Using the double meaning of malady, or more so both the figurative and literal meanings of illness and societal ill, Timothy Snyder walks us through a truly depressing breakdown of the failures of the US as a state, especially as illustrated by the response to the pandemic. Admitted to a series of different hospitals in December of 2019 with liver issues, Timothy Snyder got firsthand reminders of the brokenness of the for-profit US healthcare system a few months before that systemwide failure would be front and center in all of our lives. While he traces his observations through the US’s federal and local responses to the pandemic, he reminds us throughout that no one node of our network was the sole cause. The reminder that many of us need over and over is that while Trump is a symptom and effect of our system, he’s not even the culmination, just one truly awful by-product. Using his training as a historian of authoritarianism Snyder keeps raising important concerns about the failures of American democracy and how it especially showed throughout the last year. He’s publishing this in September of 2020, so while we know the outcomes of the election, he’s serving up dire warnings not only about the 2020 election, but about not taking the 2020 election as the final word. It’s quaint to hear him refer a few times to the 150,000 dead, while we’re sitting here a year and change from the first throes of the pandemic with around 600,000 dead. Our sobering and depressing book in a lot of ways, but also a good reminder for people who already knew this stuff. It’s always frustrating to be reminded you live in a failed state.