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Get Well Soon: History's Worst Plagues and the Heroes Who Fought Them

4.24  ·  Rating details ·  3,283 Ratings  ·  742 Reviews
A humorous book about history's worst plagues—from the Antonine Plague, to leprosy, to polio—and the heroes who fought them

In 1518, in a small town in France, Frau Troffea began dancing and didn’t stop. She danced herself to her death six days later, and soon thirty-four more villagers joined her. Then more. In a month more than 400 people had died from the mysterious danc
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published February 7th 2017 by Henry Holt and Co.
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Jennifer Wright
Sep 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  (Review from the author)
Look: I'm quite fond of it. Five stars out of five, like Dorothy Parker and Oliver Sacks had a word baby. (I also wrote it, but am definitely not biased.)
Diane S ☔
Dec 19, 2016 rated it really liked it
Reading a book on plagues may not be everyone's idea of a pleasurable way to spend their reading time, but that is exactly what I did. While I can't say it was pleasurable, it was certainly intriguing and informative. Plagues, many times changed the course of history, were used in our nursery rhymes , illnesses, like tuberculosis and EL were prevalent in art and literature. Many artists painted pictures of women dying from consumption, painting them as ethereal and haunting, thought beautiful at ...more
R * A Reader Obsessed *
Feb 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: not-mm, audio
5 Stars

No one is more shocked than I for thoroughly enjoying this because I don’t even come close to being a history buff nor even the occasional dabbler in various such things.

To put it succinctly, the real terror is the devastation disease can wreak on the human population, and this highlights some really truly scary awful times and what went oh so wrong but also thankfully, what went right.

To say the least, this was highly entertaining in all its gory horror. It was delivered with smarts, hu
May 07, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: unreadable
I love a good disease book. Unfortunately, this isn't one.

Want to know why? Written in short, declarative sentences, with ample! misplaced exclamations!, too many self-referential "I" sentences, dated pop culture references and sophomoric efforts at humor, it reads like... Well, a sophomore's effort at a book report. Which is to say: it is actually not readable at all.

Too bad, especially given that it's clear Wright did a ton of research on these topics. If only the maturity of the research ef
Apr 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
"The purpose of this book is not to scare you. Instead, like all good books, it is intended to distract you from the screaming baby one aisle over from the airplane where you are currently trapped for the next five hours."
This book was a blast. The history is fun and engaging and crazy. (Did you know that the crazy anti-plague beak doctor costumes kind of worked? I didn't.) And the author's commentary is brash and opinionated and purely entertaining.

The Antonine plague: apparently Galen was a
So, those of you who know me are probably not at all surprised that I read or loved this book. I love some interesting sciencey nonfiction, whether it's where we come from, how we live and think and behave, things that kill us (this is one of those!) or what happens to us after we're dead, I likes them. And I love audio for these kinds of books. It's the best of both worlds - I get to learn about something new, and at the same time not get bogged down in footnotes or graphs or what-have-you.

Angus McKeogh
Jan 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Great book to start the year on. 5 stars. Should be required reading for every vaccine denier, religious zealot, general hater of anyone with a different lifestyle, or any combination thereof. Wright pulls no punches and has great hopes for mankind. Look at history people. We can’t really afford to repeat it.
Suanne Laqueur
Mar 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
(Touches forehead) Do I feel hot? Am I running a fever? I'm running a fever, aren't I. Is that a spot? Is this a lump a buboe? I must be dying...

Hypochondriacs will just LOVE this dark, fascinating, terrifying and often hilarious read. You feel like shit for thinking it's hilarious but gallows humor serves a certain purpose. Also, it was meticulously researched out the wazoo: the book ends at 75% and the rest is footnotes and annotations. (Yay, footnotes and annotations!)

I felt personal connecti
May 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Who knew that a book on diseases could be so entertaining? Get Well Soon is a compassionate, witty and scary history of plagues. Wright's commentary manages to be scathing and funny without being flippant. She is passionate about the devastation of disease as well as the heroes and villains who have helped or hindered mankind. This is an amazing book - thought-provoking and unputdownable!
Mike (the Paladin)
I have for a long time been interested in plagues both their causes and results. For instance the Black Death was largely spread by the fleas from the ubiquitous rats in the cities. Just one odd fact I came across (before I read this book) was that since cats were regarded as evil the people in London and other European cities ran around killing cats...thus helping the spread of rats.

