Title: Get Well Soon: History’s Worst Plagues and the Heroes Who Fought Them
Author: Jennifer Wright
Narrator: Gabra Zackman
Disease isn’t funny. But this book made me laugh. If you listen to Get Well Soon, you’ll understand. Jennifer Wright takes us on a journey through some of history’s worst plagues, descriptively noting their symptoms, causes and cures, but more importantly noting the reaction of society and of medical professionals.
She talks about pustules and lobotomies, of death and corpses. She talks about cultures that created an atmosphere conducive to healing as well as those that made the situation far worse. She draws parallels to modern society and hints at ways we’re susceptible if another plague was afoot. That doesn’t sound amusing at all, but the ridiculousness of “cures” and “expert opinions” truly are. Wright’s matter-of-fact tone, laced with dark humor, makes it all the better. Some of the images conjured by her explanations really made me laugh aloud on my drive. Here’s one such excerpt :
‘The dancing plague of 1347 was supposedly halted by a priest holding open the mouth of each suffering person and shouting into their mouths, “praise the true God, praise the Holy Ghost, get thee hence, thou damned and foredoomed spirit.” (When your boss suggests you try new ideas and think outside the box, you could consider yelling into your coworkers mouths.)’
My entertainment was amplified by Gabra Zackman’s narration, which was both straightforward and sassy, breathing extra hilarity into the remedies of yore. Her voice is steady and very enjoyable, even when I sped her up to 1.25x.
We learn history so we don’t repeat its mistakes. This audiobook lends a hand toward that goal, describing how societal reactions to disease have not grown much since the 1600’s, despite medicine’s leaps and bounds. It will benefit any listener by spreading awareness of what helps and what harms. Even if you have a firm grasp of plague best-practices, this book will lend perspective from history. I promise it’s worth it if just for the laughs… but maybe don’t listen during lunch.
Listen to a sample (and then the full title) here: Get Well Soon