Book Review: Rabid: A Cultural History of the World’s Most Diabolical Virus by Bill Wasik and Monica Murphy

It’s an odd thing how you can enjoy a book about rabies. How you can’t (I couldn’t) wait to get back to listening to it. The book was so well structured it kept me hooked up. The audiobook was well read and engaging, but I’m sure it would have been entertaining to read as well. The examples of rabies victims and stories they prompted along with the descriptions about the pathogen and the animals it inflicts were vivid and made understanding rabies easy.

Before the book, I didn’t understand how deep impact rabies has had on our culture and oral history. This book recounted both the pathogen’s cultural, medical, and personal influence (and don’t worry there was enough information about the pathogen itself. I would have been disappointed if there wasn’t. However, this is not a medical or biology book.) But most importantly it went over how it might have prompted our legends about werewolves, vampires, and zombies; and how those legends still influence our imagination and shape our movies and other forms of storytelling.

On a personal note. I can remember that there were stories and warnings about feral dogs with rabies when I was a child. It was more like one summer of madness. (There were confirmed cases of rabies inflicted by foxes.) That summer I, my sister and our friend found a dead dog in the woods behind our home. Its mouth was full of foam, and it lay there freshly dead next to a ditch. I can still see the dog and remember what I thought then. How I pictured the foxes going around the yard dogs and biting them. How they all would roam around. There was even a silver moonlight in my imagination. I don’t wonder when rabies was more common it causing such a stir and inspiring so many stories. It’s only normal to search for explanations and werewolves, vampires, and zombies were at least entertaining.

Rabid is a perfect read for any mood. It fascinates, sickens, and entertains while it gives you information. I loved the mini-stories inside the book about legends, famous people, and cases. Also, it’s fun to explain what you are reading to others. Thus the book has been nominated to “You Read a Book about What?” list. I enjoyed listening to the book on my walks in the local forest, during the daytime. Nighttimes would have been a whole other matter because of my overactive imagination.

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