It's National Doctor's Day! When I was in high school, I really wanted to be a virologist for the CDC and track epidemics and research new diseases. Then I realized that reading about it is much more fun, and probably better for my immune system.
The Secret of the Yellow Death: A True Story of Medical Sleuthing by Suzanne Jurmain. Jurmain walks us through the ravages of yellow fever and the steps and experiments the doctors went through to prove that it is, indeed, spread by mosquito. This book is more about the search for a cause, rather than the disease itself. For a look at the 1793 Philadelphia outbreak, read Jim Murphy's An American Plague: The True and Terrifying Story of the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793.
The Hot Zone: A Terrifying True Story by Richard Preston. It reads like a thriller, but this is the true story of the time Ebola hit the DC suburbs and how the government reacted. Published for adults, this was a favorite of mine when I was a teen (and a big part of the reason why I wanted to be a virologist when I grew up!)
Invincible Microbe: Tuberculosis and the Never-Ending Search for a Cure by Jim Murphy and Alison Blank. Weaving together the medical and social histories of TB and the various cures tried over the centuries, this is a fascinating book. The reemergence of TB today, and its drug-resistance make it terrifying.
Deadly by Julie Chibbaro. After assisting her midwife mother with several births and watching her brother die from infected wounds after a carriage accident, Prudence wants to know real things, not the stuff they teach her at finishing school. She's elated to get a job with the Department of Health as they investigate the spread of typhoid. An excellent look at the investigation that brought in Typhoid Mary and the controversy surrounding it-- a controversy dealing with personal rights, crazy ideas in science, and discrimination against immigrants.
Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson. In the early days of the United States and a yellow fever epidemic is raging through Philadelphia. Mattie quickly finds herself alone in a city that's been decimated by disease. She has to protect herself not only from the yellow fever, but also the thieves that stalk the streets, taking things from deserted houses. While trying to survive, she desperately tries to find out information about her friends and family and if they still live.
The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton. After a NASA deep space probe returns to Earth and lands in the desert, residents of a nearby town are found dead. Doctors are sent in to investigate, but this disease is literally out-of-this-world. Filled with fake sources and footnotes, this was another high school favorite of mine, even if I wasn't entirely sure if it was fiction or not (it is).
Cinder by Marissa Meyer. This futuristic cyberpunk retelling of Cinderella not only stars an Android, but features and Earth riddled by a mysterious plague imported from the moon. Plague deaths cause major plot points in this book, and with clues dropped in the sequel, Scarlet you know it's going to become even more important.
Running Out of Time by Margaret Peterson Haddix. When the children of Clifton start dying of diptheria, Jessi's mother tells her something that changes her life forever. It's not 1840, it's the 1990s and Clifton is a tourist and research site where people are kept in the dark in order to be more authentic. But it's up to Jessi to leave Clifton, because there's no cure for diptheria in 1840, but there is one today, and she needs to bring it back.
Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague by Geraldine Brooks. In the seventeenth century, when the Plague hits a small English village, they voluntarily seal themselves off, so they don't spread the disease further. Anna is an 18-year-old widow who watches as the disease takes her friends and family and tries to offer comfort and help to the dying. Published for adults, teens who enjoy literary fiction will like this one.
What are your favorite disease books?
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