No disease the world has ever known even remotely resembles the great influenza epidemic of 1918. Presumed to have begun when sick farm animals infected soldiers in Kansas, spreading and mutating into a lethal strain as troops carried it to Europe, it exploded across the world with unequaled ferocity and speed. It killed more people in twenty weeks than AIDS has killed in twenty years; it killed more people in a year than the plagues of the Middle Ages killed in a century. Victims bled from the ears and nose, turned blue from lack of oxygen, suffered aches that felt like bones being broken, and died. In the United States, where bodies were stacked without coffins on trucks, nearly seven times as many people died of influenza as in the First World War.
In his powerful new book, award-winning historian John M. Barry unfolds a tale that is magisterial in its breadth and in the depth of its research, and spellbinding as he weaves multiple narrative strands together. In this first great collision between science and epidemic disease, even as society approached collapse, a handful of heroic researchers stepped forward, risking their lives to confront this strange disease. Titans like William Welch at the newly formed Johns Hopkins Medical School and colleagues at Rockefeller University and others from around the country revolutionized American science and public health, and their work in this crisis led to crucial discoveries that we are still using and learning from today.
The Washington Post's Jonathan Yardley said Barry's last book can "change the way we think." The Great Influenza may also change the way we see the world.
The Washington Post - Howard Markel
Although we have several other superb histories of the 1918 influenza pandemic, John M. Barry presents a fascinating look at how the epidemic spread and how physicians and researchers rallied to mobilize against a global health crisis.
The New England Journal of Medicine, August 5, 2004 - Karen Brudney, M.D.
His tone is often irritatingly and unnecessarily sensationalist. But
his indictment of the public authorities for their dishonesty and deliberate
minimization of the damage and dangers is particularly chilling in today's
climate of bioterrorism, in the midst of a war whose damages and dangers have
been similarly minimized. Barry makes it all too easy to imagine a similarly
devastating epidemic with a similarly inadequate response. I highly recommend
this book to all.
Barry captures the sense of panic and despair that overwhelmed stricken communities and hits hard at those who failed to use their power to protect the public good....Society's ability to survive another devastating flu pandemic, Barry argues, is as much a political question as a medical one.
A keen recounting of the 1918-20 pandemic.... With the same terrorizing flair of Richard Preston's Hot Zone, the author follows the disease in the way he might shadow a mugger, presenting us with the vivid aftereffects as if from Weegee's camera.... [A] majestic, spellbinding treatment of a mass killer.
Booklist - Ray Olson
symphony of a book, whose every page compels attention.
Recent Reader Reviews
Rated of 5
by KC Great Information I found this book to be very enlightening and learned a lot about the disease, the times, the mentality, and the sciences of the day. I would highly recommend it to anyone wanting to know about this tragic time in our history. I found it easy to... Read More
Rated of 5
by Tony Montana Garbage This book was trash. It was redundant, and, upon reading the first page, I would rather get the Great Influenza than continue reading it.
Rated of 5
by Sandra Franklin Good information but poorly written I appreciated the information in this book, but it appears that Mr. Barry has never diagramed a sentence in his entire life. Very poor sentence structure, and hopelessly repetitive when trying to make different points about the same subject. The... Read More
Rated of 5
by Alan The Great Influenza This book I read for my English class and I thought it was a very touching book about one of the most deadliest plagues in History.
Rated of 5
by Andy Coffman Borderline Criminal This book was terribly writen. It is so repetitive as to be self-defeating. It's grammaticaly pedantic insofaras to be insulting to historians and scholars everwhere. He introduces quotes and evidence poorly and fails to promote historically... Read More
Rated of 5
by Anne Howard The Great Influenza At first you wonder why John M. Barry is going way back to the early 1800's to talk about 1918. Then, as you are drawn into the history, like emerging into the wide end of a funnel, you get it. The history of medical education and practice, the... Read More
Could such a plague happen again?
Most experts seem to agree that it is not a case of if, but
when - and the two likeliest candidates would probably be
Avian Flu or
SARS; but, of course, a rank outsider
could naturally mutate at anytime, or worse still could be
created in a laboratory (see 'Lab 257' by Michael Christopher
Carroll which explores the inner workings of the government's
top-secret laboratory on Plum Island, close to New York City,
and its connections with the outbreaks of Lyme disease and
'Without question, Margaret MacMillan's Paris 1919 is the most honest and engaging history ever written about those fateful months after World War I when the maps of Europe were redrawn. Brimming with lucid analysis, elegant character sketches, and geopolitical pathos, it is essential reading.'
U.S. ebook sales up in 2012, but rate of growth is slowing(May 16 2013) In 2012, trade book sales (i.e. non academic book sales) rose 6.9%, to $15.049 billion, and e-book sales continued to grow, although the rate of growth...