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Seth Mnookin's Top Book Recommendations

Want to know what books Seth Mnookin recommends on their reading list? We've researched interviews, social media posts, podcasts, and articles to build a comprehensive list of Seth Mnookin's favorite book recommendations of all time.

Vaccines have saved more lives than any other single medical advance. Yet today only four companies make vaccines, and there is a growing crisis in vaccine availability. Why has this happened? This remarkable book recounts for the first time a devastating episode in 1955 at Cutter Laboratories in Berkeley, California, thathas led many pharmaceutical companies to abandon vaccine manufacture.

Drawing on interviews with public health officials, pharmaceutical company executives, attorneys, Cutter employees, and victims of the vaccine, as well as on previously unavailable archives, Dr....
Recommended by Seth Mnookin, and 1 others.

Seth MnookinYes, that’s also why I thought The Cutter Incident was so impressive. Here’s a book that’s written by the person who is probably the most identifiable vaccine advocate in the US. He has received death threats for his work with vaccines, and there he goes and writes the first book-length study of what, by any measure, was really the worst vaccine crisis in American history. (Source)

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Vaccine juxtaposes the stories of brilliant scientists with the industry's struggle to produce safe, effective, and profitable vaccines. It focuses on the role of military and medical authority in the introduction of vaccines and looks at why some parents have resisted this authority. Political and social intrigue have often accompanied vaccination—from the divisive introduction of smallpox inoculation in colonial Boston to the 9,000 lawsuits recently filed by parents convinced that vaccines caused their children's autism. With narrative grace and investigative journalism, Arthur... more
Recommended by Bill Gates, Seth Mnookin, and 2 others.

Bill Gates[On Bill Gates's reading list in 2011.] (Source)

Seth MnookinArthur is a wonderful writer. He covers the huge sweep of the story — he goes back to variolation and Edward Jenner and then takes it all the way through the development of vaccines, the nationalization of vaccine programmes, various social pressures, up to some of the more recent controversies. From my experience I know that when I’m trying to synthesize a huge amount of information, it becomes... (Source)

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An American Story

Here David Oshinsky tells the gripping story of the polio terror and of the intense effort to find a cure, from the March of Dimes to the discovery of the Salk and Sabin vaccines--and beyond. Drawing on newly available papers of Jonas Salk, Albert Sabin and other key players, Oshinsky paints a suspenseful portrait of the race for the cure, weaving a dramatic tale centered on the furious rivalry between Salk and Sabin. He also tells the story of Isabel Morgan, perhaps the most talented of all polio researchers, who might have beaten Salk to the prize if she had not retired to raise a... more
Recommended by Bill Gates, Seth Mnookin, and 2 others.

Bill GatesInfluenced the decision that Melinda and I made to make polio eradication the top priority of the foundation, as well as my own personal priority. (Source)

Seth MnookinWhat I find so impressive about this book is that Oshinsky really does cover the whole history of a disease but does so in a way that you never feel you’re getting a CliffsNotes version. It’s a pretty unwieldy topic: you could write an entire book just about the year the polio vaccine was rolled out, or what happened since then, or you could write a book, as Paul Offit did, just about the Cutter... (Source)

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From Steven Johnson, the dynamic thinker routinely compared to James Gleick, Dava Sobel, and Malcolm Gladwell, The Ghost Map is a riveting page-turner about a real-life historical hero, Dr. John Snow. It's the summer of 1854, and London is just emerging as one of the first modern cities in the world. But lacking the infrastructure—garbage removal, clean water, sewers—necessary to support its rapidly expanding population, the city has become the perfect breeding ground for a terrifying disease no one knows how to cure. As the cholera outbreak takes hold, a physician and a local curate... more

Seth MnookinThe Ghost Map is a book that I oftentimes give to people to show them how cool and exciting and accessible and gripping stories about scientific discoveries can be. (Source)

Alison AlvarezI read the Ghost Map, a book about 1854 London Cholera outbreak. The outbreak was stopped because of a map created by Dr. John Snow. You can see hints of this map in some of our customer discovery tools because it was such an effective way of pinpointing a solution to a seemingly insurmountable problem. (Source)

Stephen EvansJohnson looks at London during a specific moment in time, August 1854, and focuses on a particular incident, an outbreak of cholera in Soho, in Central London. (Source)

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Microbe Hunters

“It manages to delight, and frequently to entrance, old and new readers [and] continues to engage our hearts and minds today with an indescribably brand of affectionate sympathy.”—F. Gonzalez-Crussi, from the Introduction

An international bestseller, translated into eighteen languages, Paul de Kruif’s classic account of the first scientists to see and learn about the microscopic world continues to fascinate new readers. This is a timeless dramatization of the scientists, bacteriologists, doctors, and medical technicians who discovered the microbes and invented the vaccines...
Recommended by Seth Mnookin, P. D. Mangan, and 2 others.

Seth MnookinIt’s such a fun book — to the extent that something about searching for microbes can be fun. I got the sense that the author was saying very consciously, “This is awesome and exciting and I’m going to show that!” I just love those types of stories. It’s one of the reasons I like The Ghost Map also: it’s really a story of this small group of people who changed our entire understanding of the world... (Source)

P. D. Mangan@ClemensXI Glad you asked. Literally, it's the biology of very small organisms, including bacteria, viruses, protozoa, and fungi. The story of van Leeuvenhoek, the first microbiologist, is fascinating, and you might try the book Microbe Hunters by de Kruif. (Source)

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