The Plague Year: America in the Time of Covid
From the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of The Looming Tower, and the pandemic novel The End of October: an unprecedented, momentous account of Covid-19—its origins, its wide-ranging repercussions, and the ongoing global fight to contain it
"A book of panoramic breadth ... managing to surprise us about even those episodes we … thought we knew well … [With] lively exchanges about spike proteins and nonpharmaceutical interventions and disease waves, Wright’s storytelling dexterity makes all this come alive.” —The New York Times Book Review
From the fateful first moments of the outbreak in China to the storming of the U.S. Capitol to the extraordinary vaccine rollout, Lawrence Wright’s The Plague Year tells the story of Covid-19 in authoritative, galvanizing detail and with the full drama of events on both a global and intimate scale, illuminating the medical, economic, political, and social ramifications of the pandemic.
Wright takes us inside the CDC, where a first round of faulty test kits lost America precious time . . . inside the halls of the White House, where Deputy National Security Adviser Matthew Pottinger’s early alarm about the virus was met with confounding and drastically costly skepticism . . . into a Covid ward in a Charlottesville hospital, with an idealistic young woman doctor from the town of Little Africa, South Carolina . . . into the precincts of prediction specialists at Goldman Sachs . . . into Broadway’s darkened theaters and Austin’s struggling music venues . . . inside the human body, diving deep into the science of how the virus and vaccines function—with an eye-opening detour into the history of vaccination and of the modern anti-vaccination movement. And in this full accounting, Wright makes clear that the medical professionals around the country who’ve risked their lives to fight the virus reveal and embody an America in all its vulnerability, courage, and potential.
In turns steely-eyed, sympathetic, infuriated, unexpectedly comical, and always precise, Lawrence Wright is a formidable guide, slicing through the dense fog of misinformation to give us a 360-degree portrait of the catastrophe we thought we knew.
Praise for The Plague Year: America in the Time of Covid
“A virtuoso feat . . . [Wright has] given us a book of panoramic breadth, [ranging] from science to politics to economics to culture with a commanding scrutiny, managing to surprise us about even those episodes we have only recently lived through and thought we knew well. The story he tells is immediate and often piercingly intimate . . . The Plague Year has lively exchanges about spike proteins and nonpharmaceutical interventions and disease waves, [and] Wright’s storytelling dexterity makes all this come alive.” – Sonali Deraniyagala, The New York Times Book Review
“Arresting . . . Lean-limbed, immersive . . . Rich with peerless reportage and incisive critique . . . Translates the complexities of epidemiology into plain English . . . Wright is at his commanding best . . . when he places the pandemic in historical context—his detours into the Black Plague and the 1918 Spanish flu are narrative marvels—and in his portraits of the players.” —Hamilton Cain, Minneapolis Star Tribune
“[An] incredibly-crafted telling . . . [Wright] is an earnest prober, with sober-minded curiosity . . . [He] provides a well-wrought map covering the institutions and politicians that failed America during this stretch of the pandemic [and] crucially highlights those that also saved us—the first responders and the reasonable.” —Eric Allen Been, The Boston Globe
“A master at knitting together complex narratives . . . Wright’s deep research reveals the oversights and errors that fatally hampered the US response to Covid . . . A story about hubris and division, complacency and insularity, but most of all precariousness.” —Andrew Anthony, The Guardian
“Insightful . . . Indispensable as a coronavirus compendium. Very little escapes Wright’s notice, and he is adept at placing the ongoing story in an enlightening context . . . The illuminating profiles include, among others, vaccine researchers Barney Graham and Jason McLellan; Bellevue Hospital doctor Barron Lerner; Univ. of Virginia professor and anesthesiologist Ebony Hilton; and from the Trump Administration, National Security Advisor Matthew Pottinger and Coronavirus Response Coordinator Deborah Birx.” —Michael King, The Austin Chronicle
“A valuable, readable early contribution to what will inevitably become a substantial body of work on the pandemic . . . The Plague Year is to be commended for both its compassion and its anger.” —Ben Clarke, Chicago Review of Books
“Nailed down by one of our finest writers, the story is almost unbelievable . . . A dramatic, comprehensive account.” —Joseph Barbato, New York Journal of Books
“Taut, thriller-like, The Plague Year captures the chaos and courage of this unprecedented era that’s forever changed us.” —Oprah Daily
“By far the best book yet on COVID-19 . . . [An] exemplary chronicle [with] countless examples of hope, sacrifice, and heroic feats. Wright’s interviews with experts in virology, economics, public health, history, politics, and medicine are enlightening . . . Wright is at his finest here in frontline research, expert analysis, and lucid writing.” —Tony Miksanek, Booklist (starred review)
“Maddening and sobering—as comprehensive an account of the first year of the pandemic as we’ve yet seen . . . In his characteristically rigorous and engrossing style, Wright documents innumerable episodes of ineptitude and malfeasance even as Trump officials such as Peter Navarro privately reckoned that ‘a full-blown . . . pandemic could infect as many as 100 million Americans.’” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)