August 22, 2012

I finished The Ghost Map.

As you probably know, The Ghost Map is a book I had to read this summer for college.  In a nutshell, it's about the cholera outbreak in London.  Beyond that, however, it discusses other ideas that came out of this horrific incident.  The subtitle sums up these ideas nicely: The Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic -- and How It Changed Science, Cities and the Modern World.

Instead of blathering on about it (I'll have to discuss it anyway in my Orientation group), I thought I'd share some good quotes and facts with you, as well as what I found to be the main idea, or holy grail, of the entire book.  Enjoy!

Favorite quotes:
"The literature -- both public and private -- of the nineteenth century is filled with many dark emotions: misery, humiliation, drudgery, rage.  But terror does not quite play the role that one might expect, given the body count."
"...constipation is a reliable side effect of opiate abuse."
"...eating other humans' waste is as close to a universal taboo as any in the book."
"But the finest minds of the era were also devoted to an equally pressing question: What are we going to do with all of this shit?"

Fun facts I learned:
The world "malaria" itself derives from the Italian mal aria, or "bad air."
In 2015, the five largest cities on the planet will be Tokyo, Mumbai, Dhaka, Sào Paulo, and Delhi -- all of them with populations about 20 million.

The holy grail:
"This is how great intellectual breakthroughs usually happen in practice.  It is rarely the isolated genius having a eureka moment in the lab.  Nor is it merely a question of building on precedent, of standing on the shoulders of giants, in Newton's famous phrase.  Great breakthroughs are closer to what happens in a flood plain: a dozen separate tributaries converge, and the rising waters lift the genius high enough that he or she can see around the conceptual obstructions of the age."

While I only know one or two friends that would pick up this kind of book (historical, biographical) for leisure, if you ever felt so inclined to delve into more, I recommend this one.  It's oddly compelling, albeit slightly repetitive in parts, and only textbook-y occasionally.

I hope everyone is enjoying their last few moments of summer!  I'm personally ready for fall, and, you know, COLLEGE.  Regina and Puja are setting up their dorm rooms and settling in today.  I'm quite envious.

Days until I start college: 9
Days until my birthday: 49


  1. Just over a week left! How exciting! It must be nice to be prepared for school; I wish I knew the feeling :P That "holy grail" quote is really well said.

  2. I'm intrigued! I'll have to pick up a copy and read it!

    1. Awesome! I'd love to hear what you think of it. :)