Every year, for about the last eight years the Multnomah County Library has sponsored the “Everybody Reads” program. The library selects one book, buys tons of copies and then promotes the heck out of it by sponsoring special discussion groups, lectures, films and other related events. Thankfully, the library always seems to select quality books. Past choices have included Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner, Ishmail Beah’s A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier and even Ray Bradbury’s classic sci-fi tale Fahrenheit 451. This year’s selection is Steven Johnson’s The Ghost Map: The Story of London’s Most Terrifying Epidemic- and How it Changed Science, Cities and the Modern World. Once again, the library selected a winner. This is a superb book.
Johnson, a past contributor to Wired, Discover and the New York Times Magazine is also the best-selling author of Everything Bad Is Good For You and The Invention of Air. His 2006 book Ghost Map tells the tale of London’s great cholera epidemic of 1854 and the first use of modern epidemiology to combat it. By focusing on the efforts of two individuals, pioneering anesthesiologist and a local Anglican Priest, Johnson chronicles the evolution of modern disease detection and prevention. Not only is this book quite readable, it is incredibly interesting. While the book does take a few digressive side-trips, Johnson’s little detours only enhance the overall tale he’s telling. I thoroughly enjoyed his book and I am looking forward to reading more by him. This is by far one of the best books I’ve read this year. I highly recommend it.