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Never Mind the Swine Flu: Books About The Plague and Other Diseases
When you cough and sneeze and the hypochondrium sets in, the best cure is to read about a disease you definitely don’t have (or do you?), be it the Black Death or smallpox or cholera or the always-threatening zombie plague. These books go into all the clinical details about symptoms, contagions, and cures (or lack thereof) so you’ll know exactly what you’re up against and how much Tami-Flu you’ll need. You’ll also sniffle (do you have a cold or are you just sad?) as heroes and heroines help and hinder each other on the road to good health. You might not be convinced that it’s just allergies when you’re done reading these books, but you’ll definitely appreciate your health.   Print this list Print this list
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Cover Art: Year of wonders : a novel of the plague /
Year of wonders : a novel of the plague
Brooks, Geraldine.
In 1665, Anna Frith is an eighteen-year-old mother and widow in the rural English village of Eyam. Anna is befriended by the vicar and his wife, who teaches her how to read. The vicar convinces Anna to take in lodgers, but when a tailor from London boards at Anna’s house, he brings with him more than rent money. Hidden in one of his bundles of fabric is an infected flea. The flea bites a rat, the rat makes contact with a villager, and the Black Plague is suddenly sweeping through the remote town. The village voluntarily shuts itself off from the rest of the world to contain the horrible disease (a fact based on the true-life story of the real village of Eyam). For the rest of the year, we live with young Anna as she experiences first-hand the devastating effects of disease, death, and despair. Year of Wonders is an elegant tale for all its heartbreak and Anna’s story is a triumph over human tragedy in all its forms. Author Geraldine Brooks’ prose is lyrical even while she describes the worst that the plague brings out in people; her treatment of Anna’s intelligence and grace results in a compelling portrait. It’s not always an easy book to read, but it is a fine example of historical fiction and the lessons learned from the past.
Adult Fiction BROOKS
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Cover Art: World War Z : an oral history of the zombie war /
World War Z : an oral history of the zombie war
Brooks, Max.
Ten years ago, the zombie plague swept the globe. Now, our narrator has taken it upon himself to document the stories of those lucky enough to survive. And, oh the horror. From early breakouts in China to full-scale military tactics in America, different characters tell their stories in their own voices to our intrepid author Max Brooks (son of Mel and author of the all-too-comedic Zombie Survival Guide). There’s an undercurrent of social and political criticism that’s hard to resist, and let’s face it—nothing is as heart-stopping and attention-grapping as hoards of the undead moaning and lurching over the ruins of Tokyo and New York, across the freezing plains of Iceland and Canada, and into the worlds’ oceans to sink into the waves and pop up on beaches far away, sopping wet but hungry for human flesh. Despite the outrageous premise, the pain and outrage that the survivors express is real and tangible and much less like a mockumentary than you’d expect. In fact, World War Z is written with such realism that you’ll begin to think it’s all too real. Don’t worry—it’s highly unlikely that your sniffling cold will transform you into a member of the walking dead. But you can never be too careful, so take care of yourself, watch your back, and keep a copy of World War Z in your pocket at all times.
Adult Fiction BROOKS
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Cover Art: The speckled monster : a historical tale of battling smallpox /
The speckled monster : a historical tale of battling smallpox
Carrell, Jennifer Lee.
Our parents and grandparents might still bear the scars of their smallpox vaccination, but today’s children are free from the threat of that deadly disease. The Speckled Monster is the story of how two individuals emerged from the epidemic-ravaged eighteenth century and began the fight that made smallpox a disease of the past. Lady Mary Wortley Montagu was a clever and wealthy London aristocrat who managed to survive the disease—a feat that was the exception rather than the rule. In Boston, hard-working Dr. Zabdiel Boylston was also a smallpox survivor. Separated by an ocean and a significant class divide, Lady Mary and Dr. Boylston began working, in their own ways, on introducing the African concept of inoculation. A patient was purposefully infected with a small bit of live smallpox material, and that patient would get a mild case of the disease and be forever immune to the deadlier forms of smallpox. We know it works today, but people of the eighteenth century thought the idea ridiculous and mad--which only made Lady Mary and Dr. Boylston try harder… Written almost like a novel, with dialogue and conversation taken from diaries and letters, The Speckled Monster presents the portraits of two everyday revolutionaries who flouted medical convention put their trust in the power of prevention. There’s a lot of science and fact, but by grounding the story in the real lives and words of these unique individuals, The Speckled Monster becomes both a relevant history and a dramatic story.
