100 books like Parasite Rex

By Carl Zimmer,

Here are 100 books that Parasite Rex fans have personally recommended if you like Parasite Rex. Shepherd is a community of 11,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Ecological Imperialism

Gray Brechin Author Of Imperial San Francisco: Urban Power, Earthly Ruin

From my list on the hidden costs of city-building.

Why am I passionate about this?

Growing up in what was becoming Silicon Valley, I escaped to San Francisco on weekends and, through it, fell in love with what other great cities have to offer. However, as an environmental writer and TV producer there in the 1980s, I became aware of how cities exploit the territories on which they rely. A winter sojourn in the most lovely, fragile, and ingenious of all towns—Venice—in 1985 focused my too-diffuse thought on what might otherwise seem a contradiction. The lagoon city is, as John Ruskin said, the finest book humanity has ever written; I owe it my life and the book it inspired. 

Gray's book list on the hidden costs of city-building

Gray Brechin Why did Gray love this book?

This book opened my eyes to the often cataclysmic consequences of European exploration and colonization of islands and continents beyond itself, a shockwave of transformations and extinctions that have impoverished the human and biological diversity of the Earth continuing to the present.

Crosby—a pioneer of environmental history—often writes with wry humor about a very serious topic. His chapter on the invasion of the eastern Atlantic islands and its aftermath ("The Fortunate Isles") is especially good. 

By Alfred W. Crosby,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Ecological Imperialism as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

People of European descent form the bulk of the population in most of the temperate zones of the world - North America, Australia and New Zealand. The military successes of European imperialism are easy to explain; in many cases they were a matter of firearms against spears. But as Alfred W. Crosby maintains in this highly original and fascinating book, the Europeans' displacement and replacement of the native peoples in the temperate zones was more a matter of biology than of military conquest. European organisms had certain decisive advantages over their New World and Australian counterparts. The spread of European…


Book cover of Illness as Metaphor

Theresa Brown Author Of Healing: When a Nurse Becomes a Patient

From my list on having cancer.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am an expert on being a cancer patient because I was diagnosed with breast cancer in the fall of 2017. I am also a former oncology and hospice nurse. A cancer diagnosis always feels like a calamity and my work with very sick cancer patients showed me how serious the disease can be. I also thought that our health care system would react to cancer with compassion, but I was wrong. I felt on my own as a patient, and that experience led me to reflect on my nursing work. Healing alternates between me being a nurse and a patient. The alteration shows the failings of our health care system, and how to make it more caring.

Theresa's book list on having cancer

Theresa Brown Why did Theresa love this book?

I return to this book again and again because I find it so smart about the metaphors that people use to talk about cancer. In particular, Sontag picks apart the war metaphors used to describe cancer and its treatment. When I worked in oncology as a nurse, I never talked about treating cancer as “war.” Cancer results from a genetic mistake that causes cells to grow and grow when they are supposed to die. My body is not a battlefield and thinking about myself that way is profoundly disempowering.

By Susan Sontag,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Illness as Metaphor as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A discussion of the ways in which illness is regarded pays particular attention to fantasies that pertain to cancer


Book cover of Betrayal of Trust: The Collapse of Global Public Health

Bryn Barnard Author Of Outbreak! Plagues That Changed History

From my list on pandemics, parasites, and pathogens.

Why am I passionate about this?

We're all in this together: public health for all people, no matter their status or wealth, is one of humanity's great achievements. Favoring reason over faith, science over anecdote, and the group over the individual, has led to lowered infant mortality, improved health, and longer human lifespans. During pandemics, however, evidence and reason are often discarded, as people panic and try to save themselves. The odd human behavior we have seen during the Covid-19 pandemic has multiple precedents in the past. Quack cures, snake-oil sales, conspiracy theories, suspicion of authority, the emergence of cults with eccentric, bizarre, and inexplicable beliefs: again and again, this has been the human response to the unknown.

Bryn's book list on pandemics, parasites, and pathogens

Bryn Barnard Why did Bryn love this book?

Laurie Garrett’s magisterial doorstop of a book is meticulously researched and compellingly written. Long before Covid, she made the case that our global public health systems, evolved over centuries and at their peak in the 1960s are now broken: under-funded, under-staffed, ill-prepared, and ill-equipped to handle a global pandemic. The Covid death count proved her right. She documents the political compromises and budgetary cutbacks made again and again that, for example, turned TB, once on the point of eradication, into the deadly multi-drug resistant (and in the case of XTB, totally resistant) scourge that infects billions planetwide. This is a grim, sobering book that made me pine for the days when the Surgeon General could say, without irony, that the age of infectious disease is over.

