April 16, Wednesday evening -- Reading Steven Johnson

Dear PeopleReading readers,
I am alive! Thanks for all your good wishes. I was so happy to finally be able to interview a reader this evening. His book made me feel very lucky that all I had was the flu.

Reading The Ghost Map: The Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic--and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World, by Steven Johnson.

One of his relatives, John Pitt Sherburne, came to California in 1849 with the Reed Expedition, surveying for railroads. Their wagon train was plagued with cholera. In his diary, every couple of days, there were new names of people who'd died of it.

If he were to write a book it'd be called The Zen Whore. He likes going to seven-day meditation marathons. The last one he went on was difficult for him. He couldn't concentrate and wound up writing a novel in his mind--The Zen Whore. What is it about? He didn't want to say. His wife did ask him, though, if Henry Miller changed his life.

His favorite book of all time--Love Among the Cannibals, by Wright Morris. Other favorites are Catch 22, by Joseph Heller; Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad; Miss LonelyHearts, by Nathanael West; The Stranger, by Albert Camus; and Pan, by Knut Hamsun.


Can you recommend any good books about epidemics or disease?

13 Comments:

Jane Hamilton said...

hey, hey! Sonya! great to have you back!! and your latest post is swell, too! how are you feeling now?

Sonya said...

Thanks, Jane! I am feeling so much better. For about 5 days even a trip to the kitchen was too much, but this morning I was able to get up and go to work and this evening I was able to go for a nice long walk through Noe Valley, which is what I was doing when I found this reader. I am so happy to be well again.

EDNA HART said...

I am glad you are back and feeling better...I missed you--I had the flu for only one day myself this week and could not get out of bed. Stay well.
I would like your permission to write about your blog on my blog and put a link to you as well...I look forward to hearing from you--Edna

Emilia said...

"The Speckled Monster" by Jennifer Carrell

Fabulous book in that "now I'm totally freaked out about small pox" kind of way. Worth reading.

TootsNYC said...

I'm fascinated by London's cholera epidemic. And also by the story of how one scientist got the start on figuring it out by analyzing a map of illnesses, in 1854

http://www.citiesofscience.co.uk/go/London/ContentPlace_1727.html

http://www.ph.ucla.edu/epi/snow.html

This is what the book is about (though cholera had been a big killer in England since the 1830s)

NYTimes review of that book:
http://www.iht.com/articles/2006/11/10/features/IDSIDE11.php


(glad you're feeling better. Thanks for all the work you do on your blog; I enjoy it a lot, and I know it can't be easy for you to keep it up so well)

Anonymous said...

Glad to see you back to posting. I love this blog. It's so good to see reading being celebrated!

"The Dress Lodger" was an interesting book about a cholera epidemic in Europe. It's been a while since I read it, so I don't remember a lot of details. "Oryx and Crake" by Margaret Atwood could be considered to be about a pandemic. It's not a comforting book, but it is fascinating.

Grand Life said...

So good to have you back. I also recommend "The Speckled Monster". It was excellent.
Have a good week
Judy

Gigi said...

Another good one is "Year of Wonders" by Geraldine Brooks. It is set in an English village during the plague (1666). The village quarantines itself to prevent the spread of the plague.

aliqot said...

Well, there's La Peste (The plague) by Albert Camus. Plague in North Africa, also a metaphor for nazism, and other forces of darkness, which humanity must fight.

aliqot said...

Gigi - you must mean Eyam, in Derbyshire - there's another book I read about that 'The Brave Men of Eyam' -though the women were also brave.

Seri said...

Icy Sparks deals with a girl that has Toretts.

A Mango Shaped Space deals with a girl that has synesthesia.

Both were very interresting.

Anonymous said...

Hello Sonya,
"The Hot Zone" by Richard Preston (non-fiction).

Describes the possible origin of AIDS and goes on to detail the near outbreak of the Ebola virus in Reston , Virginia - where I once called home!

Shelly said...

Flu-- The Story of the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918. By Gina Kolata.

Blindness by Jose Saramago (fiction)