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.
"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)
A tad bit overdone in the middle with the constant telling you about how many people died, but overall a compelling and somewhat frightening story to listen to. It motivated me to get a flu shot that's for sure.
The facinating thing about this book is that we didn't learn about this in school and that our parents and grandparents didn't talk about it. John Barry weaves a story about the social, medical, political and human side of this great epidemic. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and learned a great deal - much of it still relevant to our present situation and our approaches to infectious disease.
I focus on fiction, sci-fi, fantasy, science, history, politics and read a lot. I try to review everything I read.
This book was at its best when treating the 1918 influenza itself and not the history of medicine or the micro-biographies of several of the researchers. I learned a lot and enjoyed it, but I also had to put up with a large amount of not very interesting material. Overall, I would still recommend this book to anyone. The interesting parts are too interesting to miss, and the book overcomes all its weaknesses. The narration was quite good.
This book is an extremely interesting review of medicine in the United States in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The author does an excellent job of reviewing the state of medicine, the men (there were apparently only men in medicine back then) involved, and how the so-called "Spanish flu" ravaged the world while World War I raged in the background. I highly recommend this for anyone interested in learning how pandemics can emerge and affect people worldwide.
John Barry's treatment of the epidemic couched in the context of the historical setting is great. The development of the characters, the wealth of research, the US (and some world) medical science history and the political environment all combined to make the actions and choices during this pandemic take on a significance they would otherwise lack.
I particularly enjoyed the analysis and thought process employed to evaluate individuals' and governments' choices and actions along with their impact on the lives of millions world wide and the possible implications for current and future generations. It begs the questions of the reader "what would I have done in that situation?"; "What should I be doing now?"
The balance between the education and the story worked well for me. It would be great to have other subjects in history treated in the same fashion. For me, it is always better to view the events of history with more education and context in which to frame them.
I'm a physician and I have always been interested in reading about the 1918 influenza pandemic. As one of the other reviewers stated, only a portion of this book is actually about the outbreak. This author should have spent more time focusing on the pandemic and less time reviewing the entire history of medicine. Also, it annoyed me how the author attempted to sensationalize this subject by his endless use of graphic similies. So this book gets 3/5 stars because it is just "average."
This is a great and frightening book. Before reading it I hardly knew anything about the 1918 flu pandemic, let alone that it took 50 to 100 million lives! The numbers just boggle the mind and the descriptions of the suffering and chaos chill the blood.
The Audiobook was well read and clear. My only complaint was that there was almost too much information at times. The first six hours dove into the history of medicine in general and the Johns Hopkins University in particular (which is fine if you have the spare time to listen to it). My advice, if you want to get into the real 'meat' of the influenza subject, is to bypass the first download section, and start listening from the beginning of the second.
Jumps on his bed while licking the bottom of one foot. He persists in this life affirming act despite interference from the head nurse.
This is a genuinely verbose book. Before it was published an editor with a pocket full of blue pencils should have "X'ed" out mounds of superfluous writing. As it is, the reader/listener will (presumably) not be interested in the private lives of researchers of the day, nor those of their assistants, nor detailed biographies of big city medical examiners, nor who the era's most famous doctors were and how their life experiences pointed them towards research in this thing or that, nor the struggle to change the direction of American research hospitals at the end of the nineteenth century. Yet, it's all there are: acres and acres of off- focus trivia. Further distracting is the author's philosophizing over subjects like what scientific research requires in the character of a person. When Barry stays on his subject it's obvious that he knows his stuff. His descriptions of the actions of influenza virus in the body are wonderful. Were his book edited to a third the size it would be worth the time.
Highly recommend to those with an interest in the history of the U.S. medical system and specifically the influence of WW I and the great epidemic. The story is the effect of the epidemic on American society, not the epidemic itself. Those who are preparing for the next influenza epidemic would be well served to listen. Biographies of the key players are woven into and around all the events. Long book, not for the faint of heart, abridgement might be useful for those who do not need explanation of medical terms.
Scott Brick’s narration is unique. For this book I thought it well suited.
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