The Fever: How Malaria Has Ruled Humankind for 500,000 Years

By Sonia Shah, 2010

Why You Should Read It

Malaria has been with us for centuries, and the parasitic disease still infects three hundred million people every year, killing nearly one million of them.

It is hard to imagine that that would ever be an interesting story. This book pulls that feat off, chronicling with some delightful vignettes malaria’s handiwork throughout the world over the ages, and its outsized influence on human lives. It even explains how malaria led to the decline of the Roman Empire, and fuelled the slave trade, which took millions of Africans from the continent on perilous journeys across seas to work in the sugar cane and cotton fields of in the Americas and the Caribbean in the 18th and 19th centuries.


Why You Should Grumble

Because Sonia Shah, who is an American investigative journalist, is not hemmed in by the conventional and bureaucratic approach to the study of malaria that has been fashioned by the UN and health NGOs in Africa, she had the possibility to bring truly new insights into the march of the disease on the continent. But Sub-Saharan Africa continues to carry a disproportionately high share of the global malaria burden. In 2015, the region was home to 89% of malaria cases and 91% of malaria deaths, so naturally an African reader would have expected that a good part of the book would explore the story of the parasite on the continent. It does so only sparingly.

Maybe next time.


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