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Germs: Biological Weapons and America's Secret War
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Germs: Biological Weapons and America's Secret War

3.6  ·  Rating details ·  784 Ratings  ·  62 Reviews
In the wake of the anthrax letters following the attacks on the World Trade Center, Americans have begun to grapple with two difficult truths: that there is no terrorist threat more horrifying -- and less understood -- than germ warfare, and that it would take very little to mount a devastating attack on American soil. In Germs, three veteran reporters draw on top sources ...more
Paperback, 416 pages
Published October 2nd 2002 by Simon & Schuster (first published 2001)
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So, about a week ago I had the desire to settle down on the couch with a good martini and read a book on bio-warfare (I know I am weird that way). I went to the library and thought that this one looked pretty good. I started it the day before yesterday and was enjoying it. Then I got to the part right after the first Gulf War, and things started to get strange. The author kept mentioning how the coalition forces did not destroy all of Sadam’s bio-weapon factories, and he hid most of them from th ...more
Linus Williams
Dec 01, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you are a fan of thinking that the world is, by and large, safe and that we have weathered the storm of the cold war without any major apocalypses happening, then this book will shatter that thinking.

Broad and Miller look at the bioweapons programs of the US, Russia, and Iraq, and how bioweapons featured prominently in geopolitical posturing from the end of WW2 on. Along the way, they scare the bejeezus out of the reader, though with good reason.

We all know the stories about how close the wor
Okay. This book started strong. It might be that I was interested because I'm from Oregon and the Rajneesh attack was part of my childhood. The chapters that talked about the Gulf Wars were interesting. Again, that might be because I have friends and family who have served. The rest of the book was the same people being quoted over and over saying similar things, and the authors dramatizing it. There were also lots of contradictions, with the same people being quoted providing opposing informati ...more
Beth Cato
Apr 10, 2012 rated it liked it
Germs. Viruses. Nasty little things made even nastier by scientific manipulation. This book, published in early 2001, explores the United State's efforts in germ and biological warfare from the 1950s onward. Special attention is paid to the little-known food bar poisoning attack by the Rajneeshees in Oregon in the early 1980s, Soviet advances and the subsequent degrading of their program after communism's collapse, Iraq and the first Gulf War, and battles in Washington D.C. over funding and ethi ...more
Dec 02, 2011 rated it liked it
This is a nonfiction, factual read that provides a lot of insight into the use and possibilities of biological weaponry. Miller explores historical events that are often overlooked, and uncovers some shocking truths. It's an eye-opener to something that society would rather ignore.
I respect Miller, as she has done her homework. She is an actual reporter, and a writer for the New York Times. She has done a great deal of actual field work, and she is very well educated with this topic. However, fo
Aug 02, 2011 added it
Just got through with this book. It started out interesting with the tale of the Salmonella poisoning in Washington State and then went into the history of germ engineering, gov responses to germ warfare threats and the world's preparedness in case an attack ever happened. Some valid points and a good scientist mantra for them to live by "do no harm"
Steven Kaminsky
Nov 06, 2011 is currently reading it
Re-started this book last night, (11-05-2011) scary as hell, because it's non-fiction. This book is well written so it is definitely NOT a dry read, nor is it clinical, as the title might suggest. Only on chapter 2, but it's the kind of book that will keep you awake at night.
Feb 25, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: current-events
...a little "light" reading.

Oh thank God I'm done with this book. Not only was it not a good time to read it (not to sure there is a good time) but it was depressing as all hell! Especially with all the hub hub about disaster preparedness.

A little insight to my peculiar ways in picking out books. I hit my local second hand stores and I scan books. If part of the title is interesting I will buy the book. I don't read what it's about and sometimes, like this particular book, I don't read the compl
Shannon Terry
GERMS by Judith Miller is a non-fiction book about biological warfare in the US during the 20th century. The interest in germ warfare began during the Cold War in which President Kennedy approved the increase in funds for biological weapons, hoping to keep up with the scientific advancements of The Soviet Union. Cultivation of incapacitating bacteria and viruses such as anthrax and even doses of smallpox began at the military base, Fort Detrick, in Maryland. Innovation of this warfare carried o ...more
Jared Coady
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Apr 07, 2016 rated it it was ok
Rather dull and dated recount of the US's state of readiness for a bio 'incident'.

The book started out rather well, with well documented incident and analysis. Then it lapsed into a very dry chronology documenting of the bureaucratic efforts to prepare the US military, civil government and population for either an epidemic, bio-warfare, and more recently bio-terrorism.

Science and an explanation of: biology of infectious disease, epidemiology, and trends in biological techniques are covered at on
Germs is a interesting look into a fascinating and terrifying subject, biological warfare. In reviewing the US and Soviet biological weapons programs, Miller talks about the problems of creating a biological weapon as well as going over a few times in which they were actually deployed (usually unsuccessfully). If you've come looking for a Hot Zone style thriller, though, you're in the wrong place (though the book is referenced in Germs). This book sticks to the US and Soviet military efforts and ...more
Apr 02, 2014 rated it really liked it
Excellent book, It goes into great detail regarding the cold war struggle to find and catalog the germ and chemical warfare facilities that were in Russia.
It also shows the fragile nature of such sites when the country split and the facilities were no longer under Russian control they deteriorated and became vulnerable to theft and exposure to other countries. It also explores the business side of the weapons that once provided entire cities with employment and now those cities are ghost towns.T
Jun 24, 2016 rated it really liked it
I read this book slowly - in increments - taking my time to digest the facts. They are horrifying. It is bad enough to think that mankind possesses the ability of nuclear warfare but the weapons described in this tome are enough to make you weep. And to beg the government to re-start the Smallpox vaccination program before it is too late because the terrorists (or a rogue government) decides the best way to win their war is to use the cultures of smallpox that they obtained from the former Sovie ...more
Sep 19, 2011 rated it really liked it
Some of you may enjoy thrillers and all kinds of vampire/zombie dystopian novels. I have to say the scariest book I read this year is NOT a novel, but this work of non-fiction. It was recommended to me by a friend who reads extensively all kinds of non-fiction works. I really knew close to nothing about the biological war programs of the US, quite active in the 50s and 60s, and apparently not as closed today as the official version seems to say. It was so scary to read about experiments done abo ...more
Kim Ciniello
Feb 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing
*Why does good reads list William first and not Judith? hmmmm

