100 books like The Contagious City

By Simon Finger,

Here are 100 books that The Contagious City fans have personally recommended if you like The Contagious City. 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 The Province of Affliction: Illness and the Making of Early New England

Andrew M. Wehrman Author Of The Contagion of Liberty: The Politics of Smallpox in the American Revolution

From my list on understanding health and politics in the early US.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a historian of early American history who discovered the history of medicine somewhat by accident. As a history graduate student, I wanted to understand how ordinary Americans experienced the American Revolution. While digging through firsthand accounts written by average Americans, I came across a diary written by a sailor named Ashley Bowen. Although Bowen wrote made entries daily beginning in the 1760s, he hardly mentioned any of the political events that typically mark the coming of the American Revolution. Instead, day after day, he wrote about outbreaks of smallpox and how he volunteered to help his community. From then on, I began to understand just how central and inseparable health and politics are. 

Andrew's book list on understanding health and politics in the early US

Andrew M. Wehrman Why did Andrew love this book?

While hundreds of books have been written on early New England, Ben Mutschler deftly paints a portrait of life in New England “with sickness at its center.” He thoroughly integrates family struggles over illness and the demands placed on local governments into the story of the social and political development of this region that has long valued public health even as it has also endured tragic circumstances.

By Ben Mutschler,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

How do we balance individual and collective responsibility for illness? This question, which continues to resonate today, was especially pressing in colonial America, where episodic bouts of sickness were pervasive, chronic ails common, and epidemics all too familiar.

In The Province of Affliction, Ben Mutschler explores the surprising roles that illness played in shaping the foundations of New England society and government from the late seventeenth century through the early nineteenth century. Considered healthier than residents in many other regions of early America, and yet still riddled with disease, New Englanders grappled steadily with what could be expected of the…


Book cover of Necropolis: Disease, Power, and Capitalism in the Cotton Kingdom

Peter B. Dedek Author Of The Cemeteries of New Orleans: A Cultural History

From my list on the history of life, death, and magic in New Orleans.

Why am I passionate about this?

Being from Upstate New York I went to college at Cornell University but headed off to New Orleans as soon as I could. By and by I became an instructor at Delgado Community College. Always a big fan of the city’s amazing historic cemeteries, when teaching a world architectural history class, I took the class to the Metairie Cemetery where I could show the students real examples of every style from Ancient Egyptian to Modern American. After coming to Texas State University, San Marcos (30 miles from Austin), I went back to New Orleans on sabbatical in 2013 and wrote The Cemeteries of New Orleans. 

Peter's book list on the history of life, death, and magic in New Orleans

Peter B. Dedek Why did Peter love this book?

Necropolis describes how the yellow fever shaped New Orleans society in the 1800s.

While the fever was killing tens of thousands of people for almost two centuries from the founding of the city in 1718 until the last yellow fever epidemic in 1905, giving its victims horrible deaths in which they cried blood and vomited tar-like bile in the process, the disease helped preserve the city’s Creole culture by killing off a large proportion of immigrants to the city who were more susceptible than native-born New Orleans.

Before reading this book, I had no idea that being “acclimated” to yellow fever by surviving a case of this horrible disease was what made white transplants into bonafide citizens of the city. 

By Kathryn Olivarius,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Disease is thought to be a great leveler of humanity, but in antebellum New Orleans acquiring immunity from the scourge of yellow fever magnified the brutal inequities of slave-powered capitalism.

Antebellum New Orleans sat at the heart of America's slave and cotton kingdoms. It was also where yellow fever epidemics killed as many as 150,000 people during the nineteenth century. With little understanding of mosquito-borne viruses-and meager public health infrastructure-a person's only protection against the scourge was to "get acclimated" by surviving the disease. About half of those who contracted yellow fever died.

Repeated epidemics bolstered New Orleans's strict racial…


Book cover of The Cholera Years: The United States in 1832, 1849 and 1866

Andrew M. Wehrman Author Of The Contagion of Liberty: The Politics of Smallpox in the American Revolution

From my list on understanding health and politics in the early US.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a historian of early American history who discovered the history of medicine somewhat by accident. As a history graduate student, I wanted to understand how ordinary Americans experienced the American Revolution. While digging through firsthand accounts written by average Americans, I came across a diary written by a sailor named Ashley Bowen. Although Bowen wrote made entries daily beginning in the 1760s, he hardly mentioned any of the political events that typically mark the coming of the American Revolution. Instead, day after day, he wrote about outbreaks of smallpox and how he volunteered to help his community. From then on, I began to understand just how central and inseparable health and politics are. 

