Sunday, July 15, 2007

Arthur Allen

Arthur Allen is a Washington-based journalist who has written for the New York Times Magazine, The New Republic, the Washington Post, The Atlantic, Slate and Salon.

His latest book is Vaccine: The Controversial Story of Medicine’s Greatest Lifesaver.

Last week I asked him what he was reading. His reply:
I've been reading a lot of articles from Science, Journal of Infectious Diseases, and New Scientist that had been piling up on my desk for the several months. I just read one of the most remarkable pieces of reporting I've seen this year, by the courageous Jon Lee Anderson, in this week's New Yorker. Anderson describes the U.S. efforts to eradicate opium in Afghanistan, where the poppy is fueling the Taliban's return. It's a kaleidoscopic picture of U.S. mercenaries, wimpy Dutch NATO forces, alliances of convenience and crafty and corrupt Afghans. Told in a completely understated fashion.

My next project is a book about the tomato in history, sort of, so I've been reading foodie books like Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma. It being summer, I've also engaged in the relaxing art of book roulette. This means wandering into a summer rental or a friend's house, picking up things that look interesting, and reading them. For example Gore Vidal's memoir, Palimpsest, and, implausibly, Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited, which I had never read. I found it as compelling as a non-believer can, I guess. Also I just read Michael Chabon's clever new detective novel, The Yiddish Policemen's Union.
Among the praise for Arthur Allen's Vaccine:
"Arthur Allen's fantastic new book Vaccine ... is more entertaining than any book about shots has a right to be."
--David Plotz, author of The Genius Factory: The Curious History of the Nobel Prize Sperm Bank

"As more children go unvaccinated in the United States, there has been a rise in vaccine-preventable diseases. Meanwhile, fewer pharmaceutical companies are now producing vaccines, citing the high cost of testing, diminishing markets and a fear of litigation. For Allen, a reversal of these trends will require something long overdue: a frank national discussion about the risks and benefits of vaccination. His splendid book is a smart place to begin."
--David Oshinsky, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Polio: An American Story, New York Times Book Review
The Page 69 Test: Vaccine.

--Marshal Zeringue