A masterpiece of science reporting that tracks the animal origins of emerging human diseases, Spillover is “fascinating and terrifying … a real-life thriller with an outcome that affects us all” (Elizabeth Kolbert, author of The Sixth Extinction).
In 2020, the novel coronavirus gripped the world in a global pandemic and led to the death of hundreds of thousands. The source of the previously unknown virus? Bats. This phenomenon—in which a new pathogen comes to humans from wildlife—is known as spillover, and it may not be long before it happens again.
Prior to the emergence of our latest health crisis, renowned science writer David Quammen was traveling the globe to better understand spillover’s devastating potential. For five years he followed scientists to a rooftop in Bangladesh, a forest in the Congo, a Chinese rat farm, and a suburban woodland in New York, and through high-biosecurity laboratories. He interviewed survivors and gathered stories of the dead. He found surprises in the latest research, alarm among public health officials, and deep concern in the eyes of researchers.
Spillover delivers the science, the history, the mystery, and the human anguish of disease outbreaks as gripping drama. And it asks questions more urgent now than ever before: From what innocent creature, in what remote landscape, will the Next Big One emerge? Are pandemics independent misfortunes, or linked? Are they merely happening to us, or are we somehow causing them? What can be done? Quammen traces the origins of Ebola, Marburg, SARS, avian influenza, Lyme disease, and other bizarre cases of spillover, including the grim, unexpected story of how AIDS began from a single Cameroonian chimpanzee. The result is more than a clarion work of reportage. It’s also the elegantly told tale of a quest, through time and landscape, for a new understanding of how our world works—and how we can survive within it.
About the Author
David Quammen is the author of The Song of the Dodo, among other books. He has been honored with the John Burroughs Medal for nature writing, an Academy Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, an award in the art of the essay from PEN, and (three times) the National Magazine Award. Quammen is also a contributing writer for National Geographic. He lives in Bozeman, Montana.
David Quammen [is] one of that rare breed of science journalists who blend exploration with a talent for synthesis and storytelling.
— Nathan Wolfe - Nature
An adventure-filled page-turner…told from the front lines of pandemic prevention.
— Lizzie Wade - Wired
As page turning as Richard Preston’s The Hot Zone…[Quammen is] one of the best science writers.
— Seattle Times
David Quammen might be my favorite living science writer: amiable, erudite, understated, incredibly funny, profoundly humane.
— Kathryn Schulz - New York Magazine
Quammen balances the technical terms with gorily gripping description and scenes from his own fearless journeys…But his real gift is his writing, with its nice balance of reverence and whimsy.
— Chloë Schama - Smithsonian
Quammen’s more teacher than Jeremiah. So he calms when he can; but he’s blunt when he must be.
— Jeffrey Burke - Bloomberg
The scariest book you’ll read this year.
— The Daily Beast
[An] ambitious and encyclopedic voyage…Mr. Quammen does a beautiful job of showing how so much of scientific knowledge is provisional, with great unknowns about infectious diseases.
— Richard Preston, author of The Hot Zone
David Quammen has done it again. Fascinating and terrifying, Spillover is a real-life thriller with an outcome that affects us all.
— Elizabeth Kolbert, author of The Sixth Extinction
This is a frightening and fascinating masterpiece of science reporting that reads like a detective story. David Quammen takes us on a quest to understand AIDS, Ebola, and other diseases that share a frightening commonality: they all jumped from wild animals to humans. By explaining this growing trend, Quammen not only provides a warning about the diseases we will face in the future, he also causes us to reflect on our place as humans in the earth’s ecosystem.
— Walter Isaacson, author of Leonardo Da Vinci