By Laurie Garrett,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

From the author of the New York Times bestseller, The Coming Plague, comes an explosive new work on a full-blown global health crisis in the making. Garrett takes readers around the world to reveal how a series of potential and present public health catastrophies mark the death of public health and taken together form a terrifying portrait of real global disaster in the making.

Public health is a bond between a government and its people and if either side betrays that trust the system is likely to collapse like a house of cards. Garrett illustrates how over the last twenty…


Book cover of In the Wake of the Plague: The Black Death and the World It Made

Bryn Barnard Author Of Outbreak! Plagues That Changed History

From my list on pandemics, parasites, and pathogens.

Why am I passionate about this?

We're all in this together: public health for all people, no matter their status or wealth, is one of humanity's great achievements. Favoring reason over faith, science over anecdote, and the group over the individual, has led to lowered infant mortality, improved health, and longer human lifespans. During pandemics, however, evidence and reason are often discarded, as people panic and try to save themselves. The odd human behavior we have seen during the Covid-19 pandemic has multiple precedents in the past. Quack cures, snake-oil sales, conspiracy theories, suspicion of authority, the emergence of cults with eccentric, bizarre, and inexplicable beliefs: again and again, this has been the human response to the unknown.

Bryn's book list on pandemics, parasites, and pathogens

Bryn Barnard Why did Bryn love this book?

Cantor’s book showed me that when a lethal pandemic arrives, it can change society in ways that make “returning to normal” impossible, because the conditions that made “normal” possible no longer exist. The Black Death - probably a bubonic plague pandemic - wiped out as much as half of China’s population, before traveling the silk road to Europe where, from 1347-1351, a third of the population died. The pandemic also suffocated the feudal order, created the conditions for capitalism, the Reformation, and the Enlightenment, breathed new life into art, and transformed the legal system. In effect, the pandemic plowed the seedbed for the modern Western world. Covid may be a similar epidemiological juggernaut, sweeping away human institutions that we know, leaving us a novel world that will be strange and different in ways we can’t yet imagine.

By Norman F. Cantor,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A New York Times bestseller, In the Wake of the Plague is a fascinating study of the cultural and religious consequences of one of the deadliest tragedies to befall humanity: the black plague. Though rigorously scientific in his approach, Norman F. Cantor has produced an unforgettable narrative that in many ways employs the novelist’s skill for storytelling.

The Black Death was the fourteenth century’s equivalent of a nuclear war. It wiped out one-third of Europe’s population, and irrevocably changed the lives of those who survived. And yet, most of what we know about it is wrong. The details of the…


Book cover of A Planet of Viruses

John N. Thompson Author Of Relentless Evolution

From my list on coevolution and relentless evolution.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am captivated and never cease to be astonished by the seemingly endless variety of ways in which coevolution shapes the millions of species on earth into intricate and ever-changing webs of life. The reasons for my fascination are simple. Most species require other species to survive or reproduce, which means that the evolution of biodiversity is as much about evolution of the links among species as it is about evolution of the species themselves. I find immense joy in following the connections among species within the web of life, trying to understand how coevolution has shaped, and relentlessly reshapes, each link. There are always surprises along the way.

John's book list on coevolution and relentless evolution

John N. Thompson Why did John love this book?

Parasitism of other species is probably the most common way of life on earth. It is not uncommon for a species to have tens to hundreds of parasites that exploit it. Viruses have fine-tuned the parasitic lifestyle to the extreme, attacking just about all other forms of life and fueling the evolution of counter-defenses in their hosts. Viruses co-opt the genetic machinery of their hosts for just about everything they need to replicate themselves. Carl Zimmer’s book is not only the best introduction I know to the remarkable diversity of viruses, it also is written with the crystal clear, elegant prose and solid scientific grounding that are the hallmarks of all his writing. 

By Carl Zimmer,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked A Planet of Viruses as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In 2020, an invisible germ-a virus-wholly upended our lives. We're most familiar with the viruses that give us colds or Covid-19. But viruses also cause a vast range of other diseases, including one disorder that makes people sprout branch-like growths as if they were trees. Viruses have been a part of our lives for so long that we are actually part virus: the human genome contains more DNA from viruses than our own genes. Meanwhile, scientists are discovering viruses everywhere they look: in the soil, in the ocean, even in deep caves miles underground.

