52 books like The Coming Plague

By Laurie Garrett,

Here are 52 books that The Coming Plague fans have personally recommended if you like The Coming Plague. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of The Hot Zone

MJ Howson Author Of Dawn of Eve

From my list on scaring and thrilling you without bathing you in blood.

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up reading Stephen King and Michael Crichton. That combination of horror and techno-thriller greatly impacted my writing style and genre. I love a page-turner and chapters that end with a cliffhanger. I love that creepy feeling of dread that washes over you when engrossed in a scary scene. I love when you put a book down for the night, turn off the light, and then wince when you hear a strange noise in the other room. I love a story that's so believable that you can't help but wonder, "Could this happen...maybe even to me?" If you do, too, you may enjoy my books.

MJ's book list on scaring and thrilling you without bathing you in blood

MJ Howson Why did MJ love this book?

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 with me.

When I write, I do my best to use the five senses to create the perfect atmosphere.

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

Susan M. Sterett Author Of Litigating the Pandemic: Disaster Cascades in Court

From my list on governing disasters in a changing climate.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have long been drawn to everyday experiences in courts. Since Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005, I’ve been writing and teaching about courts, social welfare, and disasters in a changing climate. Following the disasters requires noticing the routine cases filed, not only the notable constitutional claims the United States Supreme Court hears. That can be hard to do, because all the cases filed are not listed in any one place. In the pandemic, my interest in the more ordinary met the databases that people assembled, gathering as best possible the many cases filed about the pandemic.

Susan's book list on governing disasters in a changing climate

Susan M. Sterett Why did Susan love this book?

The 1918 flu killed millions, including 675,000 in the United States. It rapidly killed young people. The president of the United States never spoke of it.

The United States was at war, and officials claimed speaking of the flu would undermine the war effort. Not speaking of the flu fit well with widespread suppression of speech, which officials also justified by pointing to the war. Civil rights and liberties claims linked to that pandemic as it did in COVID-19.

Mr. Barry’s sprawling story includes many actors. Mr. Barry argues that managing a pandemic requires trust. In the COVID-19 pandemic, trust could still be hard to come by, even as medical care, labor, insurance, schooling, and the place of courts had changed over the intervening one hundred years. 

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 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 Beating Back the Devil

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?

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…

Book cover of Pale Rider: The Spanish Flu of 1918 and How It Changed the World

Lesley Kelly Author Of The Health of Strangers

From my list on pandemics and humanity.

Why am I passionate about this?

In my day job working for a charity, I work with emergency planners, examining how we can minimise the harm caused by disasters, including outbreaks of disease. I’m fascinated by the measures in place to deal with catastrophes, and how contingency planners respond on a practical and a human level. When writing my novel about a killer virus, I devoured both fiction and non-fiction books tackling pandemics ranging from the Black Death to Aids. I am confident I know the skills needed to survive when a pandemic reduces the world’s population to a small, doughty band of survivors. I am not confident I possess these skills.

Lesley's book list on pandemics and humanity

Lesley Kelly Why did Lesley love this book?

I read this book as background reading for writing my own virus-based novel, and it was an absolutely fascinating study of the response to a pandemic that took place almost exactly a century ago. It covers everything from the role of the First World War troops’ demobilisation on spreading the virus, to the impact of poverty on infection rates, to why young, fit people were the most likely to die of the illness. And, of course, why it was called Spanish Flu in the first place (spoiler alert: not because it came from Spain!)

By Laura Spinney,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Read the devastating story of the Spanish flu - the twentieth century's greatest killer - and discover what it can teach us about the current Covid-19 pandemic.

'Both a saga of tragedies and a detective story... Pale Rider is not just an excavation but a reimagining of the past' Guardian

With a death toll of between 50 and 100 million people and a global reach, the Spanish flu of 1918-1920 was the greatest human disaster, not only of the twentieth century, but possibly in all of recorded history. And yet, in our popular conception it exists largely as a footnote…

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 Partner to the Poor: A Paul Farmer Reader

T.M. Lemos Author Of Violence and Personhood in Ancient Israel and Comparative Contexts

From my list on the comparative history of violence.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a biblical scholar who has become a historian of violence because I could no longer ignore the realities of the present or my own past. I write of violence for my childhood self, who was bullied for a decade and used to run away from school.  I write of it for my grandfather, who was born of exploitation.  I write of it for my African-American wife and daughter, in the hopes that I might contribute to the elimination of hierarchies that threaten their dignity and sometimes their lives.  Doing this work is not just intellectual for me—it is a memorialization and a ritual of healing. 

T.M.'s book list on the comparative history of violence

T.M. Lemos Why did T.M. love this book?

While Farmer is a physician and anthropologist rather than a historian and these collected essays are not historical in a strict sense, Farmer's account of structural violence is clear, readable, and evocative. An understanding of structural violence is a prerequisite for understanding the phenomenon of violence in any context, present or past.

By Paul Farmer,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Partner to the Poor as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

For nearly thirty years, anthropologist and physician Paul Farmer has traveled to some of the most impoverished places on earth to bring comfort and the best possible medical care to the poorest of the poor. Driven by his stated intent to 'make human rights substantial', Farmer has treated patients - and worked to address the root causes of their disease - in Haiti, Boston, Peru, Rwanda, and elsewhere in the developing world. In 1987, with several colleagues, he founded Partners In Health to provide a preferential option for the poor in health care. Throughout his career, Farmer has written eloquently…

Book cover of Tinderbox: How the West Sparked the AIDS Epidemic and How the World Can Finally Overcome it

Stephanie Nolen Author Of 28: Stories of AIDS in Africa

From my list on understanding Africa’s AIDS pandemic and feeling hopeful.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m the global health reporter for The New York Times, the latest iteration in 30 years as a foreign correspondent. I’ve covered wars and humanitarian disasters, but it’s health stories that have always drawn me most. Health stories are intimate and personal, but they’re also about politics and economics, and social norms – about power. I’ve written about the Zika virus crisis in Brazil, child malnutrition in India, teen suicide in the Arctic – but no story has drawn me in and kept me riveted like Africa’s AIDS pandemic has over the past 25 years. I intend to keep reporting on it until the day a cure is found.

