The Confusion by Neal Stephenson. As a volume continuing the Baroque Cycle (started by Quicksilver) the style is in the same vein. If you liked Quicksilver, you’ll probably also like this one. I personally kept putting off reading it the past two months because of its imposing bulk and the author’s penchant for being long-winded. Another note: as I was reading parts of The Confusion, I thought it might be more exciting to read an actual non-fiction economics and history book. Or maybe I just don’t have the patience to read fiction any more.
The Hot Zone by Richard Preston. I went through high school biology before this book became required reading in the classrooms, but I did see Outbreak. At any rate, this makes me appreciate the fact that the bacteria that I work with are babies compared to these viral Godzillas. This is not something you would want to read right before going to bed–because you’d be wishing that you were living like the bubble boy before you’re through. Preston focuses on the filoviruses which include Marburg and various Ebola strains. There are particularly gory descriptions of these viruses’ effects on humans: severe hemorrhagic fever that in about a week’s incubation time, turns a normal person into a liquefied bag o’ viruses. Most of the book deals with an Ebola outbreak in a Virginian monkey lab–scary not because of the infection and spread itself but of bureaucracy, politics, personal fears, and grudges that get in the way of more effective containment.
Current reading: I am in the middle of Birth of the Chess Queen by Marilyn Yalom which depending on mood, an interesting history about a chess piece or a blatantly feminist take on European history. Also, I’m on the verge of starting Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow and Laurie Garrett’s The Coming Plague. Not surprisingly, I’m more excited about starting the huge tome on infectious diseases than a piece of fiction that won a National Book Award.