Overall: This book is an absolute masterpiece. Epic in scope, brilliant in how it is all connected, very relevant to today, and extremely eye opening and illuminating. Not an easy read but absolutely worth it! 10/10
Summary: Much of this story is detailing Quammen's adventures and research following various zoonosis around the world. Fun fact: Historically, some 60 percent of the infections that plague humankind, from influenza to H.I.V. and bubonic plague, all originated in the bodies of other animals. This book is neatly divided into sections based around a certain zoonosis or a group of similar ones. Each section is a meticulous telling of the origin, history, pertinent findings and research, development, and current state of these various zoonotic diseases. Take home message: eat more plants and chocolate! Note: though this book is all about zoonosis it should not cause the reader to panic or be scared about them. “Spillover” hardly touches on such pandemic-worthy animal pathogens as avian flu or multi-drug-resistant bacteria, rather, it fully describes the unfolding convergence between veterinary science and human medicine, and how veterinary-minded medical experts discover and track diseases that spread across species. “Spillover” is less public health warning than ecological affirmation: these crossovers force us to uphold “the old Darwinian truth (the darkest of his truths, well known and persistently forgotten) that humanity is a kind of animal” — with a shared fate on the planet. “People and gorillas, horses and duikers and pigs, monkeys and chimps and bats and viruses,” Quammen writes. “We’re all in this together.” “When a pathogen leaps from some nonhuman animal into a person, and succeeds there in establishing itself as an infectious presence, sometimes causing illness or death, the result is a zoonosis.”
The Good: I loved this book! Granted it is a subject I am very interested in but I listened to it with my husband who has no medical or animal background, and he immensely enjoyed it as well. The storytelling is amazing, it really does read like a narrative and I felt swept away at many points that I had to remind myself this was nonfiction. Another major positive is the scope. This book has SO MUCH information and yes, you absolutely have to pay attention, but the author does a great job at bringing everything together and explaining difficult to understand topics. It is a blend of science, history, ecology, anthropology, immunology, research, and all presented cohesively in a narrative that grips you with every chapter. My favorite section of all was Ebola. Overall, this book is phenomenal, very relevant to current events, and I learned so much while listening to it. Highly recommend.
The Bad: There were a few chapters in the section on AIDS that the author was speculating and theorizing that I was not a fan of. I preferred the remainder of the book which was all based on facts and science that I found these few chapters distracting and out of place. Some sections are dense in material that you really do need to be paying attention in order to keep up. I found this to be a positive though as I really learned a lot while reading this book.