by David Quammen (Norton, $29)
This “powerful, discomfiting” new book will make you “dread that sneeze at the back of the bus,” said Dwight Garner in The New York Times. David Quammenis “not just among our best science writers but among our best writers, period,” so you’ll stay with him as hetours the world of zoonotic diseases, those that make the leap from animals to humans. Spillover is “haphazardly organized” but whip smart. You’ll never look at our continual disruptions of nature the same way again. 

Fever Season
by Jeanette Keith (Bloomsbury, $30)
At the height of the 1878 yellow fever epidemic, Memphis “resembled a post-apocalyptic landscape to rival that in any zombie film,” said Laura Miller in Salon.com. Jeanette Keith’s history of the outbreak, which killed 18,000 people, reads like a blueprint for how members of a community should, and shouldn’t, respond to a deadly crisis. While many prominent Memphians abandoned the city, some unsung citizens—including a black militia and a prosperous brothel owner—rose to the occasion.

The Viral Storm
by Nathan Wolfe (St. Martin’s, $16)
Turn to Nathan Wolfe if you’d prefer a view of pandemic research from the front lines, said Lizzie Wade in Bookforum.com. Wolfe, the founder of Global Viral Forecasting, is “an undeniably compelling author,” a scientist-adventurer who has spent much of his career hunting down viruses in the jungles of Africa and Asia. His tales of pandemics rarely have the emotional impact they should, but he’s full of ideas about how humanity’s growing interconnectedness can help fight future outbreaks. 

by George M. Church and Ed Regis (Basic, $28)
“Making humans immune to all infectious disease sounds like a great idea,” said Phil McKenna in NewScientist.com. But what if doing so required creating a mirror life-form? In this bold survey of the emerging field of synthetic biology, Harvard geneticist George Church posits just such a future. The reprogramming of genetic codes to create new organisms creates a risk of unleashing virulent new pathogens. But the rewards, Church argues, might justify such a gamble.