Whenever I add a new review to my Science Shelf archive, I will try to find a fairly recent one on a related topic to share with the readers of Blogcritics. Today, my comparative review of three books about the conquest of polio and the lives affected by the disease was published in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (and will be in the Dallas Morning News soon if it did not also appear today).
Some of the events in that quest reminded me of another book about medical research with a focus on the great adventure and bravery. That is the story which author Maryn McKenna describes as Beating Back the Devil. I hope my Blogcritics readers enjoy it as much as I did.
We all love photo albums, even when the people in the pictures are long dead and unrelated to us. We wonder what was important about the moment, what thoughts were hidden behind awkward expressions. If the photos are informal, we scan the background for hints of other stories. In that one moment in one family's life fixed in a flash, we see timelessness and universality. The photographs may be dated, but the themes they capture will never be out of date.
In Beating Back the Devil, Atlanta Journal-Constitution science and medical writer Maryn McKenna takes readers deep within the snapshots of the subtitle, On the Front Lines With the Disease Detectives of the Epidemic Intelligence Service. Through this compelling book, readers not only relive the events that made or are still making history, but also discover the human back stories.
There, unheralded heroes overcome physical, emotional, and political obstacles to prevent news from happening. People do not die. Disease does not spread. Byline-hungry reporters disappear, leaving the truly important stories to be told later by those journalists, like Ms. McKenna, who are perceptive enough to see the larger picture and patient enough to wait for it to come into focus.