Probably like many people, I get on specific kicks in my reading. I read a book, and that leads me to be interested enough in the subject that I start reading more on the topic, and then before I know it a have a shelf devoted to the topic and probably have become somewhat of a bore about my interest.
Do you do this? I suspect if you love to read and are curious about the world, you do. Several years ago, I bought several of Barbara Tuchman‘s books, including A Distant Mirror, her history of 14th century Europe. Part of the book covered the lead-up and emergence of the Black (bubonic and pneumonic) Plague, including how mild weather during the 13th century lead to a population explosion in the decades before. I found the history and science of the plague interesting, which lead me to The Great Mortality by John Kelly (who just finished a book on the Irish Potato Famine, going on my wish list right now). A search through my book software (I use both Collectorz and LibraryThing) shows eleven books about the plague, including Daniel Defoe‘s 1722 A Journal of the Plague Year, and The Black Death by Rosemary Horrox, which is a collection of reports, diaries and letters written by first person witnesses, translated mostly from Italian sources.
Much like looking up a word in the dictionary or an encyclopedia, your eye is drawn to other words, other topics, so I also began reading about diseases and plagues of other times. The Justinian plague, The Great Influenza by John M. Barry, The Coming Plague and The Hot Zone, these are all books I’ve read since discovering my fascination with all things germy. Since I’m going on a trip to the Amazon in March and had a yellow fever vaccine, I picked two books, both referring to the American Plague, the story of the yellow fever epidemics that killed thousands in the US during the 19th century. Which of course led me to read Pox: An American History about the fight to eradicate smallpox in this country, and how even 100 years ago anti-vacationists used bad science, fear, and religion to fight against this effort.
A few years ago I read Ghost Map about the London cholera epidemic and John Snow’s pioneering epidemiology, which I reviewed on the James Randi Educational Foundation’s web blog SWIFT here. I found The Cutter Incident a great book about the race to develop a polio vaccine, and some consequences of the rush which still affect our health care policies today. Having two friends who contracted polio before the vaccine was developed, and listening to my mother talk about the fear, even panic, that enveloped the country every summer, I realize that we, in this decade and in the developed world, are indeed fortunate to be relatively free of scourges that have terrorized mankind for thousands of years.
So, what are your current ‘kicks’ in reading?
- Also Seen: Justinian’s Plague ~ Yersina Pestis? (rogueclassicism.com)
- Bubonic Outbreak Eerily Timed with new Black Plague thriller, GRIM REAPER by New York Times Best Selling Author Steve Alten (prweb.com)
- Tell Me What I Should Read Next! (dste9.wordpress.com)
- Justinian plague was ancestor of Black Plague (southofheaven.typepad.com)
- Ancient DNA Links Justinian Plague To Black Death (dispatchesfromturtleisland.blogspot.com)