52 Books a Year: #46 - Flu

Posted by Brian Wed, 23 Dec 2009 18:30:03 GMT

Flu: The Story of the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918 and the Search for the Virus That Caused It
By Gina Kolata


The influenza pandemic of 1918 killed almost 50 million people worldwide, including 500,000 in the US. In Flu Gina Kolata gives an overview of the pandemic itself and then concentrates on the search to reconstruct the virus that caused it. This is the only book I have read on the pandemic so I cannot compare it to the many others that have been written.

Kolata’s writing reads like a newspaper, which is a negative in my book. Flu reads matter-of-factly with nothing interjected by the author. This stood out very starkly against the next book I read, also about disease. Another negative, this one no fault of the author, is that the story is left hanging. At the time of publishing the 1918 virus had not been fully reconstructed yet and the tacked on story of avian flu at the end was only starting.

Overall, if you want a good overview of the 1918 flu and the search for the virus up to 1999, then Flu is a good choice. Just don’t expect any commentary to go along with it.


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