This section covers books on physical illness and medical conditions. For our extensive range of interviews on mental health, please visit our section on psychology. Here Arthur Ammann, talks about HIV/Aids and why he prefers “plague” to “epidemic” to describe it. He chooses his best books on plagues/epidemics and how they affect human societies as well as individuals.
Seth Mnookin, writer, journalist and author of The Panic Virus: the True Story Behind the Vaccine-Autism Controversy chooses his best books on Vaccines and social and medical attitudes to health and illness. Amongst other books he recommends The Ghost Map: the Story of London’s Most Terrifying Epidemic – and how it Changed Science, Cities and the Modern World by Stephen Johnson as a book he often gives to people “to show them how cool and exciting and accessible and gripping stories about scientific discoveries can be.”
David Biro is associate professor of dermatology at SUNY Downstate Medical Centre in New York, and author of One Hundred Days: My Unexpected Journey from Doctor to Patient, the story of his experiences undergoing a marrow transplant. He chooses his best books on pain and discusses the continuity between physical and psychological pain and the difficulties about writing about pain. Among is choices are Darkness Visible by William Clark Styron, The Body in Pain by Elaine Scarry and The Book of Job by World Bible Publishing.
When dealing with epidemics, science does not have all the answers and relying on a new miracle drug is not always the solution. We must also learn the lessons of history, argues the veteran doctor of the HIV/Aids epidemic, Arthur Ammann. He picks the best books on ‘plagues.’
Polio: An American Story
by David Oshinsky
Vaccine: The Controversial Story of Medicine's Greatest Lifesaver
by Arthur Allen
The Cutter Incident: How America's First Polio Vaccine Led to the Growing Vaccine Crisis
by Paul Offit
by Paul de Kruif
The Ghost Map: The Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic
by Steven Johnson
November 9th, 2020: We’ve just heard the news that Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine is 90% effective, at least in the short-term, raising the possibility that the coronavirus pandemic may finally be brought to an end. The history of vaccines is an absolutely fascinating one, and we highly recommend all the books discussed in this 2013 interview with Seth Mnookin, author of The Panic Virus and Professor of Science Writing at MIT. These are all gripping reads that tell the story of vaccines, medicine’s greatest life-saver, and the risks people took to find them.