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Fading Out: Aging and Beyond RSS feed


Here are links to a few recommended books (both fiction and nonfiction) and articles (and one serial documentary) about pandemics. Let me know in comments if I've overlooked anything.


A Documentary:
 Pandemic: How to Prevent an Attack (Netflix)


Blindness by José Saramago (1995). A city is hit by a sudden and strange epidemic of "white blindness", which spares no one.A powerful and haunting novel about humanity's will to survive against all odds during an epidemic.
The End of October by Lawrence Wright (“An eerily prescient novel about a devastating virus that begins in Asia before going global"~New York Post). See This Is 'Creepy': Lawrence Wright Wishes His Pandemic Novel Had Gotten It Wrong (Mary Louise Kelly, All Things Considered, NPR, 4-28-2020)
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. A flight from Russia lands in middle America, its passengers carrying a virus that explodes "like a neutron bomb over the surface of the earth.... "No more trains running under the surface of cities ... No more cities ... No more Internet " Survivors become scavengers, roaming the ravaged landscape or clustering in pocket settlements, some of them welcoming, some dangerous. What's touching is the novel's ode to what survived, in particular the music and plays performed for wasteland communities by a roving Shakespeare troupe, the Traveling Symphony, whose members form a wounded family of sorts. The story shifts deftly between the fraught post-apocalyptic world and, twenty years earlier, just before the apocalypse, the death of a famous actor, which has a rippling effect across the decades.
The Plague (novel by Albert Camus) About which, see Camus and the Political Tests of a Pandemic (Steve Coll, The New Yorker, 5-19-2020) Coll mentions this W.H. Auden poem: September 1, 1939. It can be uncanny to encounter a leader "whose advisers cannot bear initially to acknowledge the catastrophe, or even to speak aloud the name of the disease that is its cause."
Zone One Colson Whitehead's wry take on the post-apocalyptic horror novel. A pandemic has devastated the planet, sorting humanity into two types: the uninfected and the infected, the living and the living dead. After the worst of the plague is over, armed forces stationed in Chinatown's Fort Wonton reclaim the island south of Canal Street—aka Zone One and our hero is helping clear lower Manhattan of its remaining feral zombies.
A Journal of the Plague Year by Daniel Defoe (published in 1722). Also available as a free PDF. "Bring out your dead!" calls the bell-ringing collector in this classic fictional account of the epidemic of bubonic plague — known as the Black Death — that ravaged England in 1664–1665.
Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague by Geraldine Brooks. An unforgettable tale, set in 17th century England, of a village that quarantines itself to arrest the spread of the plague.
Dooms Day Book (Oxford Time Travel) by Connie Willis (Oxford Time Travel). The story of a history student in 2048 who is transported to an English village in the 14th century. She arrives mistakenly on the eve of the onset of the Black Plague. Her dealings with a family of "contemps" in 1348 and with her historian cohorts lead to complications as the book unfolds into a surprisingly dark, deep conclusion. Winner of both Hugo and Nebula awards.
The Road by Cormac McCarthy (a post-apocalyptic novel about a father and son wandering through the ruins of civilization, reason for which unspecified)
Death in Venice by Thomas Mann. A novella (published in 1912) in which Venetian authorities and businesses try to hide or underplay the seriousness of a cholera epidemic. See Charles Mudede's article Death in Venice and the History of Underreporting a Pandemic.
World War Z a horror-comic novel by Max Brooks, posing as an "oral history" of a virus that originated in China and spread across the world, transforming millions of people into zombies. Message: "The threat is not the virus or the zombies, but our response, especially denial and panic."
Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez. Against a backdrop of recurring civil war and recurring cholera epidemics, Márquez explores death, decay and the idea of lovesickness as disease—in this turn-of-the-century chronicle of a unique love triangle.
The Betrothed (I Promessi Sposi) by Alessandro Manzoni. A sweeping novel set in northern Italy during the years of Spanish occupation, well-known for its remarkable account of the Italian plague of 1629-1631, and the devastating impact the epidemic had on Milan. The archbishop of Milan, Cardinal Borromeo, is shown going into the pest houses, willing to lay down his life to look after the poorest and most unwell people in his flock.


