Friday, July 19, 2013

Audiobook Review: Rabid by Bill Wasik and Monica Murphy

The subtitle for this pretty well sums it up: A Cultural History of the World's Most Diabolical Virus.  This book traces the disease and it's import to human culture from the earliest written references to the invention of a vaccine to the disease's relationship to popular modern culture and its focus on zombies, vampires, and werewolves.  It's a pretty comprehensive look at the science and cultural impact of the disease from Ancient Greece and Rome through today.

One issue with listening to a book like this as opposed to read it is that I don't get a good idea for the author's research methods.  I can't see if there are footnotes, in-text citations, or any kind of bibliography.  For me, seeing an author's sources is really important in a book like this, so I feel like it's hard for me to evaluate the writing without any knowledge of how the author handles this.  I can say that it's accessible for a wide audience, including someone like me who isn't a science scholar or medical professional.

Entertainment Value
I found certain portions more interesting than others, as will be the case in any book that covers this broad of a topic.  I was most interested in the ancient and Medieval cures people tried for rabies and in the analysis of how rabies played a role in developing the mythos of werewolves, vampires, and zombies.  I was less interested in the detailed scientific information, but still glad the book included it.  When I'm reading or listening to a work like this, I want to feel like the author has a grasp on all aspects of the subject, and that certainly shows in this book.

The narration was fine.  Like I mentioned above, I wish I had been able to get a better sense of the author's research methods and use of citations/bibliography, but that's not really possible with an audiobook.

If you like non-fiction, especially cultural histories, popular science, or medicine, this is a good one to read.  It's detailed and not an easy read, but I think most readers who are willing to invest the time and attention required will find it wothwhile.  I recommend reading it in print, though.  I found my attention wandering when I tried to listen as I did other things and I really missed seeing the author's research.

1 comment:

  1. Glad to hear the review. A copy awaits me, on hold at the local library.

    Irene (Janitorial Services Dallas)