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The Great Influenza - John M. Barry

The Great Influenza

By John M. Barry

  • Release Date: 2004-02-09
  • Genre: United States
Score: 4.5
From 411 Ratings


#1 New York Times bestseller

“Barry will teach you almost everything you need to know about one of the deadliest outbreaks in human history.”—Bill Gates

"Monumental... an authoritative and disturbing morality tale."—Chicago Tribune 

The strongest weapon against pandemic is the truth. Read why in the definitive account of the 1918 Flu Epidemic. 

Magisterial in its breadth of perspective and depth of research, The Great Influenza provides us with a precise and sobering model as we confront the epidemics looming on our own horizon. As Barry concludes, "The final lesson of 1918, a simple one yet one most difficult to execute, is that...those in authority must retain the public's trust. The way to do that is to distort nothing, to put the best face on nothing, to try to manipulate no one. Lincoln said that first, and best. A leader must make whatever horror exists concrete. Only then will people be able to break it apart."   

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 months than AIDS 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 of science and epidemic disease.


  • The Great Influenza

    By wealllove
    Okay, you know what, I’ve given this book so many chances to not be another crappy point of view of history from a gross privileged white man, but alas, it’s failed. The first thing that got to me was the complete disregard for the women involved in the creation of John’s Hopkins. You can literally go onto the hospital’s website and find wholes page dedicated to their work. Secondly, why does he feel the need to list the literal body weights of these famous men he is otherwise just annoyingly glorifying? Fat shaming is not cute. Barry is especially obsessed with this Welch guy who literally was the only deciding factor in allowing women to be able to attend the school. Like, why is there no critique of these people through a modern lens? It just feels like the same old white history that Americans get in school. Barry literally describes viruses as rapists... there is nothing revolutionary about his perspective. It’s literally just the same old white man garbage. Finally, the grammar. Oh, the grammar. This book was so ridiculously difficult to read due to the lack of commas. It’s as if nobody edited the book? Honestly, I just want my money back. I bought it because it had like a 90% rating so maybe there’s just something wrong with me. I HATE THIS BOOK.
  • The Great Influenza

    By SheabaC
    An amazing “telling” of the influenza pandemic! The author combines science, history and the psychology of the scientists and political players into an excellent, informative literary accomplishment.
  • The Great Influenza ???

    By madaboutmadmen
    The book should be retitled to something other than what the title suggests. this was more about the lives of the scientists rather than the pandemic itself. Coupled with the sporadic time and sporadic locations, it makes for a difficult read. I also question the need for the deep dive into science itself. Find another book about the 1918 pandemic rather than this.
  • The Great Influenza

    By Profoundly Curious
    A great wealth of background historical information put so much of the events of the epidemic into perspective. Most interesting was that the outcome was so horrible because people in positions of authority both ignored the advice of scientists and medical professionals and lied over and over to the public about the dangers of the disease. The comparisons between the influenza epidemic of 1918 and the Covid pandemic of 2019 show a frightening similarity. If more people would read and learn from this history, civilization just might prevent future outbreaks from causing such devastation.
  • The Great Influenza

    By Fishing Preacher
    Well written, interesting and historically informative.
  • The Great Influenza

    By MD1333
    The description of the activity of the virus attacking human cells and tissue is the best I have ever read, an easy jump from that to understanding the devisation of this virus on the population. The shame associated with the response to this disaster still lingers in the Medical Community of Philadelphia . I went to Medical School in Philadelephis in the 60’s, some of my professors were involved in fighting the disease yet never mentioned the events covered in this excellent work.