28 books like Beating Back the Devil

By Maryn McKenna,

Here are 28 books that Beating Back the Devil fans have personally recommended if you like Beating Back the Devil. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Book cover of The Hot Zone

Ty Roth Author Of Island No. 6

From my list on medical thrillers for doomsday phobics.

Why am I passionate about this?

Although I come from a family with a number of medical professionals, I am not one myself. My interest in medical thrillers is a three-strand braid that combines my learning and experiences in the fields of sociology, literature, and storytelling. Horrific as the stories on this list are, they share both a hopefulness that mankind is capable of overcoming whatever challenge nature presents, or they themselves conjure and a warning to get ourselves right before the next one comes along. At a time when it is tempting to despair over the human condition, I hope these books inspire your faith in mankind’s resourcefulness and ability to endure.

Ty's book list on medical thrillers for doomsday phobics

Ty Roth Why did Ty love this book?

Witnessing vicariously the symptoms and death throes associated with the outbreak of the Ebola virus in Central Africa left me horrified.

The narrow margins by which such an outbreak was prevented from happening here in the States raised my awareness of the potential for a viral outbreak in my own backyard.

By Richard Preston,

Why should I read it?

6 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 The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History

Robert O. Schneider Author Of An Unmitigated Disaster: America's Response to COVID-19

From my list on the “war” between politics and science.

Why am I passionate about this?

My research and writing in the field of emergency or disaster management has been focused on the concept of hazard mitigation. This means reducing the impact of disasters, the creation of hazard resilient and sustainable communities, and the application of scientific and technical expertise to the task. We all live in a world where it has become more important than ever to make intelligent decisions driven by a comprehension of the properties of the physical universe. It is also a world in which economic self-interest and political interests may impede that idealistic goal. I have a sense of urgency about reducing the efficacy of such impediments.      

Robert's book list on the “war” between politics and science

Robert O. Schneider Why did Robert love this book?

Barry’s dramatic historical account of the 1918 influenza pandemic has been called “fascinating,” “brilliant,” “sobering,” and “terrifying” by numerous reviewers.

It is a piece of history, the worst public health disaster in the century before COVID-19, that should have helped succeeding generations to take pandemic preparedness more seriously. It should have enhanced our understanding that during such a crisis, science must lead the way. Despite all that we did learn from the great influenza of 1918, we were unable to avoid many of the mistakes made when our leaders too often shunned the advice of science and made the COVID-19 pandemic political.

This book informed and influenced me greatly. It inspired me to see the need for and the importance of recording and learning from our experiences a century later.

By John M. Barry,

Why should I read it?

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

From my list on for armchair infectious disease epidemiologists.

Why am I passionate about this?

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.

Steffanie's book list on for armchair infectious disease epidemiologists

Steffanie Strathdee Why did Steffanie 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

Hannah Wunsch Author Of The Autumn Ghost: How the Battle Against a Polio Epidemic Revolutionized Modern Medical Care

From my list on medical history that reads like fiction.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a critical care doctor, I love pausing when taking care of patients in a modern ICU to reflect on how far we’ve come in the care we can provide. I want to be entertained while learning about the past, and so I seek out books on medical history that find the wonder and the beauty (and the bizarre and chilling) and make it come alive. I get excited when medical history can be shared in a way that isn’t dry, or academic. These books all do that for me and capture some part of that crazy journey through time. 

Hannah's book list on medical history that reads like fiction

Hannah Wunsch Why did Hannah love this book?

The Ghost Map is the fantastic story of an important Cholera epidemic in London in 1854.

The book swept me along with its narrative, plunging straight into the fetid world of Victorian London. Johnson weaves together the stories of the people affected, and the desperate hunt by Dr. John Snow to understand the cause of the disease. He also provides fascinating descriptions of the dangers to life in a time before sewers, and the evolution of such systems that ultimately transformed city life.

I definitely look at toilets, pipes, and sewer grates differently after reading this book.

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 Strain

Ricardo Henriquez Author Of The Catcher's Trap

From my list on those who love a good nightmare.

Why am I passionate about this?

I write horror, read horror, watch horror, and live horror. The last one may be a bit of an exaggeration. When I was 10 years old, I begged my parents to take me to the theater to see Friday the 13: The Final Chapter. Of course, they said no. When I was 14, and a horror rebel, I sneaked into a movie theater to watch Friday the 13: New Blood. Thank goodness when they said The Final Chapter, they didn’t mean it. It was around this age that I discovered Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot; that book changed my life for good. I can talk to you about horror books for hours and hours.

