The best books for armchair infectious disease epidemiologists

Who am I?

As an infectious disease epidemiologist, my personal and professional lives collided when my husband Tom acquired a superbug that was resistant to all antibiotics while we were traveling on vacation. The story of how a global village of researchers and medical professionals helped me save his life with a 100-year-old forgotten cure is the subject of our first book, The Perfect Predator: A Scientist's Race to Save Her Husband From a Deadly Superbug. A large part of my day job now is as a phage wrangler, helping other people who are battling superbug infections at IPATH, the first phage therapy center in North America.


I wrote...

The Perfect Predator: A Scientist's Race to Save Her Husband from a Deadly Superbug: A Memoir

By Steffanie Strathdee,

Book cover of The Perfect Predator: A Scientist's Race to Save Her Husband from a Deadly Superbug: A Memoir

What is my book about?

Epidemiologist Steffanie Strathdee and her husband, psychologist Tom Patterson, were vacationing in Egypt when Tom came down with a stomach bug. What at first seemed like a case of food poisoning quickly turned critical, and by the time Tom had been transferred via emergency medevac to the world-class medical center at UC San Diego, where both he and Steffanie worked, blood work revealed why modern medicine was failing: Tom was fighting one of the most dangerous, antibiotic-resistant bacteria in the world.

A nail-biting medical mystery, The Perfect Predator is a story of love and survival against all odds, and the (re)discovery of a powerful new weapon in the global superbug crisis.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History

Steffanie Strathdee Why did I love this book?

It’s “just the flu” right? WRONG. Influenza has been and continues to be a real killer. Barry’s book is an incredible read about the great influenza pandemic of 1918, which has striking parallels to today’s COVID19 pandemic. Those who don’t learn from history are forced to repeat it.

By John M. Barry,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked The Great Influenza as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

At the height of WWI, history's most lethal influenza virus erupted in an army camp in Kansas, moved east with American troops, then exploded, killing as many as 100 million people worldwide. It killed more people in twenty-four months than AIDS killed in twenty-four years, more in a year than the Black Death killed in a century. But this was not the Middle Ages, and 1918 marked the first collision of science and epidemic disease. Magisterial in its breadth of perspective and depth of research and now revised to reflect the growing danger of the avian flu, "The Great Influenza"…


Book cover of The Coming Plague: Newly Emerging Diseases in a World Out of Balance

Steffanie Strathdee Why did I love this book?

Notable for its prescience and timelessness, this award-winning book by Pulitzer and Peabody winner Laurie Garrett is a must-read for infectious disease aficionados. This book addresses the macro-level factors that drive the emergence of epidemics, such as the over-use of antibiotics in agriculture and climate change. It is a primer on why we need a global health perspective to address pandemics, so it's no wonder that it was re-printed when the COVID-19 pandemic began.

By Laurie Garrett,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Coming Plague as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

After four decades of assuming that the conquest of infectious diseases was imminent, people on all continents now find themselves besieged. The water we drink is improperly purified, the air we breathe potentially deadly, and the food we eat possibly poisonous. What went wrong? This book follows the doctors and scientists in their 50 year battle with the microbes, ranging from the savannas of Bolivia to the rain forests of Zaire. Jet travel, the sexual revolution and over-population - all favour the survival of new and old bugs, among them, malaria, Ebola, cholera and tuberculosis, and viruses that kill in…


Book cover of The Ghost Map: The Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic—And How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World

Steffanie Strathdee Why did I love this book?

Most public health experts vaguely know the story of how physician John Snow removed the handle of the Broad Street pump to symbolically end London’s cholera epidemic in the 1850’s, ushering in what became the field of epidemiology. But who knew that Snow’s detective work involved tracking the whereabouts of ‘nightsoil men’ who lugged about heaps of stinking sewage? I was riveted by Johnson’s story, which is probably headed for the big screen before long.

By Steven Johnson,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked The Ghost Map as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A National Bestseller, a New York Times Notable Book, and an Entertainment Weekly Best Book of the Year

It's the summer of 1854, and London is just emerging as one of the first modern cities in the world. But lacking the infrastructure-garbage removal, clean water, sewers-necessary to support its rapidly expanding population, the city has become the perfect breeding ground for a terrifying disease no one knows how to cure. As the cholera outbreak takes hold, a physician and a local curate are spurred to action-and ultimately solve the most pressing medical riddle of their time.

In a triumph of…


Book cover of The Hot Zone

Steffanie Strathdee Why did I love this book?

More than any other book, The Hot Zone framed how the public thinks about what an epidemiologist does. Since then, we’ve had to explain to our moms that we don’t all walk around in biohazard suits tracking the emergence of Ebola. On the other hand, it’s a helluva good read and a true story. I have to admit that when Amazon recommended my memoir, The Perfect Predator, to readers who liked The Hot Zone, it gave me a thrill.

By Richard Preston,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked The Hot Zone as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The bestselling landmark account of the first emergence of the Ebola virus.

Now a mini-series drama starring Julianna Margulies, Topher Grace, Liam Cunningham, James D'Arcy, and Noah Emmerich on National Geographic.

A highly infectious, deadly virus from the central African rain forest suddenly appears in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. There is no cure. In a few days 90 percent of its victims are dead. A secret military SWAT team of soldiers and scientists is mobilized to stop the outbreak of this exotic "hot" virus. The Hot Zone tells this dramatic story, giving a hair-raising account of the appearance of…


Book cover of Beating Back the Devil

Steffanie Strathdee Why did I love this book?

After you read The Hot Zone, you thought you really knew what an infectious epidemiologist does, didn’t you? Not so fast. That’s why you need to read this book. McKenna’s meticulous research gives you a sneak peek into how front-line CDC outbreak investigators dealt with Ebola, SARS, and more.

By Maryn McKenna,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Beating Back the Devil as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The universal human instinct is to run from an outbreak of disease like Ebola. These doctors run toward it. Their job is to stop epidemics from happening.

They are the disease detective corps of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the federal agency that tracks and tries to prevent disease outbreaks and bioterrorist attacks around the world. They are formally called the Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS)—a group founded more than fifty years ago out of fear that the Korean War might bring the use of biological weapons—and, like intelligence operatives in the traditional sense, they perform their…


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An Italian Feast: The Celebrated Provincial Cuisines of Italy from Como to Palermo

By Clifford A. Wright,

Book cover of An Italian Feast: The Celebrated Provincial Cuisines of Italy from Como to Palermo

Clifford A. Wright Author Of An Italian Feast: The Celebrated Provincial Cuisines of Italy from Como to Palermo

New book alert!

Who am I?

Author Philosopher Historian Researcher Gastronomer Bibliophile and reviewer

Clifford's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

An Italian Feast celebrates the cuisines of the Italian provinces from Como to Palermo. A culinary guide and book of ready reference meant to be the most comprehensive book on Italian cuisine, and it includes over 800 recipes from the 109 provinces of Italy's 20 regions.

An Italian Feast is a gastronomy about Italian culinary history and consciousness, about how Italians cook, eat, and how their food is an intimate part of their culture. It is the first book in any language to comprehensively explore the gastronomy and cuisine not just of Italy, and not just the regions of Italy, but all 109 provinces of Italy, linking each with each other in terms of history, agriculture, economics, and the material culture of creative food illustrated with recipes.

An Italian Feast: The Celebrated Provincial Cuisines of Italy from Como to Palermo

By Clifford A. Wright,


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