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The Great Influenza Audiobook

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

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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 (1475 )
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  •  
    Alan Ebensburg, PA, United States 06-24-09
    Alan Ebensburg, PA, United States 06-24-09 Member Since 2017
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    Overall
    "Decent listen"

    Thsi book is an excellent overview of the Spanish flu epidemic of some 90 years ago. With that being said, it is very detailed with a ton of medical jargon. If you would cut out the real down in the weeds medical jargon and other unneeded parts the book would probably be cut down to six or seven hours. The author goes into great detail about the early years of the doctors which is probably not needed for the casual listener. Overall, it is a decent listen.

    2 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Michael Moore Bay Area, CA USA 10-30-08
    Michael Moore Bay Area, CA USA 10-30-08 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "The Editor must have caught the Flu"

    I agree with an earlier review--this book would have been much better at half the length. There is much in it that has little to do with the Great Influenza of 1918. It does, however, lay out enough of the Great Flu story and impact on the times to be worthwhile. I would recommend readers start with Chapter 6--the first signs of the flu in Kansas. You will save about 5 hours--time well saved.

    7 of 14 people found this review helpful
  •  
    D.J.S. 07-17-08
    D.J.S. 07-17-08 Member Since 2014
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "WOW"

    What a powerful book! I love history and if you do you'll love this one too. I do think that the author needs to be reminded that the Johns Hopkins University is a Quaker college. But other than his ranting against religion, he is quite good. What a time in HISTORY.

    2 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ron L. Caldwell New York, NY USA 07-16-08
    Ron L. Caldwell New York, NY USA 07-16-08 Member Since 2016
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    Overall
    "Extraordinary torture"

    A brilliant piece of storytelling that spans an age so close to our times, but one that's nearly irretrievable in terms of our ordinary experience.

    However - and this is a big however - Scott Brick's narration is SO syrupy, sing-songy, and melodramatic that I found it very difficult to listen to. Brick appears to be the favorite narrator of the audiobook world, but his delivery is so cloying that it actually undermines the drama native to the account of the 1918 epidemic. History doesn't need to be acted as though it were a radio melodrama.



    4 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Cecil PORTLAND, OR, USA 06-21-08
    Cecil PORTLAND, OR, USA 06-21-08 Member Since 2008
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    "Maybe it's better in print"

    I don't know what annoyed me most about listening to this audiobook - the extreme repetitiveness and heavy-handed foreshadowing of the text, or Scott Brick's over-the-top breathless narration. I was constantly being distracted from the very interesting information that the author was imparting by the very annoying way in which that information was being imparted. It's really too bad, because the topic is interesting and parts of the story well-told (when Barry (and Brick) were not waxing hyperbolic ). One significant problem I noted with an audio version of this book is that in many parts Barry will be quoting from a series of primary sources, each of which says much the same thing -his purpose is to show what the various media were reporting, or scientists saying, but without being able to see on the page that it is a series of quotes, and without introductory passages for each quote, it comes across as if the "repeat" button got stuck.

    4 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    E. 09-18-07
    E. 09-18-07
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Very good. Compelling"

    The narative style can be grating at times, but the underlying story is well told and it is fascinating. There is a bit too much emphasis on flawed historical figures that in the end don't factor into the story. The ending is strong, highlighting the severity of the problem and the inadequacy of our preparations.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Karl Washington, DC, USA 07-30-07
    Karl Washington, DC, USA 07-30-07
    HELPFUL VOTES
    2
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    Overall
    "very much a history book"

    A good beach book.

    This really is a very interesting book that covers a lot of ground but does so clearly and concisely. With a story like this I’d imagine it is hard to decide what to keep in and leave out, and I think that is well done here. I work in public policy in this area (public health) and have been glad I read this on a number of occasions. It most definitely educated me on a topic that translates to today on a number of levels – not just flu.

    As a history book, it’s not high drama and ends up a bit dry in a few places – but I did find it all interesting.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Carolyn jackson, WY, United States 09-01-06
    Carolyn jackson, WY, United States 09-01-06
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    "Sometimes repetitive"

    The book was good; but you had to wait to really get to the meat of the story. The author painstakingly sets up the players (scientists and doctors) in the book. Sometimes it can lead your mind to wander. He also tends to repeat basic premises throughout the book, which I got the first time. There are very interesting parts though, so I would not say it's a waste of time, just a bit wordy.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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    J. Houlding 07-31-06
    J. Houlding 07-31-06
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    "Half a great book"

    The first half of this book is fantastic, I learned so much about american medical/scientific history that I had no idea about. It was really fascinating, well written and I found it riveting and suprising. He weaves a seamless connection between the history of the US medical establishment, the United States in WWI and the science of infectious diseases.

    Unfortunately the second half is just way too long, he should have stopped writing and called it good. I am still recommending it, but when you start getting bored with the endless descriptions of the search for the disease, you can just skip to the last chapter and wrap it up.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Tim E. Higgins 06-22-06 Member Since 2017
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    "needed focus and editing"

    Listening to this book was like unpacking a shipping crate of delicate glassware - it had a lot of filler but you'd uncover an occassional piece of crystal. The detailed history of medical education and the development of scientific medicine were very interesting, though unexpected. The narratives about governments struggling to deal with the pandemic were instructive. The biographies were good. The voluminous and repetitive statistics and editorial commentary were unbearable. I gave up.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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