Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Spillover: A True-life Non-fiction Mystery Book

Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic is one of the most interesting books that I have read over the last couple of years. Clearly, it's a must-read book!

Although it is a non-fiction book, it really reads like a real mystery book. I bought the audiobook version of the book, so I have been "reading" the book while walking my dog or during my runs. When I told my husband that instead of listening to music when running, I was listening to this book, he said that it was a little "weird" (he probably meant that I was weird!). But, the reality is that this book is better than listening to music ... yes, it may sound strange, but the book is so engaging and captivating that it is very difficult to stop the audiobook recording.

I should say that this is not the first book written by David Quammen that I have read so far. For one of the courses that I teach at the university, I have replaced the textbook (click here to read my post) with "The Song of the Dodo: Island Biogeography in an Age of Extinction", a book that Quammen wrote in 1996. Personally, I believe that Quammen is a brilliant writer and wonderful teacher. In this case, he captivates his audience with mind gripping narratives of exact moments where deadly diseases such as Ebola, SARS and AIDS find the way to move from one species of animal to another; in other words, you get detailed information of the whole process of spillover.

As in other Quammen's books, in Spillover you get to travel with him to fascinating places of the world, including Australia, remote forests of Africa, some Chinese cities and popular cities of North America. You get to know the exact moment where the meeting of one disease-carrying species meets another (sometimes in a very mysterious way) and the lives of these animals, including humans, are forever changed. There are even spy stories in this book!

When talking about Spillover in his website, Quammen indicates the following "I tried hard to deliver the science, the history, the mystery, and the human anguish as page-turning drama...", and when you read the book, you realize that it's true. Spillover is a really fascinating book that you will not want to put down. Following his traditional writing style, Quammen writes sensitively, but humorously about what happens to people, communities and researchers who have been deeply touched by these diseases. The book doesn't come across as a boring fact-dump, but rather a very colorful story of people, viruses, and cultures. 

I highly recommend you get a copy of Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic. If you are like me and don't have too much time to read, consider the audiobook version -- it's pretty good!

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