Tuberculosis: Invincible Microbe and the Never-Ending Search for a Cure by Jim Murphy and Alison Blank

Summary: This book chronicles the history of tuberculosis and traces it to its roots through both ancient and modern ways of trying to cure it. It also talks about several times people thought it was cured forever when it actually wasn’t, and then of how it finally WAS cured–only to return again in a deadlier form. It also mentions several well-known figures whose lives were changed by the disease.

Why I picked it up: Though I’m slightly ashamed to admit it, on normal days I scoff at non-fiction. I’ve never understood why anyone would read non-fiction. I think this book caught my eye because one, it was being displayed in the library and two, the word “invincible” caught my eye. These days we associate “invincible” with diseases like AIDS. But I’ve never though too much about tuberculosis so I became interested. And finally, I recently went through a fact-versus-fiction themed unit in my VMC class, where the two genres of fiction and non-fiction became incredibly mixed up in my head. That is why I picked this book up.

Why I kept reading it: As aforesaid, non-fiction is not my favorite genre and I didn’t have high expectations for this book. But it is actually good. It doesn’t read like a non-fiction book (aka textbooks..encyclopedias..dictionaries..). It is a non-fiction book written like a fictional book. Tuberculosis is both the main character and the antagonist; characters pass in and out of the story. In short, this nonfiction book stands out because it is told with stories, not with just lists of facts. One of my favorite parts of the book was the part where the authors wrote about how sanatoriums started cropping up everywhere. Sanatoriums are open-air places in nature where TB patients were sent to recuperate. After all those centuries of crazy medicines and wacky medical theories, the most effective cure turned out to be living outdoors. The average person today does not know this. People (like me) think non-fiction cannot interest them or–gasp–surprise them. But they can, and this one did.

Who I would give it to next: The first person I gave it to was my mother just to say “Look mom, you’re always telling me about all sorts of health precautions and dangerous diseases and now I’m finally starting to learn from somewhere else! Maybe we can have an actual conversation now. :)”   The second person I would give it to would be my Japanese teacher. For one thing, I don’t think Sensei would judge me for randomly reading books about diseases.. and for another, she’s starting to form her own family now and every mother needs to know all the basics about health precautions and dangerous diseases!

Reviewed by Emily S.