Adult Nonfiction Book 614.52109 C
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Cover Art: The ghost map : the story of London's most terrifying epidemic--and how it chang
The ghost map : the story of London's most terrifying epidemic--and how it chang
Johnson, Steven, 1968-
When cholera struck a London neighborhood in1854, it became the deadliest epidemic the city had ever seen. Victorian London has a reputation even today as an era of progress and wealth, and it was indeed a city on the verge of immense cultural and industrial growth. But science and medicine still had a long way to go—no one knew about germs or how contagions were spread or how to effectively treat many of the diseases that killed people every day. And the study of cholera was especially bogged down by old-fashioned beliefs. Doctors of the day were convinced that the disease was spread by foul odors in the air. London was indeed a stinky city, but the notion was way off base. When a single physician, Dr. John Snow, presented the theory that cholera was in fact spread by contaminated water, he was dismissed by the bureaucracy that was supposedly responsible for public health. But he was right, and The Ghost Map is the story of how he proved it and paved the way for much of the understanding about the spread of diseases that we take for granted today. Author Steven Johnson uses Snow’s experiences to shed light on the evolution of civilizations and the organization of cities, but his story is firmly centered on the real people who lived and died in the epidemic, including devoted minister Henry Whitehead who walked the streets of his Soho neighborhood to keep track of who, when, and where the disease struck. Cholera is a small threat these days, but The Ghost Map reminds us that the foundations of our sleek modern cities were laid down hundreds of years ago, and that the threats of the past are never too far from the present. An engrossing and lively book, The Ghost Map is certain to entertain—and educate.
Adult Nonfiction Book 614.514 J
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Cover Art: An American plague : the true and terrifying story of the yellow fever epidemic
An American plague : the true and terrifying story of the yellow fever epidemic
Murphy, Jim, 1947-
This Newbery Honor book, Robert F. Sibert Medal recipient, and National Book Award winner claims young readers are its audience, but it recounts a chapter in American history that should be ignored by no one. During the sweltering summer months of 1793, the city of Philadelphia was fraught with controversy. President George Washington was refusing to assist the French in their new war with Britain, and the freshly minted American citizens were angry. The French had helped them with their revolution, after all, and many believed the favor should be returned. So the increasing number of dead animals, insect swarms, and festering smells went unnoticed, even while church bells rang daily to announce more and more deaths. Eventually, one brave physician dared to put a name to the disease that was sweeping through the city: yellow fever. To 18th century ears, this was a death sentence. Yellow fever spread fast and had no cure. While some citizens fled as fast as they could, other remained to sooth the fevered brows of their friends and neighbors. Heroes emerged during the crisis—from famous countrymen like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, who tried to keep the new government stable during this early emergency; to eminent physicians like Dr. Benjamin Rush, who possessed the energy to confront the disease; to the under-appreciated men and women of the Free African Society, whose members voluntarily stayed and became nurses and comforters of the ill. Journal entries, newspaper articles, and photographs fill out the story and provide those all-important first-hand details and points of view. By the time the temperatures cool and health is restored, you’ll be very glad you live in the 21st century, and deeply inspired by the men and women who fought the fever so long ago.
Children's Nonfiction Book614.54109 M
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Cover Art: The illustrious dead : the terrifying story of how typhus killed Napoleon's grea
The illustrious dead : the terrifying story of how typhus killed Napoleon's grea
Talty, Stephan.
In 1811, Napoleon Bonaparte was the undisputed emperor of forty-five million people. His French Empire spread from the Atlantic Ocean to the Russian borders, from northern Germany to southern Spain. He was a master of the art of conquest. True, Spanish rebels fought against his rule and Great Britain was still free, but Napoleon was still the most powerful leader of the day. Until, that is, he decided to send his enormous, state-of-the-art army into Russia. Utter and total defeat was in the cards for Napoleon for the first time, but not from the Russian army. No, Napoleon’s soldiers carried their deaths with them from the start—in a tiny microbe clinging to their gear called typhus. In The Illustrious Dead author Stephen Talty traces the fall of one of the greatest armies the world has ever and shows how one little pathogen altered the course of history. From the tsar’s palace in Moscow to the bedsides of stricken soldiers, and with the giant personality of Napoleon Bonaparte hanging over it all, this is a fascinating book rich in historical and scientific detail.
Adult Nonfiction Book 940.2742 T
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Cover Art: Doomsday book /
Doomsday book
Willis, Connie.
Kivrin is a student of history and time travel at Oxford in 2048. With the help of her doubting professor, she is about to go back in time to the Middle Ages of the fourteenth century for the ultimate historical research. Kivrin has been prepped in every aspect of time travel—but nothing can prepare her for a virus that hits home in the twenty-first century, trapping her in the past and causing an error in where--and when--she ends up. She finds herself smack-dab in the middle of a Black Plague outbreak, and with everyone at home too sick to find her, Kivrin can’t help but become deeply involved in the lives of the people in this small disease-ridden village. The Doomsday Book alters between two storylines, one in the past and one in the future, both taken equally unaware—despite the supposed advancement of the future—by this new and deadly threat. And both communities respond with suspicion and fear, then ultimately with compassion as neighbor cares for neighbor regardless of the century of their birth. Award-winning author Connie Willis writes strong characters, her vision of the future is detailed and realistic, and her historical research is impeccable. The tension between the past and future is palpable, the story is harrowing and fraught with suspense, and the reader will be irresistibly drawn into this remarkable tale than spans the centuries.
Adult Fiction WILLIS
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