Book Reviews of The Ghost Map: The Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic--and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World

The Ghost Map: The Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic--and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World
The Ghost Map The Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic--and How It Changed Science Cities and the Modern World
Author: Steven Johnson
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ISBN-13: 9781594482694
ISBN-10: 1594482691
Publication Date: 10/2/2007
Pages: 320
Rating:
  • Currently 4/5 Stars.
 71

4 stars, based on 71 ratings
Publisher: Riverhead Trade
Book Type: Paperback
Reviews: Amazon | Write a Review

17 Book Reviews submitted by our Members...sorted by voted most helpful

reviewed The Ghost Map: The Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic--and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World on + 73 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 8
The difficulty in reading about centuries past is adopting the mindset of those who lived then; how can we, with our 21st century knowledge, grasp a world in which people washed their babies' diapers next to the local drinking supply and thought nothing of it? Yet, Johnson weaves such a detailed picture of London life at the time that the commonplace miscomprehensions held by both the academics and uneducated are understandable. Johnson's greatest narrative gift is capturing the extent of the devastation and its commonplace nature in 19th century London, where people lived with the constant threat of epidemic.

The last fifth of the book is given over to Johnson's theorizing about the future of city planning, trying to tie it into the work of the pioneering researchers of the cholera outbreak. This non sequitur weakens the overall book, but only slightly. The mystery is real, the medical discoveries ingenious and Johnson's research and narrative compelling.
reviewed The Ghost Map: The Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic--and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World on + 902 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 7
The first 85% of this book is very good. I really enjoy historical renderings of medical cases or scientific/technological discoveries, and this recounting of the cholera epidemic in London did not disappoint.

If the book would have ended with the conclusion of the medical mystery, I think I would have been content. But the last few chapters of this book transition from a historical retelling of the cholera epidemic to the author's opinions and predictions regarding past, present, and future outbreaks of various disease processes and epidemics. While these discussions are somewhat relevant in light of the way in which the cholera epidemic was handled, it is not an ending that I preferred. Perhaps it was just because I wansn't really expecting it.

Author opinions aside, I thought that this book did a very good job of following the historical events that surrounded the cholera outbreak at the Broad Street pump. Because of that, I do recommend this book to anyone who enjoys factual but well-written medical history of the 19th century.
reviewed The Ghost Map: The Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic--and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World on + 34 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 6
Compelling history of a cholera epidemic in London in 1854, a time when people did not know that bacteria and viruses cause disease, a time when there were no sanitary sewers, so waste products were simply dumped in the backyard or the basement. Author lost me a bit in the last 1/3 of the book when he began to speculate about the future and run on a bit about city structure, but the first 2/3 is a first class read.
reviewed The Ghost Map: The Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic--and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World on + 14 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 5
This was a fascinating book! This is not just a history book. The author not only writes clearly and lucidly about London's great cholera outbreak in 1854, but he extrapolates out from that some very interesting thoughts about urbanisation in the 21st century and the way forward for an over-burdened planet.

I really enjoyed the history of this book, but the last couple of chapters also presented me with some new ideas about the life we live today and really made me think.

A very interesting read!
reviewed The Ghost Map: The Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic--and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World on + 2 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 2
This book is probably the most informative book that I have read this year. It is written in a manner that a non-scientist is able to follow and understand the epidemic and the causes without having to look up every other word.
reviewed The Ghost Map: The Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic--and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World on + 902 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 2
The first 85% of this book is very good. I really enjoy historical renderings of medical cases or scientific/technological discoveries, and this recounting of the cholera epidemic in London did not disappoint.

If the book would have ended with the conclusion of the medical mystery, I think I would have been content. But the last few chapters of this book transition from a historical retelling of the cholera epidemic to the author's opinions and predictions regarding past, present, and future outbreaks of various disease processes and epidemics. While these discussions are somewhat relevant in light of the way in which the cholera epidemic was handled, it is not an ending that I preferred. Perhaps it was just because I wansn't really expecting it.

Author opinions aside, I thought that this book did a very good job of following the historical events that surrounded the cholera outbreak at the Broad Street pump. Because of that, I do recommend this book to anyone who enjoys factual but well-written medical history of the 19th century.
reviewed The Ghost Map: The Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic--and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World on + 73 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 2
The difficulty in reading about centuries past is adopting the mindset of those who lived then; how can we, with our 21st century knowledge, grasp a world in which people washed their babies' diapers next to the local drinking supply and thought nothing of it? Yet, Johnson weaves such a detailed picture of London life at the time that the commonplace miscomprehensions held by both the academics and uneducated are understandable. Johnson's greatest narrative gift is capturing the extent of the devastation and its commonplace nature in 19th century London, where people lived with the constant threat of epidemic.