Ricardo's book list on those who love a good nightmare

Ricardo Henriquez Why did Ricardo love this book?

On the subject of horror classics, either reading or re-visiting The Strain is always a good idea. I find this fresh take on vampires terrifying. I read the first book in 3 days, and the entire trilogy in less than a month. When I was not reading I was thinking about the book. If you live in New York or close by, let me tell you, the vivid depiction of how the city would fall is as terrifying as the blood-sucking creatures responsible for it. 

Because Del Toro is a filmmaker, he is a skillful narrator. The mental images he creates are as vivid as the nightmares I had for weeks. There is also an incredibly damaged main character, and as I said before, I am a sucker for those.

By Guillermo del Toro, Chuck Hogan,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The high-concept thriller with a supernatural edge from the world-famous director, whose films include Pan's Labyrinth and Hellboy.

A plane lands at JFK and mysteriously 'goes dark', stopping in the middle of the runway for no apparent reason, all lights off, all doors sealed. The pilots cannot be raised.

When the hatch above the wing finally clicks open, it soon becomes clear that everyone on board is dead - although there is no sign of any trauma or struggle. Ephraim Goodweather and his team from the Center for Disease Control must work quickly to establish the cause of this strange…


Book cover of Where the Light Fell

Neta Jackson Author Of The Yada Yada Prayer Group

From my list on friendship across racial and cultural barriers.

Why am I passionate about this?

During college, I attended an inner-city black church during the years of the civil rights movement—and it changed the course of my life. My husband and I have lived in diverse neighborhoods and attended multicultural churches for most of our 56 years of marriage, realizing we have much to learn from our brothers and sisters of color. But the biggest influence that caused me to write the Yada Yada Prayer Group novels was/is the prayer group of sisters of color that I’ve been part of for over 25 years. As we spent time together every week for years (!), these sisters helped turn my life and my faith upside down—or maybe “right side up.”

Neta's book list on friendship across racial and cultural barriers

Neta Jackson Why did Neta love this book?

I’ve known Phil Yancey as an author-friend for many years. But I’d never heard his personal story in such a poignant, powerful way as this memoir. Yancey grew up in the racist south, absorbing the common prejudices and racist attitudes that permeated the culture, even his religious teaching. But then he worked one summer with Dr. Cherry, a Black scientist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Says Philip: “Here was the smartest man I’d ever met, and it just blew away all the categories I’d been taught”—especially the lie that blacks are innately inferior. From that point on, Philip discovered what I discovered in my life journey—relationships with people different than you enriches your life. Each person, each culture, has gifts to share.

By Philip Yancey,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Where the Light Fell as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Not until college days do I discover the shocking secret of my father's death.'

With a journalist's background Philip Yancey is widely admired for taking on the more difficult and confusing aspects of faith. Now in Where the Light Fell he shares, for the first time, the painful details of his own origins - taking us on an evocative journey from the backwoods and Bible-belt pockets of the South to the bustling streets of Philadelphia; from trailer parks to church parking lots; from dark secrets and family oddballs to fire-and-brimstone preachers and interminable church services. Raised by their impoverished single…


Book cover of Name and Tame Your Anxiety: A Kid's Guide

James J. Crist Author Of What to Do When You're Scared and Worried: A Guide for Kids

From my list on anxiety and stress for kids.

Why am I passionate about this?

Let’s face it—kids’ anxiety has gone through the roof over the last two years since the start of the pandemic. Not being able to play with friends, participate on sports teams, or even have sleepovers has had an impact. For kids, play is one of their main ways to relieve stress.  Here are my five go-to books for kids dealing with anxiety, worries, and stress. 

James' book list on anxiety and stress for kids

James J. Crist Why did James love this book?

Directed at middle school-age kids, this book offers practical advice to pre-teens on how to practice anxiety-taming strategies. It even includes a chapter on medication. Quotes from real kids also make the subject matter more relatable and let kids know that they’re not alone. The sections on what therapy is like and how you can advocate for yourself can be empowering for kids as well as teaching lifelong skills.