Fully revised and updated, with new…


Book cover of Tribes of Decay: A Zombie Novel

Sunshine Somerville Author Of The Kota

From my list on science fiction and fantasy world-building.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been pulled to rich, deep, complex fiction all my life. And I started building my own world when I was nine, adding to The Kota Series over two decades. Even while getting an English Literature degree, I was bored by simple worlds, characters, and stories and always found myself more interested in unique books and fresh reads. Really, the weirder the world, the better! That’s what I’ve continued to look for as a reader, and I’ve been lucky to encounter new authors that a lot of people might not have heard about yet. I’ve found some real world-building gems, like these I’ve discussed. I hope to find many more!

Sunshine's book list on science fiction and fantasy world-building

Sunshine Somerville Why did Sunshine love this book?

I love everything this author does because his world-building is simple but perfect. The post-apocalyptic world-building in this story involves not only a description of mass desolation but also how that desolation has changed humanity. Of course, people are going to be affected by their environment – especially under post-apocalyptic circumstances – and too often I feel like characters in post-apocalyptic fiction are just the same as people today. 

Zombie worlds all have the same familiar feel, but I really liked the idea of how “tribes” of survivors had formed in cities and how these people had reverted to more primitive ways – if the world hadn’t functioned in decades, yeah, teens wouldn’t know about electricity. The world-building in this book covers everything from setting to characters to a strange new social structure that was really intriguing.

By Michael W. Garza,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Our world decayed and a new world arose from the ashes of the old. The remains of the human race cling to life decades after a decimating global plague. The infected hunt the living as the dead roam abandoned streets craving the taste of flesh. Mia and Rowan hoped to carve out a life for themselves in an apocalyptic wasteland, but fate had other plans. They're forced to leave behind the relative safety of their home after a chance encounter challenges everything they've ever known. Evolution always finds a way...


Book cover of The Evolution and Emergence of RNA Viruses

David Quammen Author Of Breathless: The Scientific Race to Defeat a Deadly Virus

From my list on rigorously scientific scary viruses.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a journalist and an author, I’ve been covering the subject of scary viruses for twenty years—ever since I walked through Ebola habitat in a forest in northeastern Gabon, on assignment for National Geographic. I’ve interviewed many of the eminent experts—from Peter Piot to Marion Koopmans to Tony Fauci—and have spent field time with some of the intrepid younger disease ecologists who look for viruses in bat guano in Chinese caves and in gorilla blood in Central African forests. My book Spillover, published in 2012, drew much of that research together in describing the history and evolutionary ecology of animal infections that spill into humans.

David's book list on rigorously scientific scary viruses

David Quammen Why did David love this book?

Into the deep weeds, for those who dare! Eddie (as he is famously known) Holmes is one of the world’s leading experts on molecular evolutionary virology, particularly regarding the RNA viruses—which are the scariest and most menacing ones, the ones that mutate often, evolve fast, and spill over from animals to cause gruesome new diseases in humans. Ebola. Marburg. Nipah. Hendra. SARS-1. MERS. Zika. The dengues. And of course SARS-CoV-2, the COVID-19 beast. Eddie Holmes explains, in lucid but authoritative prose, where these creatures come from, how they adapt so well to infecting people, and why RNA virology is a crucial survival tool for the human future.

By Edward C. Holmes,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

RNA viruses provide unique insights into the patterns and processes of evolutionary change in real time. The study of viral evolution is especially topical given the growing awareness that emerging and re-emerging diseases (most of which are caused by RNA viruses) represent a major threat to public health. However, while the study of viral evolution has developed rapidly in the last 30 years, relatively little attention has been directed toward linking work on the
mechanisms of viral evolution within cells or individual hosts, to the epidemiological outcomes of these processes. This novel book fills this gap by considering the patterns…


Book cover of The Phenomenon of Man

Eric Lerner Author Of The Big Bang Never Happened: A Startling Refutation of the Dominant Theory of the Origin of the Universe

From my list on demystify science.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a research physicist working in fusion energy and astrophysics. To explain our work, I’ve had to overcome the misconceptions about science that are widespread in the media and among the general population. These books are the best ones I know to correct the mystification of science, especially of topics like quantum mechanics, time, consciousness, and cosmology.

Eric's book list on demystify science

Eric Lerner Why did Eric love this book?

This groundbreaking work, published posthumously, is the first attempt to explain consciousness as the product of the evolutionary process. In doing this, Teilhard de Chardin outlines many characteristics of the evolutionary process that have never been described before. It is his effort to unite evolutionary theory, a Marxist view of evolution, and….Christianity.

