Outbreak! Plagues that Changed History Review

Outbreak! Plagues that Changed History Synopsis: Did the Black Death destroy medieval Europe? Did cholera pave the way for modern Manhattan? Did yellow fever help end the slave trade? Remarkably, the answer to all of these questions is yes. Time and again, diseases have impacted the course of human history in surprisingly powerful ways. From influenza to smallpox, from tuberculosis to yellow fever, Bryn Barnard describes the symptoms and paths of the world’s worst diseases—and how the epidemics they spawned have changed history forever.

Filled with fascinating, often gory details about disease and history, Outbreak! is a wonderful combination of science and history. – Goodreads

Outbreak! Plagues that Changed History Review

This was a fascinating book. I don’t know how many times I stopped reading it just to text my best friend little interesting tidbits from it. She was a biology major in college, so she geeked out as much as I did. I think the author did a great job of showing the impact that diseases have had on our history. I was kind of surprised to read some of the low-marked Goodreads reviews because I felt they were unjustified.

Outbreak is, primarily, for ‘tweens. Its a little too mature for anyone under the age of 11, even though its marketed as being suitable for ages 8-12. Its also a little too simplistic for a lot of people outside the age range to enjoy. Outbreak doesn’t set out to be a full-scale immersion into microbiology. Its meant to be an introduction. It gives the reader a basic, easy to understand rundown of the major plagues, as well as some key discoveries in combating microbes, and the overall effect that the plagues had on our history.

Is it 100 percent accurate? Of course not. Its a simplified version, weighted in favor of the effect microbes had, of a huge chunk of history and the decisions our world leaders made. Again, its an introduction meant to hook the reader and get them more interested in microbiology. I guess you could say its a gateway drug to science. I rate books like this based on age suitability and aims, not what I want them to be.  So I found a lot of the naysaying about this book and the fact that it wasn’t completely accurate or nice to religion to be a bit absurd. But…well, when it comes to people’s ingrained defense of their worship of the latest incarnation of such-and-such deity, I’m neither overly surprised or amused anymore.

Snarkiness aside, this really was a great read. It was the perfect blend of story-telling and science. It was able to hammer home the sheer scale of some of these outbreaks, how horrible some of the diseases were, as well as some of the base causes. The author does get a bit ‘preachy’ at the end but considering what he’s selling is, amazingly enough, common sense to anyone with two braincells to rub together, I’m fine with that. We need a basic overhaul of our healthcare and public works systems to help eradicate diseases, lower death rates, and generally improve the quality of life and reduce drug-resistance of bacteria and viruses.

The only problem I had with this book was the awkward sizing and formatting.  Its a ridiculously big hardback for the fact that its only 48 pages long. They could have made it half the size and twice the width and it would have been a lot easier to read. The huge pages are crammed with tiny text. It would be more ‘friendly’ if the veritable walls of text were cut down enough to not be so intimidating.

Good book. Would definitely recommend it for any science-minded tweens out there!

Title: Outbreak! Plagues that Changed History

  • Author: Bryn Barnard (site)
  • ISBN13: 9780375829864
  • Pub. Date: November 8th, 2005
  • Rating: 4 out of 5
  • Source: Library
  • Note: This review originally appeared on Sci-Fi & Scary.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s