A guilty pleasure

Asleep: The Forgotten Epidemic that Remains One of Medicine’s Greatest Mysteries, by Molly Caldwell Crosby. This is a book about a truly hideous disease: epidemic encephalitis. It’s described in excruciating, gruesome detail. The symptoms, the desperate victims and their families, the heroic doctors working round the clock trying to discover its cause and cure… it’s grueling.

So why is this book so fun to read?

Well partly it satisfies that voyeuristic disease of the month schadenfreude thing. You know what I’m talking about, you know you do.

And partly also, it’s the writing style. It doesn’t read like nonfiction. It reads like a lurid bestseller. At times, it goes overboard. With sentences that begin: “It was almost as if…” Now, sloppy writing like almost as if may be acceptable in trashy fiction, but for investigative journalism, not so much. Ditto, the detailed descriptions of weather, cloud formations, dappled sunlight streaming in the windows of doctors’ offices eighty years ago. Not only is that not necessary to our understanding of the disease, but it seriously detracts from the author’s credibility. I mean, come on. Was that in the patient’s chart???

Yeah, this book is definitely in the Guilty Pleasure genre. Highly recommended if you like this sort of thing. Which I… um… do.

Leave a comment


  1. Guilty pleasures are the most pungent and infectious of pleasures. Thank you for diseasing me! I’ll go take a look. =)

  2. Ha ha! You’re very welcome! Hope you enjoy it.

  3. I was listening to NPR a few weeks ago and Siddhartha Mukherjee, MD was being interviewed about his book, The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer. My day job is in Clinical Research. I’ve always wanted to work on an Oncology program but never had the opportunity. This book sounds extremely interesting and wondering if you’ve read it? Again, thanks for the post – yet another book to look into reading!

  4. Oh, and, yes, I need more guilty pleasure books!

  5. Lol, I love this type of book, also the openly fictional epidemic disease books. I think of them as the nerdy girl’s brain candy. My answer to romance novels.


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