Andrew's book list on understanding health and politics in the early US

Andrew M. Wehrman Why did Andrew love this book?

Charles E. Rosenberg published his book, The Cholera Years, in 1962, and it has remained the classic book on the history of medicine in the 19th century United States. Rosenberg has had a singular impact on the field and has written on many public health topics, but his first book remains my favorite. Cleverly integrating the histories of social change, religion, and the contentious politics of New York City into a richly detailed chronicle of three separate epidemics of cholera, Rosenberg provides a gripping account of how Americans’ responses to public health crises have changed over time.

By Charles E. Rosenberg,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Cholera was the classic epidemic disease of the nineteenth century, as the plague had been for the fourteenth. Its defeat was a reflection not only of progress in medical knowledge but of enduring changes in American social thought. Rosenberg has focused his study on New York City, the most highly developed center of this new society. Carefully documented, full of descriptive detail, yet written with an urgent sense of the drama of the epidemic years, this narrative is as absorbing for general audiences as it is for the medical historian. In a new Afterword, Rosenberg discusses changes in historical method…


Book cover of Doctoring Freedom: The Politics of African American Medical Care in Slavery and Emancipation

Andrew M. Wehrman Author Of The Contagion of Liberty: The Politics of Smallpox in the American Revolution

From my list on understanding health and politics in the early US.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a historian of early American history who discovered the history of medicine somewhat by accident. As a history graduate student, I wanted to understand how ordinary Americans experienced the American Revolution. While digging through firsthand accounts written by average Americans, I came across a diary written by a sailor named Ashley Bowen. Although Bowen wrote made entries daily beginning in the 1760s, he hardly mentioned any of the political events that typically mark the coming of the American Revolution. Instead, day after day, he wrote about outbreaks of smallpox and how he volunteered to help his community. From then on, I began to understand just how central and inseparable health and politics are. 

Andrew's book list on understanding health and politics in the early US

Andrew M. Wehrman Why did Andrew love this book?

Gretchen Long’s book Doctoring Freedom includes remarkable stories not only of how Black people were abused and left out of American health care, such as it was in the 19th century, but centers the book on Black Americans’ efforts to support their health and their citizenship while being denied both. Long’s finely detailed case studies of Black doctors, such as John Donalson Austin who had been an enslaved herbal healer who was denied the right to practice when free, is one of many stories Long uncovers as she details the ways Black healers and doctors used clinics, hospitals, and dispensaries as sites of resistance to both medical and political authorities.

By Gretchen Long,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

For enslaved and newly freed African Americans, attaining freedom and citizenship without health for themselves and their families would have been an empty victory. Even before emancipation, African Americans recognized that control of their bodies was a critical battleground in their struggle for autonomy, and they devised strategies to retain at least some of that control. In Doctoring Freedom, Gretchen Long tells the stories of African Americans who fought for access to both medical care and medical education, showing the important relationship between medical practice and political identity.
Working closely with antebellum medical journals, planters' diaries, agricultural publications, letters from…


Book cover of Monument Lab: Creative Speculations for Philadelphia

Laura A. Macaluso Author Of Monument Culture: International Perspectives on the Future of Monuments in a Changing World

From my list on monuments in the era of controversies and removal.

Why am I passionate about this?

Laura A. Macaluso researches and writes about monuments, museums, and material culture. Interested in monuments since the 1990s, the current controversies and iconoclasm (monument removals) have reshaped society across the globe. She works at the intersection of public art and public history, at places such as George Washington’s Mount Vernon.

Laura's book list on monuments in the era of controversies and removal

Laura A. Macaluso Why did Laura love this book?

Monument Lab is one book to get your hands on, if you are curious to know how a historic city can remake its traditional monumental history to become more inclusive and reflective of a holistic past and present. The book is about the organization called Monument Lab, which works with communities, artists, and more to reshape the monument culture of Philadelphia. Filled with short essays and colorful photographs, Monument Lab and Monument Lab the book model the democratic turn towards inclusive monument making in an American city.

By Paul M. Farber (editor), Ken Lum (editor),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

What is an appropriate monument for the current city of Philadelphia? That was the question posed by the curators, artists, scholars, and students who comprise the Philadelphia-based public art and history studio Monument Lab. And in 2017, along with Mural Arts Philadelphia, they produced and organized a groundbreaking, city-wide exhibition of temporary, site-specific works that engaged directly with the community. The installations, by a cohort of diverse artists considering issues of identity, appeared in iconic public squares and neighborhood parks with research and learning labs and prototype monuments.

