On the one hand, it’s good to be back; on the other hand, it means my sister’s family has gone home already and my parents are leaving tonight.
To add insult to injury, I found Bryn Barnard’s Outbreak: Plagues That Changed History to be ultimately disappointing. I had such high hopes! It’s not that it wasn’t interesting, you understand. It was accessible and provided fascinatingly gory details about the Black Death, cholera, smallpox, and a few other diseases. My problem was that as the book went on, it became increasingly obvious that it wasn’t a meticulously researched, well-presented work of nonfiction in the tradition of Jim Murphy, Susan Campbell Bartoletti, and Russell Freedman. Instead, it felt anecdotal; there was a lot of fact there, certainly, but the presentation had a definite bias, and when I looked into a claim that I’d never heard before, I found that it had been a theory, but had been abandoned because the science didn’t support it. Barnard spent a decent portion of the book talking about what we can do to curtail current and future outbreaks, but his solutions felt mostly one-sided and oversimplified.
Bottom line? There are good storytellers who are also excellent authors of intermediate nonfiction; Bryn Barnard is one, but not the other.