The final chapter trying to drag Christ into this scientific work did not impress me, but it does not detract from the earlier chapters either.

By Pierre Teilhard de Chardin,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Phenomenon of Man as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Visionary theologian and evolutionary theorist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin applied his whole life, his tremendous intellect, and his great spiritual faith to building a philosophy that would reconcile religion with the scientific theory of evolution. In this timeless book, which contains the quintessence of his thought, Teilhard argues that just as living organisms sprung from inorganic matter and evolved into ever more complex thinking beings, humans are evolving toward an "omega point"—defined by Teilhard as a convergence with the Divine.


Book cover of Out of the Blue: How Animals Evolved from Prehistoric Seas

Pamela S. Turner Author Of How to Build a Human: In Seven Evolutionary Steps

From my list on children’s books about evolution.

Why am I passionate about this?

Life really is stranger than fiction, and some of the stuff served up by evolution is outrageously bizarre. There are one-celled creatures that make rats want to cozy up to cats, a parasitic worm that turns snails into “disco zombies” and an ape that communicates across continents by pushing keys to create rows and columns of pixels. I’m fascinated by all of these creatures and love writing books for children about evolutionary biology, especially the evolution of intelligence. Besides authoring How to Build a Human, I’ve written about the evolution of intelligence in dolphins (The Dolphins of Shark Bay) and crows (Crow Smarts: Inside the Brain of the World’s Brightest Bird).

Pamela's book list on children’s books about evolution

Pamela S. Turner Why did Pamela love this book?

This superb picture book for children aged 6 to 9 begins by asking children to wonder why dolphins and sharks look superficially similar, yet are less closely related than dolphins and hippos. It covers the emergence of life, evolution in the seas, the appearance of land animals, and the “return to the blue” by dolphins and whales. The illustrations are terrific: bright, simple, and kid-friendly while retaining scientific details.  

By Elizabeth Shreeve, Frann Preston-Gannon (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Out of the Blue as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 6, 7, 8, and 9.

What is this book about?

Graceful, succinct prose and engaging illustrations trace the evolution of life on Earth out of the blue and back again.

Clear and inviting nonfiction prose, vetted by scientists—together with lively illustrations and a time line—narrate how life on Earth emerged “out of the blue.” It began in the vast, empty sea when Earth was young. Single-celled microbes too small to see held the promise of all life-forms to come. Those microbes survived billions of years in restless seas until they began to change, to convert sunlight into energy, to produce oxygen until one day—Gulp!—one cell swallowed another, and the race…


Book cover of The Scientific Method: An Evolution of Thinking from Darwin to Dewey

Richard Farr Author Of You Are Here: A User's Guide to the Universe

From my list on how science actually works… or doesn’t.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was once an academic philosopher, but I found it too glamorous and well-paid so I became a novelist and private intellectual mentor instead. I wrote You Are Here because I love what science knows, but an interest in how science knows drew me into the philosophy of science, where a puzzle lurks. Scientists claim that the essence of their craft is captured in a 17th Century formula, “the scientific method”... and in a 20th Century litmus test, “falsifiability.” Philosophers claim that these two ideas are (a) both nonsense and (b) in any case mutually contradictory. So what’s going on? 

Richard's book list on how science actually works… or doesn’t

Richard Farr Why did Richard love this book?

Where and why did the modern idea of “the scientific method” show up? The somewhat disturbing answer is that it emerged from highly rhetorical attempts—mainly in one U.S. pop sci magazine in the early twentieth century—to distance wonderful “science” (in its modern sense, which was invented in the 1870s) from anything merely humanistic. The details of this hidden history leave you with the vertiginous sense that the very words we use in this areascience, rational, evidence, know—constitute a kind of fog of evidence-free non-rational assumptions.

By Henry M. Cowles,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The surprising history of the scientific method-from an evolutionary account of thinking to a simple set of steps-and the rise of psychology in the nineteenth century.

The idea of a single scientific method, shared across specialties and teachable to ten-year-olds, is just over a hundred years old. For centuries prior, science had meant a kind of knowledge, made from facts gathered through direct observation or deduced from first principles. But during the nineteenth century, science came to mean something else: a way of thinking.

The Scientific Method tells the story of how this approach took hold in laboratories, the field,…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in evolution, parasites, and pandemics?

11,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about evolution, parasites, and pandemics.

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