85 books like The Hot Zone

By Richard Preston,

Here are 85 books that The Hot Zone fans have personally recommended if you like The Hot Zone. 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 Medical Detectives: The Classic Collection of Award-Winning Medical Investigative Reporting

Edith Forbes Author Of Tracking a Shadow: My Lived Experiment with MS

From my list on curious people on the hunt for new knowledge.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a novelist, I am endlessly curious about people and like hearing their stories. As an erstwhile computer programmer and farmer, I also have a lifelong interest in science and natural history. When I find those two divergent interests have cross-pollinated in a single gracefully-written book, I am a very happy reader. I love books that weave together an intriguing scientific question with the human story of the scientists pursuing an answer to that question.

Edith's book list on curious people on the hunt for new knowledge

Edith Forbes Why did Edith love this book?

Ever since my seventh-grade science teacher used my flyaway hair to demonstrate static electricity, I have loved science, and I also like mystery stories. This classic collection of short pieces is a favorite in both arenas. It is like a true crime series in which the villains are microorganisms and molecules. Unraveling puzzles involving all manner of medical issues, from rabies to toxic chemicals, these case-study stories kept me riveted from beginning to end. Mostly written from the 1940s to the 1960s, they also touch on some shocking medical practices that one hopes are now outdated.

By Berton Roueché,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The classic collection of award-winning medical investigative reporting.

What do Lyme's disease in Long Island, a pig from New Jersey, and am amateur pianist have in common? All are subjects in three of 24 utterly fascinating tales of strange illnesses, rare diseases, poisons, and parasites-each tale a thriller of medical suspense by the incomparable Berton Roueche. The best of his New Yorker articles are collected here to astound readers with intriguing tales of epidemics in America's small towns, threats of contagion in our biggest cities, even bubonic plague in a peaceful urban park.

In each true story, local health authorities…


Book cover of The Decameron

Dianne Hales Author Of La Passione: How Italy Seduced the World

From my list on italy and italian.

Why am I passionate about this?

Decades ago, I fell madly, gladly, and giddily in love with Italian. This passion inspired La Bella Lingua: My Love Affair with the World’s Most Enchanting Language, which became a New York Times best-seller and won an Italian knighthood for my contributions to promoting Italy’s language. Intrigued by the world’s most famous portrait, I wrote Mona Lisa: A Life Discovered, an Amazon Best Book of the Year, translated into seven languages. My most recent journeys through Italian culture are La Passione: How Italy Seduced the World and  ‘A’ Is for Amore, an e-book written during the pandemic and available free on my website.

Dianne's book list on italy and italian

Dianne Hales Why did Dianne love this book?

During a plague that killed a quarter of Florence’s citizens, Boccaccio crafted an exuberant, entertaining, death-defying work of literature. In this book, seven young women and three young men taking refuge in a country villa swap 100 tales of love, lust, mischief, and treachery. 

I read a translation of The Decameron during a sabbatical in Italy and was swept back in time. In every village, I’d look around a piazza and see characters straight from its pages: wily merchants, corrupt politicians, clever wives, henpecked husbands, bumbling fools. This book still resonates in the 21st century—a tribute to Boccaccio’s skill as a spell-weaver. Some of his stories are shamelessly, laughably bawdy. But all remind us that, even as everything changes, our shared humanity remains the same.

By Giovanni Boccaccio,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked The Decameron as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In the summer of 1348, as the Black Death ravages their city, ten young Florentines take refuge in the countryside...

Taken from the Greek, meaning 'ten-day event', Boccaccio's Decameron sees his characters amuse themselves by each telling a story a day, for the ten days of their confinement - a hundred stories of love and adventure, life and death, and surprising twists of fate. Less preoccupied with abstract concepts of morality or religion than earthly values, the tales range from the bawdy Peronella, hiding her lover in a tub, to Ser Cepperallo, who, despite his unholy effrontery, becomes a Saint.…


Book cover of A Journal of the Plague Year

Ericka Johnson Author Of A Cultural Biography of the Prostate

From my list on think twice about your doctor’s advice.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have an annoying habit of figuring out why someone says or believes what they do—and think that is more interesting than their actual ‘truth’. I try to keep this in check during social events (it can make for painful dinner table conversations if I go too far). Still, it means the general take on the medical humanities (and I’d put all the books below in that wide category) is something I’m passionate about. Why do we believe what we do about health? About disease? About the body? And why do we think medical doctors have the truth for us? 

