Outstanding Academic Titles 2023: COVID-19 and Infectious Disease

Enjoy these five selections from the Choice Reviews 2023 Outstanding Academic Titles list. This week we highlight, Outstanding Academic Titles from the past year pertaining to COVID-19 and infectious disease. A hearty congratulations to the winning authors, editors and publishers!

1. Viruses: a natural history
Roossinck, Marilyn J. Princeton, 2023

Viruses are all around us, playing a pivotal role in our everyday lives. Despite their small size, their impact can be felt in both positive ways (through maintenance of a variety of bacteria within the human gut) and negative ones (the COVID-19 pandemic). Roossinck (Pennsylvania State Univ.) provides a comprehensive and beautifully illustrated journey through the fascinating world of viral biology in this natural history of the infectious agent. The text begins with explanations of virus classification, structure, and replication cycles. The author goes on to describe virus-host and virus-ecosystem interactions. The book concludes with chapters on both “good” and “bad” viruses, making it clear that while pathogenic viruses are important, so too are the viruses that help us maintain aspects of life such as bacterial diversity, crop health, genomic evolution, and more. Each chapter, in addition to its explanation of a particular aspect of viral biology, describes specific viruses that help illustrate its main theme. This book offers an excellent overview of the main tenets of viral biology, designed to help readers better understand why viruses cause infection while also highlighting how our environment could not function properly without them. View on Amazon


2. A geography of infection: spatial processes and patterns in epidemics and pandemics
by Matthew Smallman-Raynor et al Oxford, 2022

The recent COVID-19 pandemic resulted in an emerging emphasis on understanding the pathways of infection. Smallman-Raynor (Univ. of Nottingham), Cliff (Univ. of Cambridge), Ord (Georgetown Univ.), and Haggett (Univ. of Bristol) jointly authored this updated view with clear focus on the geographic structure of infection and epidemics, particularly the spatial processes and patterns that characterize disease distribution. In six chapters, the authors present, respectively, epidemics as waves of diffusion, illustrated in both time and space through various models and data displays (chapter 1); historical case studies from epidemics in small communities (chapter 2); global origins and dispersal of causative agents (chapter 3); the notorious pandemics of world history (chapter 4); an in-depth look at the COVID-19 pandemic in the UK and US (chapter 5); and strategies for controlling communicable diseases, including spatial blocking, vaccines and vaccination, and surveillance. The text, although fairly technical, is supported throughout with color graphs, tables, and charts that will help readers follow and understand the material. This book is an excellent source of information not only for students and researchers of epidemiology focusing on disease and disease transmission but also for more casual readers interested in infection, disease spread, and disease control. View on Amazon


3. Death, grief and loss in the context of COVID-19
ed. by Panagiotis Pentaris Routledge, 2021

This volume edited by Pentaris (Univ. of Greenwich, London) offers encyclopedic coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic, probing its multifaceted impacts including death rates and diverse outcomes for different racial/ethnic and demographic groups, examining how grief and loss have been experienced, and a wide variety of related subjects. As an anthology of 16 chapters written by a diverse group of 32 international social science specialists, it includes work by some of the world’s most respected thanatologists. Contributors explore, for example, how the COVID-19 pandemic isolated mourners, challenging many to become technologically competent so as to communicate remotely, while others investigate how COVID-19 may have impacted rates of substance misuse, mental health problems, and suicide. Each chapter is introduced by a short summary of contents. Some chapters examine challenges and controversies faced by different health care systems, including issues presented by end-of-life decision-making and requests for assisted suicide. The book focuses somewhat more heavily on the COVID-19 impacts in the UK, although its overall scope is international: one chapter is devoted to India. Anyone interested in the myriad specific impacts of the pandemic will find intellectual satisfaction in this richly informative volume. View on Amazon


4. Who we are now: stories of what Americans lost and found during the COVID-19 pandemic
Fishburne, Michelle. North Carolina, 2023

“What was your 2020 supposed to be like and what did it end up being like through to the present?” Armed with this simple question and an iPhone to record responses, Fishburne, a “full-time digital nomad,” as described by the publisher, traversed the US in a motor home, logging 12,000 miles and interviewing approximately 300 people from September 2020 to September of the following year to document how individual Americans’ lives had been affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. The author contextualizes her journey and methodology in an introductory essay, invoking John Steinbeck’s 1960 cross-country trek with Charley, his dog. She then unravels 100 representative vignettes of people identified only by first names, the states in which they live, and a brief descriptor characterizing their job or status during the pandemic. Ranging from 25 to 45 minutes in length, the author’s interviews revealed a vast “mosaic” of pandemic experiences. Widely varied, these reported experiences are made coherent by the emerging themes of what interviewees believed mattered most to them during this period, most notably family, career, friends, and community. Though some accounts are more compelling, poignant, or introspective than others, the result is a compact, accessible oral history documenting what Americans “lost and found” during the pandemic. View on Amazon.


5Duel without end: mankind’s battle with microbes Frøland, Stig Sophus. by Stig Sophus Frøland tr. by John Irons Reaktion Books, 2022

Throughout the course of human history, people have been subject to the repeated onslaughts of microbial pathogens. The severity of illness associated with infectious-disease agents varies from mild to life-threatening. In the decades following WW II, however, there was widespread belief that the impact of infectious diseases had passed. In fact, nothing could have been further from the truth. In this appropriately titled text—mankind’s war with microbes is a never-ending battle—Frøland (emer., Univ. of Oslo) presents a broad overview of the natural history of infectious diseases. Notable epidemic and pandemic diseases are examined in the context of the disease triangle—host, pathogen, environment—the trinity that defines the fundamental aspects of infectious-disease epidemiology. Frøland’s discussion focuses on distinct milestones in human cultural development that have facilitated the spread of infectious diseases, e.g., increased crowding, closer interactions with animals, and globalization, emphasizing their respective medical, political, economic, and social impacts. Among other topics, he considers the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic; threats of biowarfare/terrorism; development of vaccines and antibiotics; and future challenges (including epidemic preparedness) from a global and historical perspective. This highly readable and informative account will be of interest to both general readers and specialists fascinated by infectious diseases or the history of medicine. View on Amazon.


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