Yes, this is dated. Still scary. Still true. It is just more difficult to dig out the testing our government is doing on us these days. I know people who were experimented on during the Depression Era (20's and 30's...not this last one ;). It is also really easy to find people from the 80's who were subjected to medical experiments in exchange for a pittance of money...about the same time Regan released everyone from the mental institu
Dec 28, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
A curious read, especially several years on. Several interesting "biowar" attacks generally not well known, and an excellent overview of the recent history with several valuable sources. It reads especially curious as the NYT authors drop reams of evidence on the Iraqi germ warfare program to the point of casting the few naysayers as naive.

Overall interesting, and fairly tightly woven for such a broad topic (it helps that we currently have so few experts in the field that they pop up in every
Apr 22, 2010 rated it liked it
Out dated, at best, it's still pretty interesting as a history text regarding biological and chemical warfare.

I have previously read this book and thoroughly enjoyed it. However, one of the authors associated with this book, Judith Miller, has what I will politely call a spotty relationship with the truth. Knowing that really clouded my enjoyment of the book the second time around.

That being said, the book is still a good spring board for your own research into the history of the biological war
Sep 16, 2009 rated it liked it
Certainly an interesting look at the topic of biowarfare. Although, honestly, given what she describes in this book, and the breakthroughs in biotechnology since this book was written, I think its scientific premises (what can and cannot be made) are vastly outdated. But thinking about how other countries have, and probably still are, developing bioweapons, as well as how to protect against them, is intriguing. And scary, since it seems as though it's a gizillion times easier to make them than i ...more
Casey Smith
Oct 01, 2012 rated it really liked it
I can't believe that this book is over 10 years old now! One of the very scariest reads of my life, the information contained in this novel was highly illuminating and eye-opening, as well as, horriffic. Not an easy read and pretty gruesome, it still paints a picture of a world which is very scary with our advanced medical abilities and our desire to learn from science even when it creates horrible viruses and bacterias that kill indiscriminately.
Ian Hamilton
Nov 30, 2016 rated it liked it
Germs is a comprehensive history of the origins and development of U.S. biological warfare technology across the 20th century. The details are well-presented, framing the development of U.S. programming in the context of the global community. The book was published in 2000, and it's interesting to think what has elapsed in the 15+ years since then. A niche topic for sure, but a quick and informative read for someone interested in the topic.
Jul 20, 2014 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Apr 03, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: germ-books, science
This book was written from a slightly more news-story, sensationalist perspective than the other bio-weapon books that I've read, but if you can ignore that, then it is actually a pretty good read. It discusses a few well-known smaller cases of bio-terrorism in the United States in addition to touching on the continuing threat from various outside terrorist groups and rogue states.
Erik Graff
Sep 04, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: history
This is a history of the science, politics and application of biological weaponry which focuses on the matter from the perspective of the United States of America primarily during the period from Ronald Reagan's administration and the collapse of the Warsaw Pact through the immediate aftermath of the first Gulf War. While written for a mass audience, it is not a story which gives any comfort.
Catherine Teh 陳婉然
Feb 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: must-read
I read this since 2002 when the book came out fresh from the press. As a healthcare professional, I can quickly understand the facts stated in an elegant yet painfully scary manner. Interesting and at times intriguing. The content was very well researched and indeed, from a simple Salmonella outbreak to biological warfare. Thus is our world... Science... Technology... to save or to kill?
Jan 22, 2011 rated it liked it
All health workers, public officials and policy makers should read this book. For the general public - there are some technical and scientific sections, but if you skim those it is still a fascinating read. My mind pondered for days what the USSR was really going to do with its hefty annual creation of anthrax, not to mention what happened to all of it.
May 02, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This work covers some of the history of and behind US research into biological weapons. It goes through the interactions between the US and post-Soviet scientists and the attempts to keep germ warfare knowledge from rogue countries and terrorists. Bureaucratic infighting is also covered to some extent.
Jonathan Brown
Feb 13, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone that is into Military Nonfiction
An overall outstanding book that chronicles the history of biological warfare, and then goes on to describe what America is doing to try to stop it. The second half of the book delves more into what our country's biological warfare actually is, and how it works. As a whole, this book is very well put together and does a great job of drawing the reader into the shadowy world of biological warfare.
May 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: war, biological
I pre-ordered this in 2001 when it was the 'must read book' for the thinking man. learning about germ warfare was an eye opener at that time, forewarned is forearmed. worth a read if you have never read it.
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William J. Broad is a best-selling author and a senior writer at The New York Times. In more than thirty years as a science journalist, he has written hundreds of front-page articles and won every major journalistic award in print and film. His reporting shows unusual depth and breadth - everything from exploding stars and the secret life of marine mammals to the spread of nuclear arms and why the ...more
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