Touring the World of Infectious Disease: A Review of Sonia Shah's Pandemic

For those who want a grand scale overview of infectious diseases and the big concepts that animate the field, Sonia Shah's Pandemic: Tracking Contagions from Cholera to Ebola, and Beyond is, in my opinion, probably the best book to read.

I read a lot -- and I mean a lot -- of books on infectious disease and Pandemic is exquisite in its approach. Using cholera as the main character to concretize important concepts, Shah expertly weaves in every major outbreak in recent years, from E.coli to Ebola, highlighting important elements that time and again have led to outbreaks, epidemics, and pandemics. For example, one chapter is aptly titled "The logic of pandemics."

Shah's book goes beyond a simple historical account and brings in cutting-edge research, hypotheses, and theories. For example, her discussion of the evolution of sexual reproduction as a resiliency mechanism against microbes is fascinating as is the discussion of the advantages and disadvantages of warm-blooded versus cold-blooded animals.

Shah also provides a great dissection of an oft-repeated myth in infectious disease: that microbes lose virulence over time as they adapt to their host. 

I learned an immense of new information pertaining to infectious disease from this book ranging from the geology of Manhattan (particularly conducive to water contamination) to Martin Luther's penchant for eating feces!

This book has layers and layers of valuable information and I recommend it in the highest possible terms to those interested in taking a tour of this endlessly stimulating field with a extraordinarily insightful guide.