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The Great Influenza: The Epic Story of the Deadliest Plague in History

Written by:
John M. Barry
Narrated by:
Scott Brick

Unabridged Audiobook

Release Date
March 2006
19 hours 27 minutes
In the winter of 1918, at the height of World War I, history's most lethal influenza virus erupted in an army camp in Kansas, moved east with American troops, then exploded, killing as many as 100 million people worldwide. It killed more people in twenty-four weeks than AIDS has killed in twenty-four years, more in a year than the Black Death killed in a century. But this was not the Middle Ages, and 1918 marked the first collision between modern science and epidemic disease. Magisterial in its breadth of perspective and depth of research, THE GREAT INFLUENZA weaves together multiple narratives, with characters ranging from William Welch, founder of the Johns Hopkins Medical School, to John D. Rockefeller and Woodrow Wilson. Ultimately a tale of triumph amid tragedy, this crisis provides us with a precise and sobering model as we confront the epidemics looming on our own horizon.
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Gary G.

This should be a must read for all of us given the current pandemic we are experiencing. It puts what we are going through into perspective, and exposes many parallels between the two pandemics. "Those who do not study history are condemned to repeat it" This book could help us cope today.

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Glenn G.

This is a brilliant book. At times, the detail can be a bit overwhelming. The contributions of the scientist presented in the book is truly remarkable. They deserve considerably greater recognition than they have received. I felt the criticisms of President Wilson however, were a bit excessive.

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Patrick M.

Very engrossing narrative that is so fitting after the past few years.

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Marian P.

Fully informative. Fascinating, given the events of this past year.

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A great story a great achievement

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Mudassar B.

The books highlights the horrors of the 1918 influenza, horrors which were inadvertently exacerbated by a US government at war which ironically was trying to keep the spirits of its population high.

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Richard B.

I tell my friends this is a thriller! John Barry lays out in graphic detail the epic saga of the battle between scientists and the greatest pandemic in history. Ultimately science prevails and today has demonstrated that no disease has a chance against modern technologies. Because of the genius of many, Taiwan was able to STOP COVID-19 IN ITS TRACKS and has already reopened schools and donated millions of masks to the US and Europe. Taiwan only had 5 deaths as of 3/4/2020 from C19 and showed the world how to properly react to a highly contagious and lethal plague.

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One of the best books I ever read!

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She and She.

Very good information helps make people aware how Dangerous the Flu could be.

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Carina Ward

Great book. Super interesting. I was on the edge of my seat.

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At first I was really wondering if this book had a point. Then, as it went on, it was clear that all the "extraneous" information was not only essential to really understanding what happened, but it was interesting. We really have not come all that far in medicine.

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I'd read about the pandemic and heard my mother's stories about how her sister had died from influenza. But this book tells the story so well that it makes the influenza pandemic a real and tangible thing as if it happened in recent memory and may very well happen again in our lifetime. I wish more people would read this book. There would be less fear of vaccines and greater respect for public health & illness prevention.

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E. Weisz

Fascinating book. Although technical in many aspects, the book provided great insight into the history of medical practice in the 19th & 20th century and kept the tragic story of the epidemic as almost a mystery novel. highly recommend.+

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Sharon Bennett

This was a great book. Riveting to listen to. I sometimes stayed in the driveway to listen to the last 15 minutes or so of the CD. Great if you are interested in history, medicine, pandemics, public health service, or just want to understand more about the culture of science or WWI America. The book is fantastic to listen to and while long, is well worth the listen. I am half-way through the second set of CDs, and I am still awed.

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I found this book to be very interesting and informative. Though it was long, it revealed a lot of detail that I found interesting in light of my desired to know history and this gave a very clear picture of Woodrow Wilson and WWI and how it helped the spread of the disease. The Flue only.

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Mark Mallah

This is a harrowing, haunting, and tragic story powerfully told. The author provides deep characterizations of the major players, and broad context for medical progress leading up to this cataclysmic event. The narrator has a resonant voice, with the ability to animate the author's words as a fine actor animates dialogue. This book brought me to tears, and is unforgettable.

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Barbara A.

The book takes you through an extended history of the medical profession which I wasn't ready for. It took until the 4th or 5th CD for them to get into the start of the disease. I guess the beginning explains the whys, but just don't expect to have the book jump right into things. There is alot of history told from many areas. It makes you wonder why they have gone where they have, but it comes back to the main story eventually. I am anxiously awaiting the next set of disks, so I haven't been deterred. It helps if you are interested in history.

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I'm not a medical person, so much of the verbage is hard to follow. I've listened to most CDs 2 times for greater understanding. Having said that, this book is so fascinating to me. I appreciate how Barry intertwined politics and medicine with stories of everyday people mixed in to remind the listener/reader that this was happening to ordinary people. And the implications for today are especially poignant. I'd recommend this for short, focused jaunts unless you are especially geared for medical history, as you can get bogged down in the verbage over the long haul. The narrator is fantastic and makes things easy to hear and understand through his vocalizations and intonations.

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An insightful, very detailed, and long account of people and events surrounding the 1918 pandemic flu. Tracing the course of the pandemic and related events, including the development of scientific medicine, World War I, with widespread ignorance and denial in the face of a public health crisis during wartime. The origins of important medical institutions and the careers of prominent medical researchers are detailed in the search for the cause, prevention, treatment, and control of influenza and related diseases. Recommended reading for anyone involved in public health issues or interested in the potential course of future pandemics. Influenza won't be taken lightly after this read.

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