An Insider’s Plague Year (Peter Doherty, MUP)
Laureate Professor Peter Doherty is one of the most well placed individuals to write a walk-through of the past year and a half of pandemic life. A Nobel Prize-winning immunologist at the heart of the medical science community’s response to the pandemic, Doherty is calm, extremely well informed and passionate about the history of efforts to fight infectious disease. An Insider’s Plague Year is divided into three parts, the largest being the middle section, a curated selection of short essays taken from the Doherty Institute blog Setting it Straight, created to fill in the many gaps in the media coverage of the medical response to the pandemic. Many of the essays in this section are straightforward explainers of the science behind the virus. By keeping the pieces short and frequently employing metaphors, Doherty helps make tricky concepts more understandable for the layperson. Part three is a collection of longer but no less accessible essays, some of which have been previously published. These are more personal pieces reflecting on the pandemic through the lenses of politics, genetic modification and, inevitably, climate change. In these essays Doherty’s call to action is loud and clear: ‘The best anyone can do is help build a sustainable future. If you can’t find it in yourself to contribute, at least get out of the way… What matters is action.’ The author’s willingness to hear what others have to say, whether they be scientists, artists, novelists or frontline workers, underlies the primary message of his writing, which is to encourage and inform evidence-based action on the global challenges to human welfare and survival. In An Insider’s Plague Year, Doherty tells the story of this pandemic from the inside, providing the reader with a solid appreciation of the history, people, science and urgency behind the efforts to save millions of lives.
Warren Bonett owned Embiggen Books and has a degree in outdoor education.