The Remedy by Thomas Goetz

April 7, 2014 Non Fiction, Science 24

Hello Bookworms,

It’s Monday again (how does this keep happening?!) The good news? You don’t have tuberculosis. (I hope.) Yes, folks, I just finished reading some of the germiest non-fiction this side of the 20th century, and it was fascinating. I don’t read a lot of non-fiction, but when I was offered a copy of The Remedy: Robert Koch, Arthur Conan Doyle, and the Quest to Cure Tuberculosis by Thomas Goetz, I knew I had to give it a shot. I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Honesty rules.

theremedyThe Remedy: Robert Koch, Arthur Conan Doyle, and the Quest to Cure Tuberculosis begins with Dr. Robert Koch hacking off limbs during the Franco-Prussian War. Dr. Koch, among others, began to realize that some of the post-surgical infections they’d been encountering could be prevented… You know. If the medical staff washed their hands. Germ theory was fledgling and had plenty of detractors who still insisted on sticking leeches to people to balance their humors. Gross, right?

You know what else everybody did that was super gross? Spit all over the place. Back in the day, hawking loogies in public was a fact of life. People were just barely starting to understand germ theory (thanks to scientists like Koch and his frenemy Pasteur) so nobody thought about spreading disease with all the spitting. It was the perfect environment for the breeding and transmission of one of humanity’s oldest foes, Tuberculosis.

TB was no joke. It accounted for something like a third of all deaths, and nobody could quite pin down how it was transmitted or how to treat it. Dr. Koch’s research into Tuberculosis allowed him to identify the microbe that caused TB, which was a huge breakthrough. Shortly after this discovery, Koch claimed to have discovered a cure. A CURE FOR CONSUMPTION! A miracle!

Enter Dr. Arthur Conan Doyle. You may know him as “Sir” and the creator of Sherlock Holmes, but Conan Doyle was first a doctor. He was fascinated by germ theory and Dr. Koch’s experiments. Dr. Conan Doyle made the trek to Berlin to observe Koch’s work, but came away troubled. Was this “remedy” indeed curing Tuberculosis, or was it little more than snake oil?

The Remedy: Robert Koch, Arthur Conan Doyle, and the Quest to Cure Tuberculosis was an enjoyable read. I learned all sorts of gross medical details and scientific tidbits. I never realized just how widespread TB had been, or how recently the medical field was revolutionized by germ theory. Very interesting stuff. For me there was a slight drawback, though. Because this book was so chock full of science and factoids and microscopes, it took me quite a bit longer to read than my typical fictional fare. I think it was just a lot more to absorb for my atrophied brain. In any case, it was a good read, ESPECIALLY if scientific non-fiction is your thing.

Tell me Bookworms… Do any of you find you read non-fiction more slowly than fiction? 

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24 Responses to “The Remedy by Thomas Goetz”

  1. April @ The Steadfast Reader

    Hahaha! I love how you characterize Goetz and Pastuer as ‘frenemies’ :). Isn’t it amazing how quickly germ theory ‘spread’ (see what I did there? :D) and how it changed the world as we know it today? I’m always amazed by this when I read these sorts of books. This looks good!

  2. Jennine G.

    Yes, I do read nonfiction more slowly than fiction. I think sometimes it’s because of the writing style, but other times it because I’m trying not to miss any facts. Or the material just requires me to slow down because I’m not familiar with it.

    • Words For Worms

      I know, right?! When I think of living in the past I tend to focus on the idea of BO and non regular bathing, but good LORD the spitting! Ewww!

    • Words For Worms

      What, you didn’t know I’d installed a spy chip in your brain? I was pretty sure I’d disclosed that. Just so you know, I’m totally monitoring all your thoughts. I have some CONCERNS, Jennifer!

  3. Ashley F

    I do read non-fiction a bit slower but I think that’s normal. Conversational text is easier to process and if you read historical non-fiction not only are you dealing names, words, places that are potentially in other languages not to mention that you have to THINK in order to comprehend what you’re reading.

    I love good non-fiction. I try to read something non-fic at least once a month.

  4. Megan M.

    I think a lot of non-fiction is written to be very engaging, just like fiction, but it does have to be read more slowly because you’re actually learning something that you’re presumably interested in, so you want to slow down and really understand it. Thank goodness for medical advancements! It would be just terrible to be at the mercy of so many things – TB, the Plague, childbed fever.

    Arthur Conan Doyle is just so interesting. I’d heard about his interest in spiritualism and fairies but I don’t think I realized he was a doctor. Wow! No wonder his stories are timeless classics!

    • Words For Worms

      Ugh, I know, so many illnesses we don’t have to worry about now! I was surprised to hear about Conan Doyle being a doctor, but it makes sense with Holmes logic.

  5. Heather @ Capricious Reader

    Thank God I don’t have TB. Thank the LORD.

    I need a biography of Arthur Conan Doyle, stat. And this book too, natch. Because I love all the gross medical details and scientific bits to, well, bits.

  6. Katie @ Doing Dewey

    Great review! I’ve been getting more and more interested in this book as bloggers have started reviewing it and your fun review has only made more excited to pick this up 🙂

  7. Jenny @ Reading the End

    Nonfiction has always gone slower for me than fiction, and even more so in recent years since I’ve started being an insane stickler about checking citations. It’s a sickness. I read a book that talked about how badly cited a lot of books and articles are (like they’ll cite an article in support of conclusion X when the actual conclusion of the article is exactly the opposite), and now I CANNOT STOP CHECKING CITATIONS. It’s like I’m the stern high-school English teacher for the entire world.

  8. clairetj

    Yeah, I really do have to slow down when I read non-fiction. I’ve always thought it’s like I need time to adjust to the style of writing as well as the story… which means it takes me a while to make any progress.

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