Steven Johnson
The Ghost Map: The Story of London’s Most Terrifying Epidemic—and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World

The Ghost Map: The Story of London’s Most Terrifying Epidemic—and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World

A fascinating (and at times, disgusting) look at the 1854 cholera epidemic that swept London with tragic force. At the time of the epidemic, London was a thriving metropolis, but lacking in infrastructure to address issues of clean water and waste removal. When the cholera outbreak begins, scientists and doctors were baffled by the disease and the rate at which it spread, thinking that perhaps it originated in noxious odors. Dr. John Snow, now renowned as a heroic figure in the field of epidemiology, was at the time considered unorthodox in his approach to solving the mystery. Fair warning, readers: Johnson’s descriptive attention to London’s ineffective handling of human waste may make you squeamish.

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Everything Bad is Good for You: How Today’s Popular Culture is Actually Making Us Smarter

Everything Bad is Good for You: How Today’s Popular Culture is Actually Making Us Smarter

Malcolm Gladwell reviewed this for The New Yorker, saying, "[Johnson] is as happy analyzing Finding Nemo as he is dissecting the intricacies of a piece of software." The publisher says: "Forget everything you’ve ever read about the age of dumbed-down, instant-gratification culture. In this provocative, unfailingly intelligent, thoroughly researched, and surprisingly convincing big idea book, Steven Johnson draws from fields as diverse as neuroscience, economics, and media theory to argue that the pop culture we soak in every day—from Lord of the Rings to Grand Theft Auto to The Simpsons—has been growing more sophisticated with each passing year, and, far from rotting our brains, is actually posing new cognitive challenges that are actually making our minds measurably sharper."

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