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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

4.1 (1353 )
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Performance
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  •  
    dan 03-11-13
    dan 03-11-13 Member Since 2013

    dfoss

    ratings
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    1
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    Story
    "Still relevant"
    What made the experience of listening to The Great Influenza the most enjoyable?

    I can do other things while I listen. Mostly I listen to books on long road trips.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    NA


    What about Scott Brick’s performance did you like?

    I liked the reader. He was quick, clear and read as if he were talking to me.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    It scared me because there is a possibility of a pandemic even today and we would be faced with the same difficulties.


    Any additional comments?

    Everyone interested in medical science and its clinical applications should read this book to see how far we haven't come.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Bev Jackson, OH, United States 03-11-13
    Bev Jackson, OH, United States 03-11-13
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Things never change..."

    I was fascinated by the scientists who devoted themselves to finding a vaccine, the desperation with which they pursued all avenues. And, the ignorance of people who continued to spread the disease after being told to stay home, away from crowds, etc.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Karin W. Dublin, CA USA 03-09-13
    Karin W. Dublin, CA USA 03-09-13 Member Since 2008

    Fantasy and Romance Author

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "A frightening and thought-provoking account"
    Any additional comments?

    By turns horrific, fascinating, maddening, and thought-provoking, this book chronicles the rise and spread of a global pandemic in 1917-18 that killed millions of people, wiping out entire communities in some places, but which is little-known today.

    THE GREAT INFLUENZA is not only a suspenseful account of the spread of a deadly disease to almost every nation on Earth, but also a searing indictment of how the American war effort under Woodrow Wilson's leadership helped spread the disease across the world.

    Determined to send American troops over to Europe to fight, the influenza spread across America from military bases and training camps by ignoring the pleas of military medical professionals to quarantine the ill. The situation was then worsened when authorities used the strict wartime censorship laws to prevent accurate reporting, which was intended to bolster morale but had the opposite effect as people in affected cities and towns learned to distrust newspaper reports that contradicted the devastation and horror they experienced as bodies piled up in the streets and in houses, and hospitals were hopelessly overwhelmed by the numbers of the sick and dying, and the high death rates among nurses and doctors.

    The book concludes with a somber look at modern efforts to chart each new wave of influenza, and what the inevitable pandemic might look like, in an era of hospital cutbacks and outsourcing of pharmaceutical manufacture.

    I can't say this was an "enjoyable" book, but it was definitely very interesting and educational!

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Shirlene East Grand Forks, MN, United States 02-25-13
    Shirlene East Grand Forks, MN, United States 02-25-13 Member Since 2010
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "It may be historical fiction, but it was real"
    Would you consider the audio edition of The Great Influenza to be better than the print version?

    I've only experienced the audible version, but I think I may have been "bogged" down with some of the medical info had I read it in print


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    Our main character as he struggles with his possible personal responsibility for spreading the influenza to the young boys in his care.


    What does Scott Brick bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    I always enjoy Scott Brick very much. He helps the "sell" as I choose my audio books.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    The ending was very sad ( but plausible)


    Any additional comments?

    I am 73 so the great influenza was before my birth, but my grandmother would talk about her 2 young sisters who died in 1918 from the flu in Norway.Another grandmother had 7 siblings die before her birth of a different outbreak in the later 1800's in Wisconsin. Thus this book peaked my interest.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ted WINSLOW, AZ, United States 02-13-13
    Ted WINSLOW, AZ, United States 02-13-13 Member Since 2011
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    3
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    "Great read."
    Any additional comments?

    My wife was, “Why are you listening to that?" I told her it was one of the most fascinating books I've heard. I would recommend it to anyone that likes history or medicine. It was an easy read and kept me interested for the entire length. The background in medical treatment was great. I can’t imagine living through this time period. However, the book does say I may get the chance with people’s aversion to getting inoculated against diseases.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    PhilEll72 United States 02-11-13
    PhilEll72 United States 02-11-13 Member Since 2010

    Direct Feedback

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "In depth analysis"

    This is a very detailed book about the influenza epidemic. It was extensively researched. Parts of it are long, drawn out, and perhaps overly detailed. These bits of information are important to completely understand the story, the condition and the events, but the author could have gotten to the same point with a few less details.

    On the other hand the entire story is woven into this detailed analysis. There are some parts that are very graphic and NOT for the faint of heart. Parts are heart wrenching. All of it is important to having a clear understanding of the most devastating global epidemic in the world's history. At times it seems too long and too detailed. The end was too preachy, and left me wanting less, but then again it is also important and necessary to build our understanding of future global epidemics.

    The story starts in the 1800s and talks about doctors and medical schools. It then flows in a linear fashion into world war one, the pandemic and into the 1950s. John Barry, the author, talks about the formation of heath institutions in the United States. He talks about how Roosevelt was afflicted with Influenza and how this may have set historical events into motion that built the foundations for world war two.

    This is a fantastic book and offers a great piece of American history, and the birth of modern epidemiology. It is worth your time and energy to finish.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kurt Lansing, MI, United States 02-10-13
    Kurt Lansing, MI, United States 02-10-13
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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 Member Since 2014
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    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
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    "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
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    "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
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