Pandemic: Tracking Contagions, from Cholera to Ebola and Beyond

  • Sonia Shah
Sarah Crichton (2014) 9780374122881 | ISBN: 978-0-3741-2288-1

Cholera — the acute bacterial infection that can kill in hours — serves as a lens on new pandemics in this grounded, bracingly intelligent study. As science journalist Sonia Shah reveals, more than 300 infectious diseases have emerged or re-emerged in the past half-century, and epidemiologists predict a catastrophic pandemic in the next. Shah lucidly layers history into a tour of transmission hotspots, from incubators of 'spillover' animal-borne illnesses such as China's wild-animal markets to globalized transport and hyperdense cities.

The Most Wanted Man in China: My Journey from Scientist to Enemy of the State Fang Lizhi, translated by Perry Link. Henry Holt (2016)


This memoir by late Chinese astrophysicist and dissident Fang Lizhi is a trenchant explication of science under siege. Fang learned English partly by studying Paul Dirac's 1930 Principles of Quantum Mechanics, and carved out a career at the University of Science and Technology of China. Although his youthful love for Communism withered during the forced labour and expulsions of the Cultural Revolution and beyond, Fang's “awe at the colossal thing called the universe” never waned, surviving surveillance and exile. Inspiring.


  • Eliezer J. Sternberg
Pantheon (2016) 9780307908773 | ISBN: 978-0-3079-0877-3

A man stumbling around in a brightly lit room insists it is dark. When a scan shows damage to his brain's visual monitoring as well as its processing system, his internal 'logic' is revealed. This case study is just one of many marshalled by neurologist Eliezer Sternberg for his research-rich study of the neurological circuitry behind the narratives we use to make sense of things. Sternberg cracks open the brain's “black box” to examine its parallel conscious and unconscious systems, and explores states from dreaming and acts on 'autopilot' to memory, hallucinations and trauma.

Privacy: A Short History

  • David Vincent
Polity (2016) 9780745671123 | ISBN: 978-0-7456-7112-3

Have the reports of privacy's demise been greatly exaggerated, or is it the dodo of our digitized world? Social historian David Vincent examines that question in this deft study of privacy in houses, cities, correspondence and surveillance, from 1300 to today. We peer into the “fugitive spaces” where medievals scratched epistles; the Victorian dichotomy of fortress-like abode and sociable public transport; and today's paranoia-soaked debates over digital media. Whether linked to ideas of sanctuary, secrecy or intimacy, privacy is a flashpoint in the charged relationship of individual to society.

Snowball in a Blizzard: A Physician's Notes on Uncertainty in Medicine

  • Steven C. Hatch
Basic (2016) 9780465050642 | ISBN: 978-0-4650-5064-2

How do you pinpoint a tumour in a mammogram? About as easily as you find a snowball in a blizzard, writes medical academic Steven Hatch in this penetrating examination of uncertainty in diagnoses and treatment. It is both constant, he shows, and ignored by physicians at their, and their patients', peril. He also shows why, looking in turn at issues such as false positives, mammography, hypertension treatments, drug trials and media reportage.