Sunday, October 17, 2010

Recent Books

I don't have time for a thorough review--or even a cursory review.  (Preparing for class is gobbling up all my spare time.)

John Kelly, The Great Mortality: An Intimate History of the Black Death, The Most Devastating Plague of All Time (2005).  I've read a number of surveys of the Black Death, as well as a few fairly detailed examinations of particular aspects, such as Bertha Haven Putnam's The Enforcement of the Statutes of Labourers During the First Decade After Black Death, 1349-1359 (1908).  There was still new stuff that I learned from reading Kelly's book--which is very readable, and full of human interest stories.

John M. Barry, The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History 2nd ed. (2009).  A quite fascinating book not just about the influenza epidemic of 1918, but also about the role of John Hopkins and its scientists at the core of America's development of a first-rate medical scientific establishment at the beginning of the twentieth century.  Like Kelly's book, filled with human interest stories that liven it up, as well as a very detailed explanation of the struggles involved in finding a treatment--and what we have to fear today.

Mark Haddon, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (2003).  Written by a guy who used to work with autistic children, it is a somewhat disturbing novel written in the first person as though by a really smart kid with Asperger's Syndrome.  This book was recommended by a former co-worker with two Asperger's Syndrome kids.  I had such a student a while back, and while I cut this kid quite a bit of slack because I could tell something was a little different about him, reading this book gave some useful insights to me.

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