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Publisher's Summary

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.

©2021 Lawrence Wright (P)2021 Random House Audio

What the critics say

“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

What listeners say about The Plague Year

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  • C. Emerson Thompson
  • 2021-07-14

Balanced Account of a Horrible Year

Not just a “Trump was an idiot and People Died” kind of book. In fact,IMNSHO, he went easy on the Biggest Loser in History”.

However it was a detailed objective balanced account of the first year of the plague (not over folks) interspersed with personal often heart-breaking stories of those so badly affected by piss-poor governmental decisions. Long read/listen but we’ll worth the price.

7 people found this helpful

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  • KarenT
  • 2021-06-11

Best book about Covid-19 I’ve read so far

I’m not going to mention the other bestseller about covid that’s on the charts, but I found Wright’s book to be far more comprehensive in scope and context. I also found it to be far more objective in assigning blame for America’s many failures in response (there’s enough to go around!). It must be difficult to write a story that is still unfolding, but for those of us seeking answers and explanations and don’t want to wait for the lens of history? This is a Must Read.

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  • kellie tweddle
  • 2021-07-10

Enlightening Historical Info but …..

The narrator is much too melodramatic and pedantic sounding. And the sing song tone accents every sentence the same. It’s hard to hear the story - because the incessant rhythmic tone is so distracting. I love this author but this is not a good reading.

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  • Siobhan Ricci
  • 2021-07-02

Could’ve been a classic

The Plague Year is just that, the story of covid year one. It has an unorthodox pattern of tracking the virus. The book is almost like snapshots of the outbreak. You follow people at the CDC, people in the government, frontline medical workers and more. Although I did enjoy the book, I thought that with more time maybe the writer could’ve deepened the narrative structure. Because it feels like a glimpse of covid more than the full picture. But Lawrence Wright is a great writer!

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  • KP
  • 2021-06-14

Amazing

This book flew by. The author does a tremendous job of keeping the reader engaged and explaining medical concepts in an understandable way.

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  • Darcy
  • 2021-07-07

Covid in Context

Super concise hit parade of 2020-21 dropped balls that permitted Covid to kill more than 500K (at writing) American citizens. Wright's ability to gather narratives from a national community of riveting sources brings our shared experience of the coronavirus home. It hardly seems possible that all this trauma occurred in just one year. And the story continues. If you have read his book The Looming Tower you know this man knows how to write. This is a great and eye-opening read.

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  • Kindle Customer
  • 2021-07-04

Great book, but passionate at times

I really enjoyed the title, and it brought to light much of the struggles and calamities of 2020 into a single year. I did think the author was a bit passionate at times in his vilification of Trump. This criticism is highly deserved but delivered almost in melodramatic fashion at times. I would nevertheless still recommend the book to anyone!

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  • Sagarika Nag
  • 2021-08-28

A simple narrative of very complex events

An (almost) unbiased narrative of the geo-political and pandemic related events that swirled around us in 2020. Its an easy listen on very complex subjects. Lawrence Wright shows us how we all have become the subjects of literature for better or for worse.
Vaccinated & masked.

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  • Canareyka
  • 2021-08-07

An entire chapter about police violence

I bought this book to hear a chronicling of the last year and a half that we’ve lived through with COVID-19. It obviously has a liberal band so as a right wing guy I just overlooked it until chapter 11 when they spent an entire chapter talking about George Floyd. I thought George Floyd would lead up to the riots, that would go back into the spread of the virus through those crowds. Nope. They started talking about other police violence after that.

If you want a left-wing anti-Trump WOKE book that makes “the same” people the victims over and over again then you have your book. I, on the other hand, returned it.

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  • CP Guy
  • 2021-07-31

Plague of poor leadership

Sometimes a bit too preachy on racial and wealth disparities. I most appreciated knowing the time lines of what we knew and who knew what about the coronavirus.