Monument Lab is a fabulous compendium of the exhibition and a critical…


Book cover of Mistaken Identity

Garrett Epps Author Of Democracy Reborn: The Fourteenth Amendment and the Fight for Equal Rights in Post-Civil War America

From my list on legal novels that you can't put down.

Why am I passionate about this?

Garrett Epps is the author of two published novels and five works of non-fiction about the U.S. Constitution. He graduated from Duke Law School in 1991; since then he has taught Constitutional Law at the American University, the University of Baltimore, Boston College, Duke University, and the University of Oregon. For ten years he was Supreme Court Correspondent for The Atlantic, and covered from close up cases involving the Affordable Care Act, same-sex marriage, and the Trump Administration’s immigration policies. He is now Legal Affairs Editor of The Washington Monthly, and at work on a novel about crime and justice during the years of Southern segregation. 

Garrett's book list on legal novels that you can't put down

Garrett Epps Why did Garrett love this book?

Scottoline, a former big-firm litigator, has created Benny Rosato, the founder of an all-female firm of defense lawyers, as the master of the world of courts and jails. In Mistaken Identity, however, Benny defends an unexpected client—“Alice Connoly,” who is Rosato herself, a double claiming to be a long-lost twin. What follows raises the question of why (as the mysterious defendant asks) Alice is in jail while Rosato is free, secure, and successful. In a way, Mistaken Identity is a feminist version of The Trial--a fever dream of that same hellish world that Kafka saw beneath K.’s feet--the law, supernatural and inhuman, that waits to devour the innocent and the guilty alike.

By Lisa Scottoline,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Another riveting courtroom thriller from the female John Grisham.

Crack trial lawyer Bennie Rosato is called to the local prison to consult with Alice Connolly, a woman accused of committing cold-blooded murder and who wants Bennie to represent her at the trial. Bennie has no intention of taking the case, until she comes face to face with Connolly: the incarcerated woman is a dead ringer for Bennie - and claims to be her long-lost twin sister. Disbelieving but somehow convinced, Bennie takes on the case against her better judgement, and starts sniffing out the corruption and dangerous cover-up that lies…


Book cover of Philadelphia Fire

Natalie Pompilio Author Of Walking Philadelphia: 30 Walking Tours Exploring Art, Architecture, History, and Little-Known Gems

From my list on fiction set in the City of Brotherly Love.

Why am I passionate about this?

My usual answer, when someone asks me where I live in Philadelphia, is: “Have you seen the Rocky movies, where he’s running through that open fruit/vegetable market? I’m three blocks from there.” I’ve called Philadelphia home for more than 20 years. I’m clearly a big fan, having now written four books about the city. I include a reference to the city’s most famous fictional character in my children’s alphabet book Philadelphia A to Z. In More Philadelphia Murals and the Stories They Tell, I got to tell stories about the country’s largest public art program. In This Used To Be Philadelphia, I told the then and now stories of dozens of city locations.

Natalie's book list on fiction set in the City of Brotherly Love

Natalie Pompilio Why did Natalie love this book?

This book couldn’t be set anywhere else. In 1985, a stand-off between city authorities and members of the MOVE organization ended when a state police helicopter dropped two bombs on MOVE’s West Philadelphia headquarters. Eleven people died, including five children, and more than 60 homes were destroyed. Two residents of the house – a 13-year-old boy and an adult woman – survived the conflagration. 

MOVE members believed in racial justice, animal rights, and a back-to-nature lifestyle. The group frequently clashed with neighbors and city leaders. On the day of the bombing, police had gone to the MOVE home to evict those living there. 

As a newspaper reporter, I twice interviewed two police officers on the scene who helped young Birdie Africa as he fled the burning home. The first words Birdie said to the officers were, “Don’t shoot me.” Two decades after the bombing, the police officers were still haunted…

By John Edgar Wideman,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In 1985 police bombed a West Philadelphia row house. Eleven people died and a fire started that destroyed sixty other houses. John Edgar Wideman brings these events and their repercussions to shocking life in this seminal novel.

At the heart of Philadelphia Fire is Cudjoe, a writer and exile who returns to his old neighbourhood and who becomes obsessed with the search for a lone survivor of the event, a young boy seen running from the flames.

One of Wideman's most ambitious and celebrated works, Philadelphia Fire is about race, life and survival in urban America.