By Summer Batte,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Name and Tame Your Anxiety as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Help kids understand and manage anxiety to boost their mental health and well-being.Anxiety in kids is on the rise: 4.4 million children between the ages of 3 and 17 have diagnosed anxiety disorders, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And even more kids experience some level of anxiety in their daily lives. In kid-friendly language, award-winning Name and Tame Your Anxiety explains what anxiety is, how it works, and how to manage it.Written by a parent whose child has anxiety and vetted by Myles L. Cooley, Ph.D., author of A Practical Guide to Mental Health & Learning…


Book cover of The Compatibility Gene: How Our Bodies Fight Disease, Attract Others, and Define Our Selves

John Tregoning Author Of Infectious: Pathogens and How We Fight Them

From my list on novels and nonfiction books about infections and pandemics.

Why am I passionate about this?

When I was at school in 1991, the terrible news came out that Freddie Mercury, lead singer of Queen, had died of HIV/AIDS. At the time, this virus was fatal in nearly everyone it infected. And yet, only 30 years later, we now have drugs that completely prevent the disease. This amazing breakthrough is just one of the many success stories that inspired my passion for infectious diseases, the way our immune system can fight them off, and how science can help us fight infections. The list of books goes from fiction about when infections go wrong and to popular science about how scientists ensure the nightmare scenario never happens.

John's book list on novels and nonfiction books about infections and pandemics

John Tregoning Why did John love this book?

I love this book because Dan combines his passion for immunology with his own voice. It inspired me to write my own book.

Dan’s boundless enthusiasm for his field explodes off the page, breathing life into what could have been a dry topic. I learnt a huge amount about both writing and immunology.

By Daniel Davis,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Compatibility Gene takes readers on a global journey of discovery spanning 60 years, involving scores of scientists, and encompassing the history of transplants and immunology. That journey has revealed astonishing links between who we are as individuals and our never-ceasing struggle to survive disease.

Most of the 25,000 genes we possess are the same for all of us. Compatibility genes are those that vary most from person to person and give each of us a unique molecular signature. These genes determine both the extent to which we are susceptible to a vast range of illnesses and the different ways…


Book cover of Natural History of Infectious Disease

John M. Barry Author Of The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History

From my list on disease and society.

Why am I passionate about this?

John M. Barry was the only non-scientist ever to give the National Academies of Sciences Abel Wolman Distinguished Lecture, and he advised the Bush and Obama White Houses on pandemic preparedness and response. He is an award-winning and #1 New York Times best-selling author whose books have also involved him in policy making. The National Academies of Science named The Great Influenza the year’s outstanding book on science or medicine.

John's book list on disease and society

John M. Barry Why did John love this book?

This provides the reader with the background to understand what happens when a pathogen invades both an individual and a society. It’s an absolutely brilliant book by a Nobel laureate scientist, one of my all-time favorites on any subject.

By David O. White, Macfarlane Burnet,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Natural History of Infectious Disease as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Provides a biological inquiry into the causes and spread of infectious disease and its impact on human survival


Book cover of The Work of Literature in an Age of Post-Truth

Virginia Rademacher Author Of Derivative Lives: Biofiction, Uncertainty, and Speculative Risk in Contemporary Spanish Narrative

From my list on combating post-truth contagions.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a writer and professor of literary studies whose work has been deeply involved in topics of truth, realism, and public policy. My recent book considers works of fiction that openly and honestly experiment with questions of uncertainty, identity, and risk in the supermodern present. This book draws from disciplinary discourses in law, finance, and economics, which similarly contend with competing claims to truth and value and dive deep into the circumstantial and speculative games that authors play when they write fiction about reality. I have my PhD in Spanish Literature (UVA), M.A. in International Affairs and Economics (Johns Hopkins Univ.), and a B.A. from Harvard University.

Virginia's book list on combating post-truth contagions

Virginia Rademacher Why did Virginia love this book?

I loved this writer’s brilliant combination of memoir, eco- and literary criticism, and an exploration of contemporary life.

Each chapter feels so personal, and yet Schaberg manages to connect these experiences to broader questions of how we live our lives, what matters, and how many things (including the health of the planet and the confidence we have in truth) are under threat–and we need to protect them simultaneously.

I imagine Schaberg is as deeply engaging teacher as he is a writer. I found this book deeply compelling and relevant. 

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in infection, epidemiology, and contagious diseases?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about infection, epidemiology, and contagious diseases.

Infection Explore 10 books about infection
Epidemiology Explore 14 books about epidemiology
Contagious Diseases Explore 12 books about contagious diseases