Early last month we reported that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg had begun a year-long goal of reading two books a month, sharing the titles publicly and opening avenues for discussion on the book club’s Facebook page. The books selected will be chosen with an eye for relevant themes of technology, culture, history and belief systems.
The first three books selected were The End of Power by Moses Naim, The Better Angels of Our Nature by Steven Pinker, and Gang Leader for a Day by Sudhir Venkatesh.
on February 18th, the fourth selection was announced, and it is a very timely choice. On Immunity: An Inoculation by Eula Biss aims to scientifically, thoroughly and exhaustively question – and then answer – the vaccination debate. It’s an inarguably timely choice. In late December, Disneyland in California became contagion ground zero for the measles, when an unvaccinated visitor to the park, ill with measles but as of then unaware, exposed countless other visitors. Since then, 139 cases of measles are confirmed and linked to that outbreak, and social media is rampant with discussions, debates, arguments, name-calling and overall hysteria about vaccinations.
Thanks in part to certain celebrities publicly stating that they don’t vaccinate, believing vaccinations to be unnatural, unsafe, the cause of Autism and other claims, certain areas of North America (including parts of California) have seen significantly reduced immunization rates in recent years. That has scientists, as well as doctors and other members of the medical community, troubled and alarmed, and parents on both sides fighting as hard as they can for their right to protect their children. Stories like the story of Roald Dahl’s daughter, who died of Measles at age seven, have been shared and shared again, as have stories about vaccine injury from the opposing team. It is a hotly debated, highly contentious current issue, which is no doubt why Zuckerberg selected On Immunity as the next title to read. Here’s the synopsis:
Why do we fear vaccines? A provocative examination by Eula Biss, the author of Notes from No Man’s Land, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award
Upon becoming a new mother, Eula Biss addresses a chronic condition of fear—fear of the government, the medical establishment, and what is in your child’s air, food, mattress, medicine, and vaccines. She finds that you cannot immunize your child, or yourself, from the world. In this bold, fascinating book, Biss investigates the metaphors and myths surrounding our conception of immunity and its implications for the individual and the social body. As she hears more and more fears about vaccines, Biss researches what they mean for her own child, her immediate community, America, and the world, both historically and in the present moment. She extends a conversation with other mothers to meditations on Voltaire’s Candide, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, Susan Sontag’s AIDS and Its Metaphors, and beyond. On Immunity is a moving account of how we are all interconnected—our bodies and our fates.
Perhaps its childish opposite is Melanie’s Marvelous Measles by Stephanie Messenger, whose author-written synopsis reads, in part:
Melanie’s Marvelous Measles was written to educate children on the benefits of having measles and how you can heal from them naturally and successfully. Often today, we are being bombarded with messages from vested interests to fear all diseases in order for someone to sell some potion or vaccine, when, in fact, history shows that in industrialized countries, these diseases are quite benign and, according to natural health sources, beneficial to the body.
If one wants a clear picture of just how up-in-arms society is about vaccination currently, they need only go and have a read of the reviews for Melanie’s Marvelous Measles on amazon.com.
Time to revisit our Five Books Mark Zuckerberg Won’t Be Recommending:
(so far, we’re four for four!)