The Hot Zone

By Richard Preston,

Book cover of The Hot Zone

Book description

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.…

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Why read it?

5 authors picked The Hot Zone as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

A friend insisted I borrow The Hot Zone from him. I explained I wasn't fond of nonfiction books, but he told me to trust him and that the book read like a real-life thriller. I gave it a try and couldn't put the story down.

I read this 25 years before Covid. When the pandemic hit in 2020, I remember thinking, "Oh my God, the Hot Zone has gone global." With every turn of the page, I kept telling myself, "This can't be real." Not only was it all true, but it was exciting. And terrifying. That icky feeling stuck…

This book looks like a hard read, less fictitious more true story about how outbreaks occur, how they devastate people groups, and how they spread. It follows real viruses and explains how an infection in one small village can become the bogeyman of the world. As a nurse, I devoured this book but even if you have only a passing interest in diseases, this gives a good understanding of things like the current pandemic, and pulls the curtain aside to let you see what happens behind the news announcements. 

From Rachel's list on ways to manage the end of the world.

Imagine being on a flight to Kenya—my first of many trips to Africa—and picking up a scientific thriller about a virus discovered near the exact location you are headed. The nonfiction classification makes the read even more terrifying as Preston retells the story of the origins of the hemorrhagic fevers, and how they were discovered in a quarantine facility in the US. It’s a fascinating look at how too often reality is far more frightening than fiction, as it stretched my own imagination and made me wonder what if?

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.

Preston is a thriller writer. He took those talents and applied it to the story of the emergence of Ebola in the 1970s and related viruses. Much like Defoe, he did so with the explicit aim of warning people about future outbreaks –sadly prescient in the case of Ebola.

From Charles' list on plague outbreaks.

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