Here Ms Wright does her best to tell the story of several plagues down through history. While she never belittles
Aug 10, 2017 rated it did not like it
It is not OK for authors to give themselves 5* reviews. It can dramatically skew the ratings for new books and defeats the purpose of Goodreads.
Sep 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
Initially I was skeptical about this one due to the author's ill-supported claims that the Antonine Plague caused the Roman Empire to fall (“was a very significant contributor to the decline” would have made me less uncomfortable), but, as it turned out, that first chapter was the only one where her “history” struck me as noticeably iffy.* Telling the stories of various plagues throughout history, Wright explores each plague (she includes fourteen of them) from the level of bacteria to that of g ...more
If you're interested in plagues and epidemics you're probably already familiar with the diseases in Get Well Soon. The book is light on medical science and heavy on pop culture references. The author's juvenile humour isn't amusing, especially her gleeful shaming of everything she disagrees with.

You might also enjoy:

The Hypochondriac's Pocket Guide to Horrible Diseases You Probably Already Have

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Beating Back the Devil
The Coming Pl
Jan 01, 2017 rated it it was ok
I thought the premise for this book sounded really interesting. However, I got about 150 pages into it, and found that it just was not holding my interest. While the author's commentary was humorous at times, for the most part I didn't care for it. Also, I realize that this was an Advance Reading Copy, but truly, it was the worst-edited ARC I've ever read - and I've read more than 100. It was so poorly edited that it was distracting - sentences didn't make sense, words were missing. Maybe that h ...more
BAM The Bibliomaniac
Jan 26, 2018 rated it really liked it

Absolutely fascinating! Everything is covered from leprosy to lobotomy. Not only are the causes discussed, but also we hear about the conquerors of the horrid diseases that, believe it or not, do not all exist solely in the past. I recommend the audio book; the narrator is excellent.

P. S. The epilogue that discusses AIDS is absolutely heartbreaking
Nov 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, medicine
Most of the information included in this book was not new, and I can’t even say it was put together in a new way that helped me see the subject matter through a new lens. Despite that, I will probably read any book Jennifer wright authors because I simply love her writing style. Her humor, wit, and strong opinions set a tone early in the book that made old and recycled information feel refreshing.
This was fascinating, and the author kept it interesting throughout.
I'm not sure whether it's something to be proud of or not, but I've always been fascinated by disease and plagues. So when I came across this book, I knew I had to read it. It did not disappoint.

I could see how some people would find Wright's casual and almost flippant tone at times to be a little off-putting, but for me, I felt as if we were two women discussing these horrific plagues and diseases over a cup of coffee. And there's just enough lightness to keep the book from being completely and
Jan 31, 2017 rated it really liked it
I planned on a four star rating but the more I read, the more I liked it. So I gave it 4.5. I've read several books about epidemics, plagues and am always fascinated by how diseases and their victims are treated. The author has done a tremendous amount of research and also has a sense of humor, just enough to get you through some of the horrible aspects of these epidemics. A quote from the leprosy chapter about Father Damien, the priest who went to live and care for the lepers on the island of M ...more
Brendan Nicholls
Nov 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
I finished this one a few days ago and while I found it interesting, the social commentary from the author was a little hit and miss. Jennifer Wright gives us a great overview of some of the worst of the worst plagues and misses the AIDS plague which I was hoping would've provided us some insight.
The book is a 3.5 and I liked it enough to keep reading. Some of the humour didn't fit and I'm a huge fan of pop culture but I was a little baffled here. Wright should of left some of the commentary to
Sep 06, 2016 rated it really liked it
After reading some of it, the tone is so intimate, so filled with well researched whimsy it brings you to truly discover why such strange things happened around the globe. She gets right into the dirt on all subjects with chronological chaos and effect.
Sharply written, you won't be disappointed.
Jun 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018
Jennifer Wright writes with a delightful combination of snark and compassion. I thoroughly enjoyed this romp through many of history’s worst plagues. The heroes of which she speaks are not always doctors and scientists, but everyday compassionate people who care about their fellow man. There is also a villain or two.

