A useful book that effectively “conveys the challenges posed by infectious disease and relates a story of unparalleled...

BETWEEN HOPE AND FEAR

A HISTORY OF VACCINES AND HUMAN IMMUNITY

A comprehensive history of the science of vaccination.

Next to clean water, vaccines are the greatest lifesaver in modern society, so readers of this admirable account will thrill to stories of the conquest of historical plagues (smallpox, diphtheria, polio) and research into preventing today’s deadly infections (AIDS, tuberculosis, dengue, Ebola). Biting off more than many writers could chew, Kinch (Pharmacology/Washington Univ.; A Prescription for Change: The Looming Crisis in Drug Development, 2016) adds a fine history of the evolution of life, emphasizing the development and operation of the immune system. And there’s more. At regular intervals, the author returns to a subject of intense interest to a small group that will likely not buy his book: opponents of vaccination. Although much in the news, they have existed since the beginning, and their reasons have only one thread in common: All are wrong. “The volume and advocacy of false facts by an obnoxious and loud minority has overwhelmed the fact-based attempts by credible sources to expound the extraordinary health benefits of vaccination,” writes Kinch. “Unfortunately, the scientific community has largely demurred from confronting these loud disagreements.” Partly through their efforts, American smallpox deaths rose during the 19th century after the introduction of vaccination. It was the law that turned the tide. Beginning in 1905, court decisions affirmed that compulsory vaccination, like water chlorination, is a legitimate government public health function. Courts—not the facts—remain the American anti-vaccine movement’s most effective opponent. Like evidence that the Earth is not flat or that Elvis is dead, careful studies showing that vaccines save lives rarely convince true believers and bore many who have not taken up the cause, but readers who persist will be rewarded with a riveting chronicle of one of the greatest accomplishments in the history of medical science.

A useful book that effectively “conveys the challenges posed by infectious disease and relates a story of unparalleled successes in vaccines that have raised both the quality and quantity of life for all people.”

Pub Date: July 3, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-68177-751-1

Page Count: 360

Publisher: Pegasus

Review Posted Online: April 30, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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A tiny book, not much bigger than a pamphlet, with huge potential impact.

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NO ONE IS TOO SMALL TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE

A collection of articulate, forceful speeches made from September 2018 to September 2019 by the Swedish climate activist who was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

Speaking in such venues as the European and British Parliaments, the French National Assembly, the Austrian World Summit, and the U.N. General Assembly, Thunberg has always been refreshingly—and necessarily—blunt in her demands for action from world leaders who refuse to address climate change. With clarity and unbridled passion, she presents her message that climate change is an emergency that must be addressed immediately, and she fills her speeches with punchy sound bites delivered in her characteristic pull-no-punches style: “I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act.” In speech after speech, to persuade her listeners, she cites uncomfortable, even alarming statistics about global temperature rise and carbon dioxide emissions. Although this inevitably makes the text rather repetitive, the repetition itself has an impact, driving home her point so that no one can fail to understand its importance. Thunberg varies her style for different audiences. Sometimes it is the rousing “our house is on fire” approach; other times she speaks more quietly about herself and her hopes and her dreams. When addressing the U.S. Congress, she knowingly calls to mind the words and deeds of Martin Luther King Jr. and John F. Kennedy. The last speech in the book ends on a note that is both challenging and upbeat: “We are the change and change is coming.” The edition published in Britain earlier this year contained 11 speeches; this updated edition has 16, all worth reading.

A tiny book, not much bigger than a pamphlet, with huge potential impact.

Pub Date: Nov. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-14-313356-8

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Penguin

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2019

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A quirky wonder of a book.

WHY FISH DON'T EXIST

A STORY OF LOSS, LOVE, AND THE HIDDEN ORDER OF LIFE

A Peabody Award–winning NPR science reporter chronicles the life of a turn-of-the-century scientist and how her quest led to significant revelations about the meaning of order, chaos, and her own existence.

Miller began doing research on David Starr Jordan (1851-1931) to understand how he had managed to carry on after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake destroyed his work. A taxonomist who is credited with discovering “a full fifth of fish known to man in his day,” Jordan had amassed an unparalleled collection of ichthyological specimens. Gathering up all the fish he could save, Jordan sewed the nameplates that had been on the destroyed jars directly onto the fish. His perseverance intrigued the author, who also discusses the struggles she underwent after her affair with a woman ended a heterosexual relationship. Born into an upstate New York farm family, Jordan attended Cornell and then became an itinerant scholar and field researcher until he landed at Indiana University, where his first ichthyological collection was destroyed by lightning. In between this catastrophe and others involving family members’ deaths, he reconstructed his collection. Later, he was appointed as the founding president of Stanford, where he evolved into a Machiavellian figure who trampled on colleagues and sang the praises of eugenics. Miller concludes that Jordan displayed the characteristics of someone who relied on “positive illusions” to rebound from disaster and that his stand on eugenics came from a belief in “a divine hierarchy from bacteria to humans that point[ed]…toward better.” Considering recent research that negates biological hierarchies, the author then suggests that Jordan’s beloved taxonomic category—fish—does not exist. Part biography, part science report, and part meditation on how the chaos that caused Miller’s existential misery could also bring self-acceptance and a loving wife, this unique book is an ingenious celebration of diversity and the mysterious order that underlies all existence.

A quirky wonder of a book.

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5011-6027-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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