Author : David Quammen
Publisher: Bodley Head
Number of pages: 416
Format: Paperback / softback
From the author of the powerful, prescient Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic
Breathless is the story of the worldwide scientific quest to decipher the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, trace its source, and make possible the vaccines to fight the Covid-19 pandemic.
Here is the story of SARS-CoV-2 and its fierce journey through the human population, as seen by the scientists who study its origin, its ever-changing nature, and its capacity to kill us. David Quammen expertly shows how strange new viruses emerge from animals into humans as we disrupt wild ecosystems, and how those viruses adapt to their human hosts, sometimes causing global catastrophe. He explains why this coronavirus will probably be a 'forever virus,' destined to circulate among humans and bedevil us endlessly. As scientists labour to catch, comprehend and control it, with their high-tech tools and methods, the virus finds ways of escape.
Based on interviews with nearly one hundred scientists, including leading virologists in China and around the world, Quammen explains that infectious disease experts saw this pandemic coming; that some scientists, for more than two decades, warned that 'the next big one' would be caused by a changeable new virus - very possibly a coronavirus - but such warnings were ignored for political or economic reasons; and that the precise origins of this virus may not be known for years but some clues are compelling, and some suppositions can be dismissed.
Breathless takes us inside the frantic international effort to understand and control SARS-CoV-2 as if peering over the shoulders of the brilliant scientists who led the chase.
David Quammen's sixteen previous books include The Tangled Tree, The Song of the Dodo, The Reluctant Mr. Darwin, and Spillover, a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and recipient of the Premio Letterario Merck, in Rome. He has written for The New Yorker, Harper's Magazine, The Atlantic, National Geographic, and Outside, among other magazines, and is a three-time winner of the National Magazine Award.
Quammen shares a home in Bozeman, Montana, with his wife, Betsy Gaines Quammen, author of American Zion, and with two Russian wolfhounds, a cross-eyed cat, and a rescue python.
Praise for Spillover:
'A frightening and fascinating masterpiece of science reporting that reads like a detective story'
'Fascinating and terrifying, Spillover is a real-life thriller with an outcome that affects us all'
'A tremendous book... this gives you all you need to know and all you should know. Quammen's research and the analysis make sensationalism unnecessary'
'Chilling... [A] brilliant, devastating book'
'Travelling deep into the rainforest with the scientists hoping to identify the next pandemic pathogen, Quammen's book is plotted like a detective thriller'
Gaia Vince, Guardian
'David Quammen might be my favourite living science writer: amiable, erudite, understated, incredibly funny, profoundly humane'
New York Magazine