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Review of Apollo’s Arrow by Nicholas Christakis

“There have been as many plagues as wars in history, yet always plagues and wars take people equally by surprise.” (Albert Camus, The Plague)

Nicholas Christakis has written a great overview of the Covid-19 pandemic, and although he finished writing in August, it already feels fairly definitive. He covers the history of the pandemic in great detail, outlining in detail the chain of events that led the pandemic to spread around the world and how that could have been slowed down.

More importantly, he places the pandemic in historical context, referencing so-called “Spanish Flu”, Black Death and more recent plagues such as MERS and SARS, explaining the similarities and differences with Covid-19. Most importantly, Christakis outlines the lessons we should have and can still learn from our current situation.

One statistic that shocked me from the book is that the pandemic could potentially reduce average life expectancy by three years in some countries. As he explains, the impact of Coronavirus will continue for years, and this is a plague we will have to learn to live with whatever happens with vaccines. The mix of philosophy, psychology, medical science, epidemiology and cultural history in this book will open your eyes to the huge consequences of this and potential future pandemics.

 

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