Written By: Steven Johnson

Narrated By: Alan Sklar

Date: December 2006

Duration: 8 hours 30 minutes


A thrilling historical account of the worst cholera outbreak in Victorian London-and a brilliant exploration of how Dr. John Snow's solution revolutionized the way we think about disease, cities, science, and the modern world.

From the dynamic thinker routinely compared to Malcolm Gladwell, E. O. Wilson, and James Gleick, The Ghost Map is a riveting page-turner with a real-life historical hero that brilliantly illuminates the intertwined histories of the spread of viruses, rise of cities, and the nature of scientific inquiry. These are topics that have long obsessed Steven Johnson, and The Ghost Map is a true triumph of the kind of multidisciplinary thinking for which he's become famous-a book that, like the work of Jared Diamond, presents both vivid history and a powerful and provocative explanation of what it means for the world we live in.

The Ghost Map takes place in the summer of 1854. A devastating cholera outbreak seizes London just as it is emerging as a modern city: more than 2 million people packed into a ten-mile circumference, a hub of travel and commerce, teeming with people from all over the world, continually pushing the limits of infrastructure that's outdated as soon as it's updated. Dr. John Snow-whose ideas about contagion had been dismissed by the scientific community-is spurred to intense action when the people in his neighborhood begin dying. With enthralling suspense, Johnson chronicles Snow's day-by-day efforts, as he risks his own life to prove how the epidemic is being spread.

When he creates the map that traces the pattern of outbreak back to its source, Dr. Snow didn't just solve the most pressing medical riddle of his time. He ultimately established a precedent for the way modern city-dwellers, city planners, physicians, and public officials think about the spread of disease and the development of the modern urban environment.

The Ghost Map is an endlessly compelling and utterly gripping account of that London summer of 1854, from the microbial level to the macrourban-theory level-including, most important, the human level.


  • Anonymous

    This was quite startling in a very informative way. To think that we had the ability back then to trace the epidemic right back to the original victim, was unthinkable to me. Also, books and novels always leave out the details about hygiene and toileting. I had no idea how bad it was. Even the Romans built an aquaduct to move waste out of the cities. These original "honey wagons" of London times, all on the layers of rag pickers, etc. was quite sad, and again, startling. My ignorance abounds!

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful.

  • Hollis Ramsey

    I love this book and will be reading it again real soon. It's the only kind of detective story I like: real-life Science. I also love reading about the development of cities, infrastructure, epidemics, and critical thinking. This book has it all. The narrator was perfectly suited for the subject matter: matter-of-fact but not dry or detached. The story is fascinating. Dr. John Snow was a remarkable man, a real Mensch.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful.

  • Deborah B.

    Highly recommend

  • Marina H.

    I couldn’t get past 10 minutes of the book, sad.y the narrator sounded dull.

  • Joseph P.

    An hour in - I abandoned. The subject is heavy and filled with far too much unnecessary detail. Not my type of book I guess. It was free for a reason!!

  • Ruhuhu

    A terrific detective story about a disease, two smart and curious men who probed the problem, and a sea change in our analysis of causation. A great book for anyone interested in those revolutions in scientific thinking.

  • shelleelorayne

    VERY INTERESTING BOOK!! Wow!! The end when the author was speculating on the future was a bit extreme and a tad overdone. But the story of the cholera outbreak in London, the way in which it changed medicine practices and the history involved was engaging and exciting (in a morbid kind of way!).

  • Anonymous

    The main part of the book was very well written and interesting. However, at the end the author "waxed eloquent" a bit too long, with such a consdescending tone that I got really sick of it, especially since it had very little to do with the epidemic or its solution.

  • Anonymous

    An interesting and in-depth review of the first scientific approach towards disease outbreaks in urban centers. Redundant and times and verbose throughout; this is still an interesting piece. I agree that an abridgment wouldn't hurt.

  • Anonymous

    Informative, but somewhat repetitious . . . Interesting historical picture of Victorian England. I believe an abridged edition would be every bit as interesting --

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by Steven Johnson

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