The Coming Plague: Newly Emerging Diseases in a World Out of Balance (1995) by Laurie Garrett. (She Predicted the Coronavirus. What Does She Foresee Next? (Frank Bruni, NY Times, 5-2-2020) Years of debt and collective rage.
Plague: The Mysterious Past and Terrifying Future of the World's Most Dangerous Disease by Wendy Orent
A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century by Barbara Wertheim Tuchman. "Many of the disruptive forces at work in the 14th century — war, religious schisms, the plague — played out again during the 20th century (hence the book's title)."~ New York Times
1491 by Charles Mann, on how the arrival of disease in North America changed history
The Miraculous Fever-Tree by Fiammetta Rocco, a rich and wonderful history of quinine – the cure for malaria.
Fever of War: The Influenza Epidemic in the U.S. Army during World War I by Carol R. Byerly. The startling impact of the 1918 influenza epidemic on the American army, its medical officers, and their profession.
The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History by John M. Barry. "A sobering account of the 1918 flu epidemic, compelling and timely." ~ Boston Globe
World Epidemics: A Cultural Chronology of Disease from Prehistory to the Era of Zika by Mary Ellen Snodgrass
The Ghost Map: The Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic--and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World by Steven Johnson. Johnson's narrative of the 1854 cholera epidemic in London is humanized by his portrayal of the people who suffered through it, including the intrepid doctor, John Snow, who ultimately traced the outbreak to contaminated water. 
Scurvy:How a Surgeon, a Mariner, and a Gentleman Solved the Greatest Medical Mystery of the Age of Sailby Stephen Bown (read excerpt here
Deadliest Enemy: Our War Against Killer Germs by epidemiologist Michael T. Osterholm and Mark Olshaker
World Epidemics: A Cultural Chronology of Disease from Prehistory to the Era of Zika by Mary Ellen Snodgrass
The Hot Zone: The Terrifying True Story of the Origins of the Ebola Virus, the 2012 nonfiction bestseller by Richard Preston, as well as The Demon in the Freezer (about first major bioterror event in the United States—the anthrax attacks in October 2001)
And the Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic, by Randy Shilts. “The story of these first five years of AIDS in America is a drama of national failure, played out against a backdrop of needless death....It is a tale that bears telling, so that it will never happen again, to any people, anywhere.”~Randy Shilts
Pox Americana: The Great Smallpox Epidemic of 1775-82 by Elizabeth A. Fenn. The history lesson you probably didn't get in high school.
Epidemics and Society: From the Black Death to the Present by Frank M. Snowden


Bingeing on Doom: Expert on the ‘Black Death’ Attracts Cult Following (JoNel Aleccia, KHN, Los Angeles Times, 7-22-2020) Fascinating article by the woman who narrates The Black Death: The World's Most Devastating Plague, "a video series that became must-see TV this spring when it aired on Amazon Prime, just as stuck-at-home 21st-century humans were reeling from the coronavirus crisis. In 24 surprisingly compelling episodes, Armstrong introduced the devastation of the mid-14th century to doom-obsessed modern viewers. The flea-driven plague, also known as the “Great Mortality,” overran Eurasia and North Africa from 1347 to 1353, killing tens of millions of people and wiping out half of Europe’s population....“The Black Death” has spurred a broad cult following for Armstrong — even as it underscores the dismaying parallels between the great plague and the deadly disease now circling the globe."
'The impossible has already happened': what coronavirus can teach us about hope (Rebecca Solnit, a 'long read,' The Guardian, 4-7-2020) In the midst of fear and isolation, we are learning that profound, positive change is possible. Having lived through and written extensively about past disasters, Rebecca Solnit senses as well as anyone what comes next. We're still in the middle of a global battle, but slowly talk of "after" will come, and we will need guidance from those who have endured similarly treacherous stretches. "It is too soon to know what will emerge from this emergency," Solnit writes, "but not too soon to start looking for chances to help decide it."
The Masque of the Red Death (originally published as "The Mask of the Red Death: A Fantasy") is a short story by American writer Edgar Allan Poe, first published in 1842. The story follows Prince Prospero's attempts to avoid a dangerous plague, known as the Red Death, by hiding in his abbey.
A Historian's View of the Coronavirus Pandemic and the Influenza of 1918 (David Remnick, New Yorker, 3-25-2020) Remnick interviews historian John M. Barry about what that historic pandemic can tell us about our current situation and the future.
How the 1918 Pandemic Frayed Social Bonds (Noah Y. Kim, The Atlantic, 3-31-2020) The influenza pandemic did long-lasting damage to relationships in some American communities. Could the mistrust have been prevented?
How Pandemics Change History (Isaac Chotiner, New Yorker, 3-3-2020) In his new book, "Epidemics and Society: From the Black Death to the Present," Frank M. Snowden, a professor emeritus of history and the history of medicine at Yale, examines the ways in which disease outbreaks have shaped politics, crushed revolutions, and entrenched racial and economic discrimination.
The Deadly Virus: The Influenza Epidemic of 1918 (National Archives) Selected records reveal details about daily life at the time.
Journalist finds lessons in the history of pandemics (Bara Vaida, Covering Health, AHCJ, 4-16-2020) Q&A with Beth Skwarecki, author of the book Outbreak: 50 Tales of Epidemics that Terrorized the World (writing only 1,000 words about each is not easy!).
What Shakespeare Actually Wrote About the Plague (Stephen Greenblatt, The New Yorker, 5-7-2020)


On keeping a diary or journal of the COVID-19 pandemic (blog post)
Coronavirus: the good, the bad, and the practical
Covering the coronavirus as a journalist
Pandemic: The Big Picture
What to do or not do (disinfecting, among other things) and how or how not to do it
Social distancing, sheltering in place, and lockdown
Testing: what you need to know
Expanding contact tracing
Reliable sources of information and updates about COVID-19
Coronavirus maps and numbers
The search for anti-viral treatments
COVID-19's economic impact
Problems with personal protective equipment (PPE)
Combatting the misinformation epidemic/campaign (and persuading skeptics there's a crisis)
Trump’s handling of the pandemic
Covering the COVID-19 pandemic: Resources for journalists
Who is harmed most by Covid19?
Politics, government, and the coronavirus
Where things went wrong in the U.S.
Where in the world things went right
Coronavirus: A Primer

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