Thursday, December 5, 2019

Book Review: The Ghost Map: the Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic - and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World by Steven Johnson, narrated by Alan Sklar (audio)

Many people have heard the story of the first big successful instance of epidemiology, and how it traced an outbreak of cholera back to a particular pump in London, the pump handle was removed, and everything was fixed. Yay! While the outlines of that story are mostly true, the fuller story behind it is much more interesting, a little more complicated, and didn't resolve quite that easily.

I found the first 80% of the book fascinating. At the end, the author extrapolates about cities, epidemics more generally, and brings it all into the modern world, and that didn't work for me. I do appreciate trying to show the connection from the past to now, but it didn't feel necessary to me (maybe just as a 15-page afterword). That said, the historical part was so good, I could overlook that. I'd still very strongly recommend this book, and the narrator was quite good as well.

I listened to the digital audiobook from my local library via Libby/Overdrive.

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