Stephanie's book list on understanding Africa’s AIDS pandemic and feeling hopeful

Stephanie Nolen Why did Stephanie love this book?

Craig Timberg was a reporting colleague when I was a correspondent in South Africa, and became a friend, one with whom I often passionately disagreed.

That’s why I suggest this book: it offers a very different perspective than mine. Craig and his co-author Halperin, an epidemiologist whose work had a big influence on Craig’s thinking, draw a clear through-line for how Western powers created the sparks of the African epidemic then vigorously fanned them.

A significant chunk of the book focuses on solutions (Halperin is a vociferous champion of male circumcision as an intervention to drive down the spread of the virus). It’s a brisk read that makes complex epidemiological dynamics accessible.

By Craig Timberg, Daniel Halperin,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In this groundbreaking narrative, longtime Washington Post reporter Craig Timberg and award-winning AIDS researcher Daniel Halperin tell the surprising story of how Western colonial powers unwittingly sparked the AIDS epidemic and then fanned its rise. Drawing on remarkable new science, Tinderbox overturns the conventional wisdom on the origins of this deadly pandemic and the best ways to fight it today.

Recent genetic studies have traced the birth of HIV to the forbidding equatorial forests of Cameroon, where chimpanzees carried the virus for millennia without causing a major outbreak in humans. During the Scramble for Africa, colonial companies blazed new routes…

Book cover of Indonesia, Etc.: Exploring the Improbable Nation

David H. Mould Author Of Postcards from Stanland: Journeys in Central Asia

From my list on places people think are too dodgy to visit.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m an accidental travel writer. For 25 years, I’ve made frequent work trips to the developing world for workshops and research projects, traveling widely in Central, South, and Southeast Asia and Southern Africa. I record what I see and learn, and my conversations with people and write about them in emails, blogs, and later books. Stanland was the first, followed by Monsoon Postcards: Indian Ocean Journeys and Postcards from the Borderlands. I don’t need to be at a scenic overlook or a historic site to find interest. If you’re new to a place, the every day—things so familiar to those who live there that they don’t think about them—are worth recording.

David's book list on places people think are too dodgy to visit

David H. Mould Why did David love this book?

I’ve travelled to more than 40 countries, and written about many, but when I’m asked which I’d like to explore more, my answer is always Indonesia. Elizabeth Pisani, a journalist turned epidemiologist, travelled across the vast archipelago, clocking more than 21,000 miles by boat, bus, and motorbike, and as many by plane. More than half a century since gaining independence from the Dutch, the world’s fourth most populous country, with more than 300 ethnic groups, is still struggling to establish its identity amid regional conflicts, the depletion of natural resources, and a growing wealth gap. With insight and wit, Pisani takes the reader on an enthralling, sometimes maddening journey from crowded cities to remote islands, where she bumps into people from many walks of life—from politicians to peasant farmers—as she tries to make sense of an “improbable nation.” 

By Elizabeth Pisani,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Declaring independence in 1945, Indonesia said it would "work out the details of the transfer of power etc. as soon as possible." With over 300 ethnic groups spread across over 13,500 islands, the world's fourth most populous nation has been working on that "etc." ever since. Author Elizabeth Pisani traveled 26,000 miles in search of the links that bind this disparate nation.

Book cover of The End of October

Andrew Golizsek Author Of Rivers of the Black Moon

From my list on thrillers about pandemics and medical mysteries.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a researcher at Wake Forest University School of Medicine and a college professor who has taught biology and anatomy & physiology, I have a unique insight into the mysteries of the human body and how existing and emerging viruses can wreak havoc on the world’s populations. In light of the COVID pandemic that killed millions and the threat of older and increasingly virulent pathogens, I find it terrifying that viruses could be unleashed that leave us defenseless. Despite all our advances and knowledge, medical mysteries continue to intrigue us and spark our imaginations. We are drawn to them, now more than ever, hoping that the fiction we read about will not become reality.

Andrew's book list on thrillers about pandemics and medical mysteries

Andrew Golizsek Why did Andrew love this book?

From the first chapter, I could not put this book down.

When a lethal and highly transmittable virus turns its victims blue, and the Russians blame America for unleashing a deadly virus, I knew I was about to dive into a true medical thriller. I also thought the timing of this novel was disturbing, reminding me all too well of recent disease outbreaks and then taking me on a journey into a world where plagues and pandemics can easily become commonplace.

To his credit, Lawrence Wright managed to weave science and fiction into a plot that frightened as well as entertained.

By Lawrence Wright,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • From the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Looming Tower—a riveting thriller and “all-too-convincing chronicle of science, espionage, action and speculation” (The Wall Street Journal).

At an internment camp in Indonesia, forty-seven people are pronounced dead with acute hemorrhagic fever. When epidemiologist Henry Parsons travels there on behalf of the World Health Organization to investigate, what he finds will have staggering repercussions. Halfway across the globe, the deputy director of U.S. Homeland Security scrambles to mount a response to the rapidly spreading pandemic leapfrogging around the world, which she believes may be the result of an…

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