The Hot Zone

"The Hot Zone" by Richard Preston

Recent disturbing news of an outbreak of Ebola virus in Guinea has got me thinking about Richard Preston's chilling book "The Hot Zone." Preston presents what his subtitle calls "a terrifying true story." In 1989 a strain of Ebola appeared in a Virginia laboratory, and a military biohazard SWAT team worked frantically to identify and contain the virus. I read it many years ago and still remember the gruesome descriptions of what happens to a human dying of Ebola. This 1994 book is nonfiction but reads like a thriller and leaves the reader with an uneasy fear of this deadly virus.

For a more nuanced, philosophical take on dealing with an epidemic, choose Albert Camus' "The Plague." This beautiful novel is set in an Algerian coastal city under quarantine to contain the bubonic plague. Camus depicts a variety of human responses to illness and captivity. The descriptions of the ravages of the disease are equally horrifying. But in this case, the focus is on the resilience of the human spirit.

--Jennifer A., Headquarters

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