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The Great Influenza: The Epic Story of the Deadliest Plague in History | [John M. Barry]

The Great Influenza: The Epic Story of the Deadliest Plague in History

No disease the world has ever known even remotely resembles the great influenza epidemic of 1918. Presumed to have begun when sick farm animals infected soldiers in Kansas, spreading and mutating into a lethal strain as troops carried it to Europe, it exploded across the world with unequaled ferocity and speed. It killed more people in 20 weeks than AIDS has killed in 20 years; it killed more people in a year than the plagues of the Middle Ages killed in a century.
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Publisher's Summary

No disease the world has ever known even remotely resembles the great influenza epidemic of 1918. Presumed to have begun when sick farm animals infected soldiers in Kansas, spreading and mutating into a lethal strain as troops carried it to Europe, it exploded across the world with unequaled ferocity and speed. It killed more people in 20 weeks than AIDS has killed in 20 years; it killed more people in a year than the plagues of the Middle Ages killed in a century. Victims bled from the ears and nose, turned blue from lack of oxygen, suffered aches that felt like bones being broken, and died. In the United States, where bodies were stacked without coffins on trucks, nearly seven times as many people died of influenza as in the First World War.

In his powerful new book, award-winning historian John M. Barry unfolds a tale that is magisterial in its breadth and in the depth of its research, and spellbinding as he weaves multiple narrative strands together. In this first great collision between science and epidemic disease, even as society approached collapse, a handful of heroic researchers stepped forward, risking their lives to confront this strange disease. Titans like William Welch at the newly formed Johns Hopkins Medical School and colleagues at Rockefeller University and others from around the country revolutionized American science and public health, and their work in this crisis led to crucial discoveries that we are still using and learning from today.

Now with a new afterword.

©2004, 2005 John M. Barry; (P)2006 Penguin Audio, a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., and Books on Tape. All Rights Reserved.

What the Critics Say

"Gripping....Easily our fullest, richest, most panoramic history of the subject." (The New York Times Book Review)
"An enthralling symphony of a book, whose every page compels." (Booklist)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.0 (1252 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Kurt Lansing, MI, United States 02-10-13
    Kurt Lansing, MI, United States 02-10-13 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
    1
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    "Suprise! Thoroughly Enjoyed."
    Would you consider the audio edition of The Great Influenza to be better than the print version?

    I have not read the print version of The Great Influenza.


    What did you like best about this story?

    The pace was actually quite fast, and kept it interesting, with much historical interest.


    Any additional comments?

    Some portions of the book seemed overly dramatic; however, this was a huge event that we learn little about. People living now generally have no idea how serious this was. It is the reason that we hear so much concern for the various influenza out-breaks around the world. The book is enjoyable to listen to. I recommend it to anyone interested in historical medicine.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    GB Northern Virginia 12-25-12
    GB Northern Virginia 12-25-12
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    19
    2
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    Performance
    Story
    "Bored!"
    This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

    If you are into detailed discussion of medical training, in the 19th century, the first third of this book is for you.


    Has The Great Influenza turned you off from other books in this genre?

    No, problem here is the incredible detail at the beginning, yet it also turned me off, I. E., move on. Some history with examples is a good thing but the author and his editor proverbially killed my interest in what becomes rumblings, I get it 19th century medical training was bad.


    How could the performance have been better?

    Editing the book to cut-out the seeming droning on and on about how medical traing was bad. Give a few examples and then move on to "meat" of this book about the 1918 influenza.


    Any additional comments?

    I would not recommend this book, in its audible version, unless you what to fall asleep while driving.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    frankie cleves, OH, United States 12-24-12
    frankie cleves, OH, United States 12-24-12 Member Since 2012
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    Story
    "Long"
    Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

    No. The story is too long and much of the information is repeated several times.More than 4-hours into the book the author still has not started the story of the Great Influenza. Some of the background information is pertinent to the story but much is not. Some of the book seems to being making an argumentative case for or against certain characters. Usually a balanced approach is taken by historian to let the read decide who is GREAT.

    The basic story is a good one. Look for an abridged version as that would cut out the needed parts of the story.


    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    LiLi Westminster, MD, United States 12-24-12
    LiLi Westminster, MD, United States 12-24-12
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    1
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    Performance
    Story
    "Protrays Evolution of Medicine in US"
    Where does The Great Influenza rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    This narrative performance was solid, and the story provided a fascinating window into the nascent science of epidemiology and an emergent new model for medical training here in America. I found it especially topical since I live and work in Baltimore, and see the incredible impact Johns Hopkins (where the central characters work and live and the bulk of the plot unfolds) has had on the global practice of western healthcare.

