The Ghost Map takes place in the summer of 1854. A devastating cholera outbreak seizes London just as it is emerging as a modern city: more than two million people packed into a 10-mile circumference, a hub of travel and commerce, teeming with people from all over the world, continually pushing the limits of infrastructure that's outdated as soon as it's updated. Dr. John Snow, whose ideas about contagion had been dismissed by the scientific community, is spurred to intense action when the people in his neighborhood begin dying. With enthralling suspense, Johnson chronicles Snow's day-by-day efforts as he risks his own life to prove how the epidemic is being spread.
From the dynamic thinker routinely compared to Malcolm Gladwell, E.O. Wilson, and James Gleick, The Ghost Map is a riveting story with a real-life historical hero. It brilliantly illuminates the intertwined histories of the spread of viruses, the rise of cities, and the nature of scientific inquiry. These are topics that have long obsessed Johnson, and The Ghost Map is a true triumph of the kind of multidisciplinary thinking for which he's become famous. This is a book that, like the work of Jared Diamond, presents both vivid history and a powerful and provocative explanation of what it means for the world we live in.
©2006 Steven Johnson; (P)2006 Tantor Media Inc.
"An illuminating and satisfying read." (Publishers Weekly)
"A formidable gathering of small facts and big ideas." (New York Times Book Review)
This was very interesting, although at time it did tend to drag a bit. Despite that, the narration was good, and the topic and story kept the book moving along. Perfect length, I wouldn't have lasted too many hours more.
Truly a fascinating look at one of the unsung heroes of city development and management - wastewater removal and treatment. One small slip and we're all at risk to water-borne diseases such as cholera. I also appreciated the solid look at overcoming scientific hysteria to find fact. I doubt that the author meant to be quite so ironic when he listed his support at the end of the text for several current issues that may themselves turn out to be just as hysterical as miasma was in the 19th century.
A solid story with excellent character development, a good mystery, and plenty of every day relevance. I just wish I had stopped before listening to the socialist screed in the appendix, but I suppose that was probably Johnson's motivation for writing the book.
At the end I felt like shouting, "I believe." like I was at a revival camp meeting. The story of Snow was interesting but just the platform for the author's preaching. I finished it but it was touch and go.
Poorly written, but well read. Parts of it were good, but the author opinions are unspported by facts. To claim this is event resulted in the first "real" map and the urban lifestyle is just BS. Reminds me of a college junior - has one idea and beats you to death with it.
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