The Little Book of Pandemics by Dr. Peter Moore, 2007, 144 pages.
I picked up this book at our town's fall fair at a bookstall. It was only $2.00 [Canadian] and it looked like a book of great delight, as I love reading factual stuff about health and anatomy. It got boring pretty quickly. A lot of diseases have the same symptoms and reading about them over and over got stale.
That being said, I cannot fault the author's thoroughness, and his clear, concise style in writing about plagues, bacteria, viruses, food and water-borne diseases and those spread by animals and bugs. Each entry rated the disease on four factors: 1) how infectious it is, 2) how severe an illness is, 3) one's likelihood of dying should one contract it, and 4) how viable it is that the disease can be used as a bio-weapon. For the last one, the options are fairly slim and the author certainly did not seem to be out to scare anyone.
In addition, each entry showed, on a drawing of the human body, where the disease attacks, gives you the Latin name for each illness, the region in which it can be found, and how far back the disease spreads. After that, Dr. Moore branches out into symptoms, effects, developments in treatment, and any other information that he deems pertinent. His knowledge is wide and the book is readable, if dull after a while. I'm going to keep it on hand as a reference book so that the next time I read about an outbreak of dengue fever somewhere, I've got a handy guide to remind me what in the world it is.
A couple of things that I learned from the book: make sure that you are drinking clean water, stay away from mosquitoes and get those vaccines no matter where you're going or how much you dislike needles, and that Ebola is the disease that I'd least like to die of: from what I've read it's hell on earth and I cannot overstate how horrid it sounds.
Cross-posted to my journal.
Room - Emma Donoghue
Room is an 11-by-11 fortified shed where Ma and her 5-year-old son, Jack, are held captive and abused by Ma's abductor. Jack is the product of years of rape, a boy who has seen TV but thinks anything beyond Room is another planet.
It could be a lurid tale from here. But in Donoghue's capable hands, what follows is a subtle and soft look at freedom and survival from an innocent who can sometimes offer more than we expect.
Donoghue is one of my favorite authors, as much for her conversational but careful attention to language as her dedicated research to her topic. Making Jack our narrator - we only see Ma and captor Old Nick from his eyes - could easily have been a gimmick. But instead of getting tripped up in the cutesy or the simplistic, Donoghue offers us a boy whose delight and confusion are so real that it's hard not to feel protective of him from the first pages on.
We learn that Ma has found a purpose to her life by providing for Jack. She has devised a daily schedule in their prison - from mealtime to phys ed to only so much TV in a day - to try to give Jack something akin to a normal upbringing. The captor appears only at night - when Jack is tucked away from view in the wardrobe - to attack Ma and provide basic items for their survival.
We learn that Jack, hearing about an outside world, is both precocious and immature. No way, he thinks, was Ma ever Outside. She has always been with him, and he wants that world to remain.
By time we see and hear Jack as he faces freedom - and all the options and noises of the world - it's hard to look away. I read the book in one sitting, despite the fluctuations in intensity and action.
Donoghue has been short-listed for the Booker prize for this novel. I for one would love nothing more than for her to receive it.