asset bubbles, pyramid schemes, and "The Greater Fool Theory".
The book also introduces the reader to the concept of the Basic Reproduction Number (or R Naught, or R0), herd immunity, and The 80/20 R
John Anthony
Apr 21, 2020 rated it liked it
This book, published immediately prior to the Covid 19 pandemic in the UK, seemed an obvious read. I hadn’t however appreciated just how wide the author’s interpretation of ‘contagion’ would be. It would include the obvious spread of diseases to attack the human body, latterly including SARS, Ebola and the ‘flu outbreak of 2009. But it would also include viral infections of information systems and various other forms of crime.

It was therefore much more than I had bargained for and I found myself
Alicia Bayer
Apr 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
When I requested an ARC of this book to review, I didn't realize how timely it would be when I read it. The author goes into great detail not just on how diseases spread (which I read with far more focus than I might have last year), but how that can be extrapolated to economics, viral trends, social media, banking crises, etc.

I have to admit that I was far more interested in the biological aspects than the rest of it. It was certainly interesting to see how they all mirror each other as they s
Mar 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Excellent and very topical book. Lots of fascinating examples of contagion, including non-disease ones such as memes and obesity. Well written and structured with a good level of detail for the layperson. The narrator on audible was excellent as well.
May 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is a new book about contagion by a British professor with lots of knowledge about epidemics. The book was published in February 2020 so it is timely, except that to be printed in February, it could not possibly include anything on COVID-19. Bummer, but that is what sequels are for, I guess.

Don’t worry about the time though. Kucharski quotes someone to the effect that “if you have seen one pandemic, you’ve seen ... one pandemic.” The details of particular plagues and viruses can differ widel
Tom Roth
Mar 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: evolution, science
Very relevant & clear book! I like the links between economy, internet and epidemiology. It really helps to understand how different factors can increase/decrease the spread of an idea/disease/financial crisis.

I have to admit that I expected a bit more about disease, and less about application of epidemiological theory in other fields. But in the end, I actually like the approach. As the book title already suggests, it has definitely improved my understanding of how things can spread, and how m
John Kaye
Mar 25, 2020 rated it liked it
Obviously a timely read! The first half of the book is much better than the second half—the cynic in me would say that he wasn't able to stretch the real biological explanations for disease transmission etc. without getting more technical than the publisher would allow, so the second half rather pivots to the non-biological and a recitation of recent viralish events in the online world., with occasional references to links to epidemiological evidence.

Amused that in the last chapter, which discus
Karthik Shashidhar
Yet another popular science book that could have easily been 50% shorter without losing any information value. First few chapters are good, and then the book descends into rants.
Jul 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: adult, nonfiction
This went off on a slow start and by 1/2 way through I couldn’t put it down. Extremely prescient as it was written & published before COVID-19 and manages to talk about the spread of all things from disease to tweets, videos, computer viruses to disinformation.
I found myself often reaching for my laptop to research something further.
My only gripe would be that there were too few images - the ones in the book were interesting but it would have been good to have more.
And look up -
Jun 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
One of the most followed and admired epidemiological handles on Twitter is the one belonging to Adam Kucharski. A Mathematician, and Epidemiologist at The London School of Health and Tropical Medicine, Mr. Kucharski keeps his ‘followers’ informed, invested and entertained thereby allowing them to find their way through times unprecedented. One of his threads on the fundamentals of how a virus works has been the one of the most accessed on social media. Now Mr. Kucharski brings the same insights ...more
Rakshit Ranjan
Apr 16, 2020 rated it it was ok
The title, the deceptively attractive cover page and the release date (13 Feb 2020) led me to pick this book up. Although the description mentions that the book covers contagions beyond the realms of epidemiology, the organisation of the same in the book is highly disappointing. It is unclear what the author wants to convey.

The chapters are randomly divided with the content having no bearing to the title/context that the chapter wants to establish. I struggled through the majority of the book tr
Paulo Adalberto Reimann
Contagion is way better

I was looking or leaned to believe this book would be more biology not. Is basically statistically driven. Contagion way superior.
Apr 05, 2020 rated it liked it
I'd give it a 3.5/5. Many interesting anecdotes, and some very insightful points, but on the whole it seemed quite haphazard. The most interesting point for me was the contrast between the act of "going viral" biologically vs online, where going viral biologically usually means a slow and steady transmission from person to person, while going viral online usually requires "broadcast events" where one person with a large following brings a lot of attention to a certain idea/post. ...more
Shabbeer Hassan
Aug 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
A rather well-written account of the underlying structure of outbreaks and succinct explanation of the epidemiology surrounding them. A must-read in these troubled times!

