I don’t think it’s too early to provide a list of some of the best books about the pandemic – several of these books, in fact, were written before Sars-Cov-2 ever made the leap to humans.
Covid-19 by Debora Mackenzie came out very early in the crisis and some of it has been left behind by events, but it’s a terrific guide to the early weeks of the crisis, and more broadly to the world of dangerous viruses – Sars, Mers, Flu – and what we might do about them.
Shutdown by Adam Tooze is a magisterial guide to the economic response – and consequences – of covid and the lockdowns. Tooze is (of course) comprehensive and easy to read.
Covid by Numbers by Anthony Masters and David Spiegelhalter gives a concise, humane, data-driven guide to all the big covid questions of the day in a series of crisp chapters.
Vaxxers by Sarah Gilbert and Catherine Green is a vivid insider account of the scramble to create the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine.
How To Make The World Add Up (UK) / The Data Detective (US/Canada). Ah, yes, well – this is my book. It is an effort to explain just how vital numbers can be in trying to make sense of the world – and also to help us get past our own biases and filters when we look at the data. Covid arrived as I was finishing the first draft and it was, alas, a heck of a way to be proved right about things.
The Premonition by Michael Lewis is exactly as compelling as you would expect from one of the greatest non-fiction storytellers on the planet. Lewis tells the story of the pandemic from the viewpoint of the US scientists who were trying to warn us.
Catch Your Breath by Ed Patrick is an insider account of life in the National Health Service as Covid hits. Patrick is an anaesthetist but also a stand-up comedian, so while some of this is harrowing, much of it is hilarious. A great read.
Rules of Contagion by Adam Kucharski was written before the pandemic – but is incredibly timely. It’s a guide to all the interesting ideas in epidemiology and where they came from. Great popular science writing.
Spike by Jeremy Farrar and Anjana Ahuja is an excoriating insider account of how the UK mishandled the early months of the pandemic.
The Unthinkable by Amanda Ripley – nearly a decade old, but this is the book I kept coming back to when trying to understand our psychological responses to impending disaster. Vivid and horrifying but full of important insights.
The paperback of “The Next 50 Things That Made The Modern Economy” is now out in the UK.
“Endlessly insightful and full of surprises — exactly what you would expect from Tim Harford.”- Bill Bryson
“Witty, informative and endlessly entertaining, this is popular economics at its most engaging.”- The Daily Mail
I’ve set up a storefront on Bookshop in the United States and the United Kingdom – have a look and see all my recommendations; Bookshop is set up to support local independent retailers. Links to Bookshop and Amazon may generate referral fees.