Word of Mouth, Quarantine Edition

Prior to the advent of Covid-19, I was about 70% through the first draft of a novel about a virus, an anger virus. Looking back on what I wrote, I am stunned by how mild and self-contained the virus I created was. I am currently too busy  panic cleaning, home schooling and hand washing to do much about the novel, but in the process of doing research into epidemiology and vaccines, I came across several books that helped me understand how viruses work, and thought now would be an excellent time to recommend them.

If you have it in you to learn more about how microscopic pathogens can upend the globe, here are four fascinating books that helped me understand. If you’ve had enough pathogens, skip ahead to the ESCAPE section. And wash your hands!

ENGAGE:

Memoir about a pandemic (small pox) with a happy ending: Sometimes Brilliant:The Impossible Adventure of a Spiritual Seeker and Visionary Physician Who Helped Conquer the Worst Disease in History, by Larry Brilliant

Thematic treatment of how pathogens develop and mutate, and what is necessary for them to thrive: Pandemic: Tracking Contagions, From Cholera to Ebola and Beyond, by Sonia Shah

A history of how vaccines were discovered, and how they work: Between Hope and Fear: A History of Vaccines and Human Immunity, by Michael Kinch

How cholera seized and changed London, seen through the efforts of a pioneering physician and a connected local priest: The Ghost Map: The Story of London’s Most Terrifying Epidemic–and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World— Steven Johnson

ESCAPE:

TV: Agents of ShieldMaurissa Tancharoen, Jed Whedon, Joss Whedon. Netflix

TV: Episodes — David Crane and Jeffrey Klarik. Amazon. 

TV: False Flag — Maria Feldman, Amit Cohen. Hulu.

TV: Imposters – Paul Adelstein and Adam Brooks. Netflix. 

MOVIE: Yesterday –Danny Boyle. HBO.

TV: MarpleAgatha Christie. Hulu.

FICTION: The Safety Net — Andrea Camilleri

Not-so-ancient wisdom:

“It’s not enough that we do our best; sometimes we have to do what is required.”

Winston Churchill

Late October Word of Mouth

 

Fiction: My Sister, the Serial Killer — Oyinkan Braithwaite

Podcast episode: Say Yes to Rebuilding Post- Trump — Trumpcast (Slate)

Podcast episode: The Family Business — Trump, Inc. (WNYC Studios/ ProPublica)

Non-Fiction: Let There Be Water: Israel’s Solution for a Water-starved World — Seth M. Siegel

 

Ancient Inspiration:

“In your actions, don’t procrastinate. In your conversations, don’t confuse. In your thoughts, don’t wander. In your soul, don’t be passive or aggressive.” 

— Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 8. 51

 

Not-so-Ancient Inspiration: 

“The work is the work, regardless of whether you decide to be ground down by it.”

Seth Godin

 

 

Midsummer Word of Mouth

Fiction: The Snakes — Sadie Jones

Fiction: The Last Book Party – Karen Dukess

Fiction: Fleishman Is In Trouble — Taffy Brodesser-Akner

Science: Pandemic: Tracking Contagions, from Cholera to Ebola and Beyond — Sonia Shah 

TV: False Flag — Maria Feldman, Amit Cohen. Hulu

Movie: I Am Not Your Negro  — Raoul Peck, James Baldwin. Amazon

 

Ancient Inspiration: “… [N]o act is honourable that is done by an unwilling agent, that is compulsary. Every honourable act is voluntary.”

— Lucius Annaeus Seneca, Epistle 66. From Epistles, 66-92, Translation by Richard Gummere. Loeb Classical Library.

 

 

Early Summer Word of Mouth

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Memoir:  Good Talk — Mira Jacob

Non-Fiction: White Fragility Robin Diangelo

Science: The Gene: An Intimate History Siddhartha Mukherjee

Movie: Amazing Grace  — Alan Elliott and Sidney Pollack

Movie: Book Smart Olivia Wilde

 

Not-So-Ancient Inspiration:

“It doesn’t matter how far ahead you see if you don’t understand what you are looking at.” — Garry Kasparov

September Word of Mouth

Movie: RBG – Julie Cohen and Betsy West

Memoir: Negroland – Margo Jefferson

TV: Imposters – Paul Adelstein and Adam Brooks

Fiction: Magpie Murders – Anthony Horowitz

Ancient Inspiration:

“The work is quite feasible, and is the only thing in our power…. Let go of the past. We must only begin. Believe me and you will see.” – Epictetus, Discourses, 2.19.29-34

May Word of Mouth

Fiction: The Talented Ribkins– Ladee Hubbard

 

Workshop: Undoing Racism — The People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond

 

Parenting: Mamaleh Knows Best: What Jewish Mothers Do To Raise Successful, Creative, Empathetic and Independent Children — Marjorie Ingall 

 

History: Operation Mincemeat — Ben Macintyre

 

TV: Capital — BBC via Acorn via Amazon

 

Ancient Inspiration:

“Difficulties are things that show what men are. For the future, in case of any difficulty, remember that God, like a gymnastic trainer, has pitted you against a rough antagonist. For what end? That you may be an Olympic conqueror; and this cannot be without toil. No man, in my opinion, has a more profitable difficulty on his hands than you have, provided you will but use it, as an athletic champion uses his antagonist.”

Epictetus, Discourses, Book 1, Chapter 24.