10 books like Beating Back the Devil

By Maryn McKenna,

Here are 10 books that authors have personally recommended if you like Beating Back the Devil. Shepherd is a community of 7,000+ authors sharing their favorite books with the world.

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The Hot Zone

By Richard Preston,

Book cover of The Hot Zone: The Terrifying True Story of the Origins of the Ebola Virus

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?

The Hot Zone

By Richard Preston,

Why should I read it?

4 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…


The Great Influenza

By John M. Barry,

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

This brilliant non-fiction work by John M. Barry is fascinating for its scholarship and engaging prose. We learn about the source of the H1N1 influenza virus in birds through its mutations to a deadly pandemic engulfing the globe and responsible for killing an estimated 50 million people. In addition to writing layman’s course in virology, Mr. Barry focuses on individuals who perished and those who searched unceasingly for a vaccine. This is the most timely of books for readers who have endured the twenty-first century coronavirus pandemic. 

The Great Influenza

By John M. Barry,

Why should I read it?

5 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"…


The Coming Plague

By Laurie Garrett,

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

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.

The Coming Plague

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…


The Ghost Map

By Steven Johnson,

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

Johnson’s exploration of a public health crisis and science in the making was one of the references I used in writing my own book. In August 1854, hundreds of people in the impoverished Golden Square neighborhood of London fell violently ill. Many died. By mapping the movements of the victims, Dr. John Snow traced the source of the infection to the Broad Street pump, a public water source that had been contaminated with Vibrio cholerae, the bacterium that causes cholera. Johnson’s account shows how a normally benign microbe was rendered deadly in a crowded mass of people who ended up drinking their own sewage—at a time before the existence of microbes was known. 

The Ghost Map

By Steven Johnson,

Why should I read it?

3 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…


Where the Light Fell

By Philip Yancey,

Book cover of Where the Light Fell

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.

Where the Light Fell

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…


Name and Tame Your Anxiety

By Summer Batte,

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

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.

Name and Tame Your Anxiety

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…


Natural History of Infectious Disease

By Macfarlane Burnet, David O. White,

Book cover of Natural History of Infectious Disease

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.

Natural History of Infectious Disease

By Macfarlane Burnet, David O. White,

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


Rats, Lice and History

By Hans Zinsser,

Book cover of Rats, Lice and History

Unlike the other four books in this list, Zinsser’s is an overall history of disease (if focused on typhus) not the story of a particular outbreak. But Zinsser was actively involved in the history he retells at the end of his book as a researcher on a typhus vaccine. Published in 1935, it remains a fascinating and hugely enjoyable primer of the role of infection in history.

Rats, Lice and History

By Hans Zinsser,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

When Rats, Lice and History appeared in 1935, Hans Zinsser was a highly regarded Harvard biologist who had never written about historical events. Although he had published under a pseudonym, virtually all of his previous writings had dealt with infections and immunity and had appeared either in medical and scientific journals or in book format. Today he is best remembered as the author of Rats, Lice, and History, which gone through multiple editions and remains a masterpiece of science writing for a general readership.

To Zinsser, scientific research was high adventure and the investigation of infectious disease, a field of…


Infection

By M. P. McDonald,

Book cover of Infection: A Post-Apocalyptic Survival Novel

Infection, the first of the Sympatico Syndrome series, starts with a simple but chilling phone conversation between two old friends. Sounds a bit boring, right? Wrong. The main character and his friend on the phone are epidemiologists and they understand with terrifying clarity just how dangerous the newly spreading illness is. Then, it becomes a race against time for the main character as he rushes to stockpile supplies and convince his family that they need to come quarantine with him right away. You can feel his dread and his anxiety in every paragraph and it only gets worse as the story moves on. What makes this novel unique is the illness itself. The disease produces peculiar symptoms that I’ve never seen in any other apocalyptic book.

Infection begins to become seriously creepy right about the time that you learn the infection causes euphoria and feelings of well-being, making the…

Infection

By M. P. McDonald,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

For fans of Stephen King's The Stand or William Forstchen's One Second After.
 
They weren't ready for the apocalypse but ready or not, it was coming...

Faced with the very real possibility of extinction of the human race, Cole Evans has only one chance to save his family and survive — a safe haven on an isolated island.

No one realizes there's a deadly illness spreading like wildfire until it's too late. With few symptoms, victims literally drop dead after a brief surge of energy. Within days, the virus tears through the population of the United States and the world.…


The Last Plague

By Rich Hawkins,

Book cover of The Last Plague

Take the body horror nightmare of John Carpenter’s The Thing and substitute the remoteness of that film’s Antarctic setting for the densely populated familiarity of the UK. When a deadly infection strikes, four friends must cross a chaotic, war-torn England to reach their families. The infection turns people into vile, cannibalistic monsters that are almost Lovecraftian in their grotesqueness. There’s something about the juxtaposition of the normality of UK life and the unrelenting horror of the infection that really hits home. This is a vicious book that pulls no punches and spares no one. Beautifully written, and bleak as hell.

The Last Plague

By Rich Hawkins,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A pestilence has fallen across the land. Run and hide. Seek shelter. Do not panic. The infected WILL find you. When Great Britain is hit by a devastating epidemic, four old friends must cross a chaotic, war-torn England to reach their families. But between them and home, the country is teeming with those afflicted by the virus - cannibalistic, mutated monsters whose only desires are to infect and feed. THE LAST PLAGUE is here.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in infection, epidemiology, and contagious diseases?

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