The Ghost Map: The Story of London’s Most Terrifying Epidemic – and How it Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World by Steven Johnson
The Ghost Map: The Story of London’s Most Terrifying Epidemic – and How it Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World by Steven Johnson was more interesting than I could have imagined. Honestly, I picked up the book because it had “London” in the title and since London is one of my favorite cities – I figured I’d read about its history. The Ghost Map is non-fiction, but it reads like a narrative fiction book.
Johnson explores the story behind a deadly cholera outbreak in London during the summer of 1854 in the Broad Street neighborhood. The author explores how the cholera outbreak started and how the citizens of the neighborhood & greater London reacted.
The Ghost Map chronicles follows the steps of two men in the Broad Street neighborhood – Dr. John Snow and clergyman Henry Whitehead. Both men worked in the area hit hardest by the cholera outbreak to figure out how the disease was spreading and were instrumental in stopping the 1854 outbreak. Johnson also details how the work of Snow and Whitehead helped the leaders of London understand the importance of creating a sewer system that doesn’t cross human waste with drinking water.
Mixed in with the narrative of the outbreak, Johnson provides information on cholera, including details about the bacteria (Vibrio cholerae) that someone with no medical background (e.g. – me) can understand.
The Ghost Map is a truly fascinating book. I learned more about cholera, modern sewer systems, and tracking disease outbreaks than I thought I would. I will definitely be recommending this book to library patrons.
Review written by Amanda B.