It’s hard for me to gauge exactly how interesting a book like this may be to someone else, because when asked about my fantasy dream career, I say epidemiologist. And not the fun kind – the data wonk kind.
I think objectively, this book is objectively “exciting” if you have a tolerance for fairly dry excitement, and a lot of details on slow, frustrating, painstaking searches for pathogens, outbreaks, sources of contamination, and underlying causes of the things that plague us. Despite the rather dramatic title, there are probably more thrilling books on the topic, but if you have any interest in the workings/accomplishments of the CDC, I’d highly recommend it.
Each chapter details a chapter in CDC history, not necessarily chronological, from bioterrorism to measles to AIDS to contaminated lunchmeat. There are a few detours into general CDC culture, which I found somewhat less interesting but still quite readable. The chapters are methodical and detailed but all in all don’t wear out their welcome. The most tedious part of the book was the time spent introducing each and every professional involved in the cases, their background/education/personality/looks and some anecdote about them. I see where the author was going with it, and although it didn’t completely work, I’m not sure what the alternative would’ve been. If she’d skimmed over the humans behind the CDC, people would’ve complained. I’ve seen other reviewers wishing she would’ve focused on a few people, but the CDC is huge and its cases span the globe, so that would’ve limited the scope to practically nothing.
Overall a great read for anyone with a mild to moderate interest in public health.