THE PANDEMIC CENTURY

ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF PANIC, HYSTERIA, AND HUBRIS

Avoiding the hyperbole that contemporary media relished, Honigsbaum mixes superb medical history with vivid portraits of the...

Powerful accounts of a dozen epidemics from the last 100 years.

Journalist and medical historian Honigsbaum (Arts and Sciences/City Univ., London; A History of the Great Influenza Pandemics: Death, Panic and Hysteria, 1830-1920, 2013, etc.) begins this lively, gruesome, and masterful book with the 1918 Spanish flu, which infected 500 million people and may have killed more than 100 million. Many that followed, including AIDS, Ebola, Legionnaires’ disease, SARS, and Zika, are familiar to most readers. Lost to history—but no less terrifying—were the Los Angeles plague epidemic of 1924 and the wave of parrot fever that swept the nation after 1929. All mobilized the best scientific resources of the time, with results ranging from dramatic to ineffectual. Fortunately, all eventually died out, but more are inevitable as humans crowd into cities as well as into the wilderness and jungle, where new organisms await; douse our bodies’ bacteria with antibiotics; and exchange viruses with pets and domestic animals. “Time and again,” writes the author, “we assist microbes to occupy new ecological niches and spread to new places in ways that usually become apparent after the event. And to judge by the recent run of pandemics and epidemics, the process seems to be speeding up. If HIV and SARS were wake-up calls, then Ebola and Zika confirmed it.” Most pandemics arrived without warning. Physicians and epidemiologists quickly described what was happening, often wrongly at first but eventually getting it right after massive research, brilliant insights, and no lack of courage. As Honigsbaum amply shows, politicians and journalists often ignored bad news until they couldn’t and then opposed measures that might harm the local economy. Since even medical experts tended to overreact at first, the media can be excused for proclaiming the apocalypse, but they showed no lack of enthusiasm.

Avoiding the hyperbole that contemporary media relished, Honigsbaum mixes superb medical history with vivid portraits of the worldwide reactions to each event.

Pub Date: April 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-393-25475-4

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON

THE OSAGE MURDERS AND THE BIRTH OF THE FBI

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

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Greed, depravity, and serial murder in 1920s Oklahoma.

During that time, enrolled members of the Osage Indian nation were among the wealthiest people per capita in the world. The rich oil fields beneath their reservation brought millions of dollars into the tribe annually, distributed to tribal members holding "headrights" that could not be bought or sold but only inherited. This vast wealth attracted the attention of unscrupulous whites who found ways to divert it to themselves by marrying Osage women or by having Osage declared legally incompetent so the whites could fleece them through the administration of their estates. For some, however, these deceptive tactics were not enough, and a plague of violent death—by shooting, poison, orchestrated automobile accident, and bombing—began to decimate the Osage in what they came to call the "Reign of Terror." Corrupt and incompetent law enforcement and judicial systems ensured that the perpetrators were never found or punished until the young J. Edgar Hoover saw cracking these cases as a means of burnishing the reputation of the newly professionalized FBI. Bestselling New Yorker staff writer Grann (The Devil and Sherlock Holmes: Tales of Murder, Madness, and Obsession, 2010, etc.) follows Special Agent Tom White and his assistants as they track the killers of one extended Osage family through a closed local culture of greed, bigotry, and lies in pursuit of protection for the survivors and justice for the dead. But he doesn't stop there; relying almost entirely on primary and unpublished sources, the author goes on to expose a web of conspiracy and corruption that extended far wider than even the FBI ever suspected. This page-turner surges forward with the pacing of a true-crime thriller, elevated by Grann's crisp and evocative prose and enhanced by dozens of period photographs.

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

Pub Date: April 18, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-385-53424-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

NIGHT

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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