Ericka's book list on think twice about your doctor’s advice

Ericka Johnson Why did Ericka love this book?

I read this book 3 months into the COVID-19 pandemic and LOVED it—it totally made me realize that: 1. we’ve been here before; 2. our reactions and responses are all tried and true (and probably not that useful); and 3. we would survive this time, too—at least most of us.

This is Daniel Defoe (yes, you know him from Robinson Crusoe) explaining what it was like to live in London when the plague came. It wasn’t pretty. The most chilling moment in the book came at the end, when I googled facts about the plague, realized it went away, and then came back repeatedly for decades.

By Daniel Defoe,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked A Journal of the Plague Year as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The haunting cry of "Bring out your dead!" by a bell-ringing collector of 17th-century plague victims has filled readers across the centuries with cold terror. The chilling cry survives in historical consciousness largely as a result of this classic 1722 account of the epidemic of bubonic plague — known as the Black Death — that ravaged England in 1664–1665.
Actually written nearly 60 years later by Daniel Defoe, the Journal is narrated by a Londoner named "H. F.," who allegedly lived through the devastating effects of the pestilence and produced this eye witness account. Drawing on his considerable talents as…


Book cover of Rats, Lice and History

Charles Kenny Author Of The Plague Cycle: The Unending War Between Humanity and Infectious Disease

From my list on plague outbreaks.

Why am I passionate about this?

Charles Kenny is a writer-researcher at the Center for Global Development and has worked on policy reforms in global health as well as UN peacekeeping and combating international financial corruption. Previously, he spent fifteen years as an economist at the World Bank, travelling the planet from Baghdad and Kabul to Brasilia and Beijing. He earned a history degree at Cambridge and has graduate degrees from Johns Hopkins, the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, and Cambridge. 

Charles' book list on plague outbreaks

Charles Kenny Why did Charles love this book?

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.

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…


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 Plague

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?

I especially love this novel as Camus applies his background in existential philosophy to elevate the medical thriller genre into the realm of the metaphysical.

I love how the novel uses the plot device of an outbreak of the plague to force me as a reader to move  beyond the surface questions of “What?” “When?” and “Where?” to ask the deeper question of “Why?” and “What now?”

By Albert Camus,

Why should I read it?

10 authors picked The Plague as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“Its relevance lashes you across the face.” —Stephen Metcalf, The Los Angeles Times • “A redemptive book, one that wills the reader to believe, even in a time of despair.” —Roger Lowenstein, The Washington Post 

A haunting tale of human resilience and hope in the face of unrelieved horror, Albert Camus' iconic novel about an epidemic ravaging the people of a North African coastal town is a classic of twentieth-century literature. 

The townspeople of Oran are in the grip of a deadly plague, which condemns its victims to a swift and horrifying death. Fear, isolation and claustrophobia follow as they…


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 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 The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat And Other Clinical Tales

Dean-David Schillinger MD Author Of Telltale Hearts: A Public Health Doctor, His Patients, and the Power of Story

From my list on books by or about doctors that focus on our shared humanity.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a primary care doctor who is fascinated by my patient’s stories and what they reveal about their lives, their illnesses, and their pathways to recovery. I have always been a lover of literature related to the human condition and “the big questions,” having majored in Russian Language and Literature as an undergraduate. All the books I have chosen were written by physicians who were accomplished not only in the sciences but in the arts. I hope you enjoy this hybridization of disciplines as much as I have!

Dean-David's book list on books by or about doctors that focus on our shared humanity

Dean-David Schillinger MD Why did Dean-David love this book?

I was simply stunned by this book. Dr. Sacks, a neurologist, drew me into the inner mysteries of the brain by describing the amazing lives and characters of some his most bizarrely afflicted patients. I was delighted to see how some of them overcame or coped with their afflictions, and I finished the book with an indescribable feeling of the magical alchemy of science and story to reveal our deepest truths.

By Oliver Sacks,

Why should I read it?

12 authors picked The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat And Other Clinical Tales as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Celebrating Fifty Years of Picador Books

If a man has lost a leg or an eye, he knows he has lost a leg or an eye; but if he has lost a self - himself - he cannot know it, because he is no longer there to know it.

In this extraordinary book, Dr. Oliver Sacks recounts the stories of patients struggling to adapt to often bizarre worlds of neurological disorder. Here are people who can no longer recognize everyday objects or those they love; who are stricken with violent tics or shout involuntary obscenities, and yet are gifted with…


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