Monday, April 18, 2016

Red Madness: How a Medical Mystery Changed What We Eat by Gail Jarrow

I do love narrative nonfiction that tells a good story where I learn something new.  That's the case with Red Madness, a book about pellagra which is a disease I knew nothing about.  Now that I've read the book I can't believe I didn't know about this disease because it was a scourge in the U.S. in the 1800's into the mid 1900's.  Even with my modern day medical knowledge, I was baffled by the cause of pellagra.  Perhaps that's because author Gail Jarrow carefully led me through the thoughts of the day which did not have modern day medical background.  What really struck me the most with the book is how effective the scientific method is when someone does it correctly.  I realize that's not a statement that is likely to make someone say "I can't wait to read this book!" but it really should.  And I'm super impressed with Dr. Goldberg who systematically worked out the cause and a went a long ways toward finding a cure.  But if the scientific method doesn't grab you, what about gross stories of people dying from diarrhea and pictures of horrible rashes?  A great example of nonfiction that sweeps you along with a story before you realize you're learning things.

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