Book cover of Vigilance: The Life of William Still, Father of the Underground Railroad

Richard J.M. Blackett Author Of Samuel Ringgold Ward: A Life of Struggle

From my list on abolitionist biographies about African American history.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was not trained in African American history, but first developed a passion for it during my first teaching job in Pittsburgh, where a number of my colleagues were interested in locating the origins of Black Nationalism and began researching the life of a local black physician, Martin R. Delany. That led me to a wider exploration of nineteenth-century African American history.

Richard's book list on abolitionist biographies about African American history

Richard J.M. Blackett Why did Richard love this book?

A child of slavery, Still became a major figure in the Underground Railroad in Philadelphia which worked to undermine slavery by aiding the enslaved to reach freedom.

Wish I had this book when I was writing my book. There is no better book on the movement in eastern Pennsylvania and Still’s roll in it.

By Andrew K. Diemer,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The remarkable and inspiring story of William Still, an unknown abolitionist who dedicated his life to managing a critical section of the Underground Railroad in Philadelphia—the free state directly north of the Mason-Dixon Line—helping hundreds of people escape from slavery.

Born free in 1821 to two parents who had been enslaved, William Still was drawn to antislavery work from a young age. Hired as a clerk at the Anti-Slavery office in Philadelphia after teaching himself to read and write, he began directly assisting enslaved people who were crossing over from the South into freedom. Andrew Diemer captures the full range…


Book cover of God Almighty Hisself: The Life and Legacy of Dick Allen

David Vaught Author Of Spitter: Baseball's Notorious Gaylord Perry

From my list on deep-dive baseball biographies.

Why am I passionate about this?

Writing this book brought back memories from my childhood—of watching Perry pitch in the late 1960s and, more deeply, of relations with my parents. My father (a math prof at UC Berkeley) and mother cared little for sports, but by the time I turned seven, an identity uniquely my own emerged from my infatuation with the San Francisco Giants. By age ten, I regularly sneaked off to Candlestick Park, which required two long bus rides and a hike through one of the city’s worst neighborhoods. I knew exactly when I had to leave to retrace my journey to get home in time for dinner. Baseball was, and remains, in my blood.

David's book list on deep-dive baseball biographies

David Vaught Why did David love this book?

Nathanson (like me) faced the dilemma of writing biography when the subject declines to be interviewed. His approach showed me the way. The availability of digital newspaper databases has opened up enormous possibilities for research, and Nathanson took advantage of them to provide color, detail, and analysis on a grand scale. The many dozens of reporters and newspaper writers who covered Dick Allen wrote game accounts, opinion columns, and feature stories that informed, inspired, and entertained contemporary readers. They watched the games from the vantage point of the press box, peppered the players and managers with questions in the clubhouse afterward, and often rode the buses and planes with the teams. They had a level of access that is the envy of historians, and Nathanson greatly profited from their work.

By Mitchell Nathanson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

When the Philadelphia Phillies signed Dick Allen in 1960, fans of the franchise envisioned bearing witness to feats never before accomplished by a Phillies player. A half-century later, they're still trying to make sense of what they saw.
Carrying to the plate baseball's heaviest and loudest bat as well as the burden of being the club's first African American superstar, Allen found both hits and controversy with ease and regularity as he established himself as the premier individualist in a game that prided itself on conformity. As one of his managers observed, "I believe God Almighty hisself would have trouble…


Book cover of Fever 1793

Elizabeth Langston Author Of Whisper Falls

From my list on fish out of water” historical novels.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve always loved learning about the past. Whenever we travel for vacation, my family has become resigned to making a stop at a historical site, especially for Colonial America. It was no surprise to them that I set parts of my first published novel (and series) in 18th century North Carolina. Each novel on my book list is set in a different century and features ordinary people who, when thrown into extraordinary circumstances, respond with strength, courage, and grace. These historical “fish-out-of-water” stories remind us how much people have changed across time—and how they’ve stayed the same. 

Elizabeth's book list on fish out of water” historical novels

Elizabeth Langston Why did Elizabeth love this book?

When I first read Fever 1793—set in Philadelphia during a yellow fever epidemic—I thought it was a well-written and thought-provoking glimpse into how people would respond in a crisis. After re-reading it post-pandemic, I would now add “prophetic.” Mattie is a typical grumpy teen who would rather have fun than work in her family’s coffee house. But there is a deadly fever rapidly spreading through the city. Desperation unleashes her inner strength, allowing her to prevail over disease, fear, food shortages, unscrupulous thieves, and well-intentioned but poorly-managed medical science.

By Laurie Halse Anderson,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Fever 1793 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 12, 13, 14, and 15.

What is this book about?

Synopsis coming soon.......


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