The book also comes with a bit of preaching, which I didn’t mind. There are two major lessons I think she wants us to walk away with.

1) Stigmatizing and ostracizing victims of disea
Wright is a bit of a Mary Roach—funny and voice-y and opinionated, while simultaneously unloading lots of learning about the history of disease. She is firmly on the side of sufferers and the people who’ve tried to help them, and just as firmly condemns anyone who has judged, abandoned, or exploited the sick. From the dancing plague of the sixteenth century to typhoid, cholera, and polio—by way of lobotomies and a brief mention of AIDS—she covers the pestilential waterfront. Taught me stuff and ...more
Mar 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Given that I can develop a disease based on the power of suggestion alone ("Doc, I've been watching the news on prostate cancer, and now I think think there's something wrong with my prostate." "You're a chick. You don't have a prostate." "That's precisely what makes this situation all the more dire."), I probably should've taken a hard pass on this book. But given my love of Wright's previous book, It Ended Badly, I knew I needed to read this one. As a result, I now want to hunker down in basem ...more
Daniel Kibblesmith
Dec 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Another funny, insightful history book from Jennifer Wright.

As in her previous, "It Ended Badly: 13 Of The Worst Break-Ups In History," Wright's blend of thorough research and humorous modern voice makes history instantly accessible and relatable — devoting each roughly commute-length chapter into a different vignette about a world-changing plague.

Who knew that Father Damien was basically the greatest human being who ever lived, and Woodrow Wilson was the worst? Or that people "cured" the buboni
Sep 26, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
this book was great and informative without being dry and hard to consume. Gabra Zackman did a great job narrating. I was doing good and handling all this scary info well until I got to the Spanish flu chapter. ok, a little scared now. then the chapter on lobotomies. I could have cried and cried. after hearing about all these terrible diseases then to hear about the horrors a man inflicted on others and not always willing people, was so heart breaking. and don't think this book is going to end o ...more
May 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, medicine
A fun and easy-to-read book on some particularly nasty diseases, the people who suffered them and the people who helped cure/treat them.

I was familiar with most of the history in the book, but had fun with the author's casual writing style. I still learned a fair amount though, and for all her jokes, it's clear that the book is very well researched and that she is passionate about her subject, which I really appreciated. However, if you're looking for a serious academic treatise on diseases, thi
Kater Cheek
Oct 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is the funniest book about diseases I've ever read. That may seem like faint praise, but I have read a lot of books about diseases. I love reading about diseases because it makes me feel better about my own life. "I may not be able to find a parking spot, but at least I don't have malaria", or "my cat puked in the laundry, but hey, it's better than having tuberculosis!" If you're someone who loves reading about medicine or if you are just an anxious person who is obsessed with things that s ...more
Oct 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
Laugh out loud funny. Love how this author writes so well about revolting plagues and human misery. Learnt alot and laughed a lot in this book. Good fun.
Todd Payne
Apr 16, 2018 rated it liked it
Sparks immediately fly in this fast paced medical page turner on plagues. Unfortunately, it soon becomes apparent that most of those sparks are from the many, many axes the author has to grind. The initial chapters - farther removed from her contemporary political sensitivities are the most informative.

Alas, Wright seems oblivious to her own biases as she "piously" heaps snarky scorn on those in the past who took actions driven by their own values and perceptions -- especially the Catholic chur
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Play Book Tag: Get Well Soon- Jennifer Wright- 3-ish stars 4 19 Jan 11, 2018 08:43PM  
“Persecuting religious minorities is always ill-advised, every single time it occurs in history. I have never in my research found an instance where a historian says, “Wow, we were on the right side of history for torturing Group X back then.” 9 likes
“When we are electing government officials, it is not stupid to ask yourself, “If a plague broke out, do I think this person could navigate the country through those times, on a spiritual level, but also on a pragmatic one? Would they be able to calmly solve one problem, and then another one, and then the next one? Or would bodies pile up in the streets?” 9 likes
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