The most recommended infection books

Who picked these books? Meet our 7 experts.

7 authors created a book list connected to infection, and here are their favorite infection books.
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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.

Who am I?

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 Natural History of Infectious Disease

John M. Barry Author Of The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History

From my list on disease and society.

Who am I?

John M. Barry was the only non-scientist ever to give the National Academies of Sciences Abel Wolman Distinguished Lecture, and he advised the Bush and Obama White Houses on pandemic preparedness and response. He is an award-winning and #1 New York Times best-selling author whose books have also involved him in policy making. The National Academies of Science named The Great Influenza the year’s outstanding book on science or medicine.

John's book list on disease and society

John M. Barry Why did John love this book?

This provides the reader with the background to understand what happens when a pathogen invades both an individual and a society. It’s an absolutely brilliant book by a Nobel laureate scientist, one of my all-time favorites on any subject.

By David O. White, Macfarlane Burnet,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Provides a biological inquiry into the causes and spread of infectious disease and its impact on human survival


Book cover of The Last Plague

David Moody Author Of Dawn

From my list on the inevitable bleakness of the apocalypse.

Who am I?

I’ve been writing about the end of the world for years, so I know my way around the apocalypse! It’s not as dark as it sounds – it’s not the end of the world itself that I find fascinating, it’s imagining the reactions of the people who inhabit these nightmare scenarios. I’m a people watcher at heart, and these days it seems we’re increasingly restricted by the polarization of society, almost forced to pick a side. Come the apocalypse, all the preconceptions and regulations will be stripped away, and folks will behave as they genuinely want to, not how they think they should. Now that would really be something to behold!

David's book list on the inevitable bleakness of the apocalypse

David Moody Why did David love this book?

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

By Rich Hawkins,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

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


Book cover of Epidemics: The Impact of Germs and Their Power over Humanity

Carol R. Byerly Author Of Fever of War: The Influenza Epidemic in the U.S. Army During World War I

From my list on how diseases shape society.

Who am I?

Carol R. Byerly is a historian specializing in the history of military medicine. She has taught American history and the history of medicine history at the University of Colorado, Boulder, was a contract historian for the U.S. Army Office of the Surgeon General, Office of History, and has also worked for the U.S. Congress and the American Red Cross. Byerly’s publications include Fever of War: The Influenza Epidemic in the U.S. Army during World War I and Good Tuberculosis Men: The Army Medical Department’s Struggle with Tuberculosis. She is currently working on a biography of Army medical officer William C. Gorgas, (1854-1920), whose public health measures, including clearing yellow fever from Panama, enabled the United States to construct the canal across the Isthmus.

Carol's book list on how diseases shape society

Carol R. Byerly Why did Carol love this book?

This is a sweeping study of disease in human history written by a scientist who describes both the biological and historical trajectory of ten infectious diseases that have afflicted human society, from bubonic plague to HIV/Aids. While science and medicine continue to find ways to control individual diseases, new infections and parasites continue to emerge to sicken, disable and kill. Loomis concludes with a thoughtful discussion about the future of epidemic disease as we continue to alter our global environment.

By Joshua Loomis,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This book comprehensively reviews the 10 most influential epidemics in history, going beyond morbid accounts of symptoms and statistics to tell the often forgotten stories of what made these epidemics so calamitous.

Unlike other books on epidemics, which either focus on the science behind how microbes cause disease or tell first-person accounts of one particular disease, Epidemics: The Impact of Germs and Their Power over Humanity takes a holistic approach to explaining how these diseases have shaped who we are as a society. Each of the worst epidemic diseases is discussed from the perspective of how it has been a…


Book cover of Infection

A.L. Masters Author Of The Turning

From my list on binge-worthy apocalyptic reads.

Who am I?

The moment I read the first page of The Stand, I was hooked on apocalypse stories. The good ones make you question your lifestyle and the bad ones give you hours of tragic entertainment. You’ll be stockpiling rice and toilet paper, and leaving on the hall light against the dark. You’ll be scanning obscure headlines for news of rapidly-spreading diseases and shoveling your own fallout shelter at the first sign of nuclear saber-rattling. Apocalyptic novels can make you into a more prepared person—or a crazy one—and sometimes they’ll even become your career. My recommendation list helped shape me into the writer I am today… sorry about that.

A.L.'s book list on binge-worthy apocalyptic reads

A.L. Masters Why did A.L. love this book?

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

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

By M. P. McDonald,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

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

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

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


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.

Who am I?

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 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.

Who am I?

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…


The Work of Literature in an Age of Post-Truth

By Christopher Schaberg,

Book cover of The Work of Literature in an Age of Post-Truth

Virginia Rademacher Author Of Derivative Lives: Biofiction, Uncertainty, and Speculative Risk in Contemporary Spanish Narrative

From my list on combating post-truth contagions.

Who am I?

I’m a writer and professor of literary studies whose work has been deeply involved in topics of truth, realism, and public policy. My recent book considers works of fiction that openly and honestly experiment with questions of uncertainty, identity, and risk in the supermodern present. This book draws from disciplinary discourses in law, finance, and economics, which similarly contend with competing claims to truth and value and dive deep into the circumstantial and speculative games that authors play when they write fiction about reality. I have my PhD in Spanish Literature (UVA), M.A. in International Affairs and Economics (Johns Hopkins Univ.), and a B.A. from Harvard University.

Virginia's book list on combating post-truth contagions

Virginia Rademacher Why did Virginia love this book?

I loved this writer’s brilliant combination of memoir, eco- and literary criticism, and an exploration of contemporary life.

Each chapter feels so personal, and yet Schaberg manages to connect these experiences to broader questions of how we live our lives, what matters, and how many things (including the health of the planet and the confidence we have in truth) are under threat–and we need to protect them simultaneously.

I imagine Schaberg is as deeply engaging teacher as he is a writer. I found this book deeply compelling and relevant. 

The Work of Literature in an Age of Post-Truth

By Christopher Schaberg,


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