    My only issue is with the title, which led me to think the book would be about the Great Influenza. Honestly, you get through half the book before this subject comes up in any significant way. The book is really about some incredibly dedicated visionaries who innovated a whole new a level of professionalism in medicine, previously a field that was very accomodating to quacks of every feather. These folks created, quite literally, a sea change.

    A great read - - but don't get fooled that it's going to talk too much about the Great Influenza!


    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Joseph St. Bonifacius, MN, United States 12-15-12
    Joseph St. Bonifacius, MN, United States 12-15-12 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    18
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    Performance
    Story
    "Interesting"

    This is not 18 hours of the Influenza. Like many good reads "listens' related to history, you will learn about that era. Barry touches on WWI, The Red Cross, Woodrow Wilson, early development of physician education/hospital research, and several people that played a part in medical research. My only critique would be that some of the biographies got a little dry, so the book had some drawn-out parts. Also,the epidemic hit several cities in very similar fashion, so as each was described I felt as if I were listening to the same story told again. Overall, I thought it was rich in information and well read by Brick.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer MEADVILLE, PA, United States 07-08-12
    Amazon Customer MEADVILLE, PA, United States 07-08-12 Member Since 2012
    HELPFUL VOTES
    12
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    81
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    "Don't waste your credit here!!"

    I very rarely right a bad review, but this book was a misery to listen to. The editor must have been on vacation when Mr. Barry submitted this book. "The Great Influenza" is only one of the MANY topics covered in excruciating detail. The history of Johns Hopkins University, the life stories of pretty much everyone in the field of science that the author has ever read about and/or met....yeah, it's awful. I found myself asking "When are we going to get to the influenza part" so many times! The author tries too hard to impress; the vocabulary and never ending details about the details about the details are unnecessary and make this an impossible book to enjoy. Really need an abridged version.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    John North Hollywood, CA, United States 12-06-11
    John North Hollywood, CA, United States 12-06-11
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Delay was the guilty party."

    I titled this as "Delay was the guilty pary" for the simple reason that had they isolted the first peson to fall sick to the disease and his environs the pathogen would have run it's course and dieded out.
    It is a hard lesson to learn when twenty to one hundred million peo;ple died because it was free to travel the world.
    I found the book not only a good audio tool but a receipe of what not to do.


    The narration was extremely good and the story very well put together .

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    UA UNCW Wilmington, NC 08-26-09
    UA UNCW Wilmington, NC 08-26-09 Member Since 2009
    HELPFUL VOTES
    3
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    "Incredible Detail and Well Narrated"

    This is an incredibly detailed look at not only the Great Influenza epidemic but also how science and medical research changed because of it. It is also exceptionally well narrated (none of the annoying mispronunciations so common in other books--this narrator even went to the trouble to learn how locals pronounce the name of Berlin, NH).

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Linda Anthem, AZ, United States 04-25-09
    Linda Anthem, AZ, United States 04-25-09
    HELPFUL VOTES
    214
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    "I should have listened to other reviewers"

    I should have listened to other reviewers but I love medical history and thought even if much of what they said was correct, I'd still get something out of this book.

    Wrong! I will say this -- they certainly found just the right overly-dramatic narrator to match Barry's overly-dramatic prose. But to say that Mr. Barry's writing is overly-dramatic just does not say enough -- it is at the same time boring.

    If, like me, you are interested in medical history, I do recommend The Demon Under the Microscope by Thomas Hager. It is the history of the development of sulfa drugs, the first antibiotics. I guess I was hoping for the Influenza Pandemic to be covered as well by Barry. It is amazing how boring and frustrating he made such an interesting topic seem to be.

    3 of 11 people found this review helpful
  •  
    C newport beach, CA, United States 12-26-12
    C newport beach, CA, United States 12-26-12 Member Since 2004
    HELPFUL VOTES
    66
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    20
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    "disappointing"

    The portion of the book actually dealing with the Great Flu could be squeezed into 20 pages. If I had wanted a history of turn-of -the-century American medicine this book would have been of some interest. But that was not why I bought it, so, very disappointing

    0 of 2 people found this review helpful
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