Donald G. McNeil released his new book, The Wisdom of Plagues, last week.
He summarizes it thusly:
Some sections are memoir. I describe moments like trying to get my New York Times colleagues to believe me that a pandemic was coming. Moments like almost being kidnapped in a gorilla-hunting village in Cameroon. And moments like recently discovering that, at the very dawn of the pandemic, some top scientists misled me when I was trying to check out rumors that the virus might have escaped from a Chinese lab.
Some sections are historical. I describe the roots of human illnesses in our decision 11,000 years ago to domesticate animals, and enumerate the effects of pandemics on Athens and Sparta, the crumbling Roman Empire, the Renaissance, Napoleon’s conquests and World Wars I and II.
Some sections are journalistic. I describe why the world failed for decades to protect women in Africa against AIDS. I detail successes like Vietnam’s fight against tuberculosis, Egypt’s against hepatitis C and Cuba’s against AIDS.
Some are prescriptive. I explain why I think we need a Pentagon for disease, should ban religious exemptions to vaccines, should sometimes let Big Pharma break antitrust laws, and should recruit “witch doctors” into the medical system.