The last fifth of the book is given over to Johnson's theorizing about the future of city planning, trying to tie it into the work of the pioneering researchers of the cholera outbreak. This non sequitur weakens the overall book, but only slightly. The mystery is real, the medical discoveries ingenious and Johnson's research and narrative compelling.
reviewed The Ghost Map: The Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic--and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World on + 902 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
The first 85% of this book is very good. I really enjoy historical renderings of medical cases or scientific/technological discoveries, and this recounting of the cholera epidemic in London did not dissapoint.

If the book would have ended with the conclusion of the medical mystery, I think I would have been content. But the last few chapters of this book transition from a historical retelling of the cholera epidemic to the author's opinions and predictions regarding past, present, and future outbreaks of various disease processes and epidemics. While these discussions are somewhat relevant in light of the way in which the cholera epidemic was handled, it is not an ending that I preferred. Perhaps it was just becuase I wasn't really expecting it.

Author opinions aside, I thought that this book did a very good job of following the historical events that surrounded the cholera outbreak at the Broad Street pump. Because of that, I do recommend this book to anyone who enjoys factual but well-written medical history of the 19th century.
reviewed The Ghost Map: The Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic--and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World on + 92 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
Wow - a truly amazing book. This book is well-researched. The ways this epidemic spread, those who tried to solve the problem, and different medical and scientific methods still in place today really make what could be very dry material into quite a page turner. You find yourself truly rooting for some of the characters - and this is non-fiction! I recommend this book to those interested in: English History, medicine and diseases, general nonfiction. I keep very few books permanently, but this will be one of them.
reviewed The Ghost Map: The Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic--and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World on + 902 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
The first 85% of this book is very good. I really enjoy historical renderings of medical cases or scientific/technological discoveries, and this recounting of the cholera epidemic in London did not disappoint.

If the book would have ended with the conclusion of the medical mystery, I think I would have been content. But the last few chapters of this book transition from a historical retelling of the cholera epidemic to the author's opinions and predictions regarding past, present, and future outbreaks of various disease processes and epidemics. While these discussions are somewhat relevant in light of the way in which the cholera epidemic was handled, it is not an ending that I preferred. Perhaps it was just because I wansn't really expecting it.

Author opinions aside, I thought that this book did a very good job of following the historical events that surrounded the cholera outbreak at the Broad Street pump. Because of that, I do recommend this book to anyone who enjoys factual but well-written medical history of the 19th century.
reviewed The Ghost Map: The Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic--and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World on + 5 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
It started with an outbreak of cholera in 1854 London and chronicles the work of two men to solve the source of outbreak. It brings the personal accounts of the outbreaks consequences to life for the reader. I really enjoyed how Mr. Johnson wove the science of finding the cause with the human suffering and the attempts to stop it. Mr. Johnson uncovers the dirty world of waste disposal and the soiled underclass of this time period.
reviewed The Ghost Map: The Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic--and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World on + 32 more book reviews
A fascinating book! The story of two men coming at the problem of cholera epidemics from very different perspectives and how their determination changed London and eventually other large urban centers from this deadly disease. Amazing what they accomplished considering the challenges they faced.
reviewed The Ghost Map: The Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic--and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World on + 1245 more book reviews
I liked this book, the information and history that was in it was really interesting and at sometimes disturbing. Disturbing because of the attitudes and arrogance of those in power not wanting to learn something new or believe something new. That would have drove me nuts. The way the neighborhoods were linked and the water sources made for a real who did it. Lots of info but moved along at a pretty good pace. I liked it.
reviewed The Ghost Map: The Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic--and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World on + 1099 more book reviews
Johnson's excellent writing and clear logical progression ensure that even readers without a medical background understand the importance of this story. The detective work that went into tracking down the source of one of London's worst cholera epidemics is amazing, and gave rise to modern epidemiology. It's unfortunate that Johnson didn't quit when he finished with the facts, however. The manifesto contained in the epilogue was a poor ending to an otherwise outstanding book.
reviewed The Ghost Map: The Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic--and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World on
The topic was fascinating: the epidemic bringing about the discovery of the cause of cholera. The book was not. I found it was repetitive and a bit of a drag. Be prepared to be grossed out by the first chapter.
reviewed The Ghost Map: The Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic--and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World on + 10 more book reviews
I must agree with the other reviewers. The first 85% of the book was fascinating - I learned things about London, the people, the culture that I had never read of before. The writing was clear and the story moved itself forward. I would recommend this book to anyone!

But, I never finished it - I hardly ever stop reading a book, but the last part seemed to have nothing to do with the rest of story. I had learned all I was going to learn about the cholera epidemic, so I just put it aside and passed it on.

But, don't get me wrong - this is a book that should be read by everyone, at least the first 85% of it.
reviewed The Ghost Map: The Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic--and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World on + 6 more book reviews
I thought this book was fasinating. It is rich with details of the period and brought alive by the lives of the people. Totally absorbing.