My rating - 4/5
Apr 12, 2020 added it
Kucharski's The Rules of Contagion is perhaps nicely and equally poorly timed in its release, amidst the COVID-§9 global pandemic. The text offers insight into contemporary sources of contagion, first, using simple and accessible language to demonstrate the utility and effectiveness of epidemiological approaches to disease pandemics, including ebola, HIV, and influenza. In the latter half of the book, Kucharski attempts to tie disease pathology into economic, behavioural, psychological and techn ...more
Nov 28, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: dnf
DNF - I realize this book is supposed to be about how how all things can spread, not just diseases, but it doesn’t feel like this is being explained.

There are a number of interesting stories and components from research being relayed, but I’m not seeing the connection points. Two examples are the rising suicide rates and then the spreading gun violence in Chicago. While the statistics of increasing cases for both are both interesting and alarming, the “why” behind the spread or increase after th
Apr 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing
An indispensable guide to the field of contagion that encompasses epidemics, stock exchanges crashes, viral tweets, spread of computer viruses, and even 'mutations' in the context of cultural heritage, like evolution of myths and stories.

The book is very well written and provides a wealth of information. Various little stories are highly informative and illuminating. The book becomes at a certain moment a bit tedious because of many small bits of informations that do not translate into a smooth
Omkar Shukla
Aug 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
If you've seen one epidemic, you've seen........ one epidemic.

It's not a good time to read books on how Infectious diseases spread. But I have followed the mathematical modelling for Infectious diseases and the predictions made by them for the COVID-19 outbreak closely.

I can honestly say that I'm surprised by the mathematical base that this book has built in me. The mathematics of the disease modelling isn't a perfect one specially early in the outbreak. The researchers have so many variables to
Elena Granger
May 04, 2020 rated it liked it
The book is informative and gives a great perspective on how all the viral things spread. Actually I've never thought that there is something in common between spreading diseases, social and antisocial behaviour, even economical events. Great ideas give you perspectives to think different and to look at different events under different angles.
But there is the same issue to this book as in other books of the genre. Too many repetitions of the same idea, again partly a waste of time if you don't s
Jose Restrepo
Sep 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Timely and didactic, Kucharski takes us theough a crash course in epidemiology, explaining enough so that he doesn't have to oversimplify. He guides through the concepts using great examples and data. He then applies the concepts to problems that arent usually treated as epidemics in school or mass media. It was enlightening and easy to read. Recommended read for anyone who works with healthcare or is worried about problems that keep coming back (gun violence, disinformation). ...more
Apr 09, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: popular-science
An interesting book. The first half, concentrated on biological examples, was nice but sometime the subject was not thoroughly analysed, only skimmed. And it jumped from subject to subject. The second half has this interesting concept of contagion spreading also in the internet, news, children stories etc, and had some funny curiosities but sometimes the supposed contagion mechanism was bent a bit. Even the author said it was more because of one large burst than a network.
Mohammad Zakerzadeh
Sep 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
A little bit verbose on some chapters and almost lost the goal at the end, but totally recommended in these coronavirus days. It conveys the main message of contagion and its mathematical modeling (the advantages and drawbacks) without going deep in the details.
Erica Clou
Like a lot of people said, this both about viruses spreading and about information/misinformation/disinformation spreading. It's sort of the perfect book for our time in that both of those things are a danger right now. But the organization was really poor and there were only a few new things covered. ...more
Bianca A.
May 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2020, speed-read
I find it a bit ironic that this book released shortly before the Covid-19 pandemic! Written by a mathematician and associate professor at London School of Hygiene, the book explores not only how viruses spread, but also how ideas do (viral videos, gun violence, computer viruses, to name a few). Mathematics and the use of scientific models are at the core of understanding, predicting and controlling contagions. From these concepts onward, various cases are explored in more detail which made the ...more
Sadia Khaf
May 03, 2020 rated it liked it
Interesting insights about social media popularity.
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“R = Duration × Opportunities × Transmission probability × Susceptibility” 3 likes
“We received a new dataset each day. Because it took time for new cases to be reported, there were fewer recent cases in each of these datasets: if someone fell ill on a Monday, they generally wouldn’t show up in the data until Wednesday or Thursday. The epidemic was still going, but these delays made it look like it was almost over.” 2 likes
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