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ARC Book Review | The Atlas of Disease by Sandra Hempel

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The Atlas of Disease: Mapping Deadly Epidemics and Contagion from the Plague to the Zika Virus by Sandra Hempel

Published: October 30, 2018

Publisher: White Lion Publishing 

Pages: 224

Genres: non fiction, medical, health, science, history 

Rating: 4 stars

Recommend to fans of: learning about health and wellness, medicine, science in general but especially human health

Foodie Vibes: healthy well balanced meals that are prepared with the ultimate food safety in mind 

 

Synopsis:

Behind every disease is a story, a complex narrative woven of multiple threads, from the natural history of the disease, to the tale of its discovery and its place in history.
 
But what is vital in all of this is how the disease spreads and develops. In The Atlas of Disease, Sandra Hemple reveals how maps have uncovered insightful information about the history of disease, from the seventeenth century plague maps that revealed the radical idea that diseases might be carried and spread by humans, to cholera maps in the 1800s showing the disease was carried by water, right up to the AIDs epidemic in the 1980s and the recent Ebola outbreak.
 
Crucially, The Atlas of Disease will also explore how cartographic techniques have been used to combat epidemics by revealing previously hidden patterns. These discoveries have changed the course of history, affected human evolution, stimulated advances in medicine and shaped the course of countless lives.

 

Review:

Thank you to NetGalley, White Lion Publishing, and Sandra Hempel for an ARC ebook copy to review. As always, an honest review from me.

The Atlas of Disease is perfectly summarized in the title. The book features diseases that have caused epidemics, outbreaks and overall ill health in humans throughout history. The author uses maps to help illustrate the spread of, infection rate, and other useful information relating to each disease. 

Each disease featured starts with the basics about it, so even if you’re not an expert in the field you can learn about the disease enough to have a good understanding to read the rest of the section. The next few pages describe the history, transmission, and much other information related to that specific disease. I found it fascinating and learned some new information, even beyond what I had learned in my college courses. 

I found it very interesting to see how people’s actions affect the spread of disease including individual people’s choices, the political climate, war, poverty, and famine. Also the book is a great example of why vaccinations are so important. Yes, anti vaxxers I’m talking to you. Vaccinate your children!

However, some of the maps didn’t interest me that much. Partly because I was reading it on my iPhone so I had to constantly zoom in and move the page of the book around the see the whole map, so it was more bothersome than worth it. Also I already understood most of the information through reading the text, so the map didn’t give me too much additional information. But if you’re a big visual learner or very next to the subjects then the maps would be very helpful. 

All in all, I really enjoyed reading The Atlas of Disease. I highly recommend it, especially if you’re a nerd like me. 

 

Do you think learning about diseases is interesting or scary? 

4 Star Books · Book Reviews · non fiction

Book Review: Cannibalism: A Perfectly Natural History by Bill Schutt

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Cannibalism: A Perfectly Natural History by Bill Schutt

Published by Algonquin Books on February 14, 2017

Pages: 332

Genres: non fiction, science, history, anthropology, biology, nature, psychology

Rating: 4 stars

Recommend to fans of: books that include a comprehensive mix of multiple sciences to uncover the facts, science nerds

Read with food: 100% vegan salad

 

Synopsis: 

For centuries scientists have written off cannibalism as a bizarre phenomenon with little biological significance. Its presence in nature was dismissed as a desperate response to starvation or other life-threatening circumstances, and few spent time studying it. A taboo subject in our culture, the behavior was portrayed mostly through horror movies or tabloids sensationalizing the crimes of real-life flesh-eaters. But the true nature of cannibalism–the role it plays in evolution as well as human history–is even more intriguing (and more normal) than the misconceptions we’ve come to accept as fact.

In Cannibalism: A Perfectly Natural History, zoologist Bill Schutt sets the record straight, debunking common myths and investigating our new understanding of cannibalism’s role in biology, anthropology, and history in the most fascinating account yet written on this complex topic. Schutt takes readers from Arizona’s Chiricahua Mountains, where he wades through ponds full of tadpoles devouring their siblings, to the Sierra Nevadas, where he joins researchers who are shedding new light on what happened to the Donner Party–the most infamous episode of cannibalism in American history. He even meets with an expert on the preparation and consumption of human placenta (and, yes, it goes well with Chianti).

Bringing together the latest cutting-edge science, Schutt answers questions such as why some amphibians consume their mother’s skin; why certain insects bite the heads off their partners after sex; why, up until the end of the twentieth century, Europeans regularly ate human body parts as medical curatives; and how cannibalism might be linked to the extinction of the Neanderthals. He takes us into the future as well, investigating whether, as climate change causes famine, disease, and overcrowding, we may see more outbreaks of cannibalism in many more species–including our own.

Cannibalism places a perfectly natural occurrence into a vital new context and invites us to explore why it both enthralls and repels us.

Review: 

A book about cannibalism seems like it would be weird and horrific, but it was actually quite intriguing. That is not to say I want to engage in cannibalism … actually quite the opposite.

The book discusses the history of cannibalism in animals and humans, and the mainly evolutionary and survival purposes for the practices. Young animals, especially amphibians, would engage in cannibalism by eating other smaller animals of the same species to increase their chance of survival. I found this fact intriguing and informative, as my preconceived notions were that cannibalism was only creep psychotic serial killers.

In humans, the practice of medical cannibalism throughout history occurred in some cultures. Mainly as an attempt to cure health conditions or periods of extreme famine.

Overall, I found this book to be incredibly interesting. The author is truly trying to understand the practice of cannibalism, not sensationalize it. A bit of an odd book choice for some, but if the topic intrigues you, then I definitely recommend this book.

 

So . . . I want to know, what’s the weirdest book you’ve read?