It's been a tough pandemic for all of us here in Britain. Lockdowns, supply shortages, over-zealous policemen and Matt Hancock's gurning face – there's been a shortage of joy these past 18 months. But now Mr S is delighted to discover there is light at the end of the tunnel: a forthcoming book bonanza by Covid experts – and Devi Sridhar – who have all somehow found time to pen books on the global crisis despite being proven wrong again and again. Below is Steerpike's guide to all the titles which won't be flying off the bookshelves in the forthcoming months....
First, we have the aforementioned Sridhar, who finally has a release date in May for her book: Preventable: The politics of the pandemic and how to stop the next one. A breathless PR plug for the book claims the ‘definitive’ work uses the spellbinding story of the Covid-19 pandemic to show how global politics shape our health' contrasting 'over-confident heads of states' with their 'hesitant scientific advisors.' Sridhar herself is described in glutinous prose akin worthy of an Enlightenment icon, having 'risen to prominence for her vital roles in communicating science to the public and speaking truth to power.'
This of course would be the same Devi Sridhar who gushed over Nicola Sturgeon's ‘wise words’ and ‘strong leadership’ and suggested an independent Scotland would have handled the pandemic better – even as the country clocked up a worse care home death rate then England. The good academic has also spent the past year and a half demanding a revision of the devolution settlement to give more powers to the Scottish government – even when the Holyrood, er, had them in the first place.
Her book meanwhile promises to 'challenge, outrage and inspire' – rather like Sridhar's own tweeted musings on the efficacy of the AstraZeneca jab in March which saw her being accused of disinformation, a charge which led her to block the critics. Let's hope she does not do the same for critics of her book.
Next we have Richard Horton, the editor the Lancet, who is never far from controversy. Horton has had many blunders in his career, yet somehow keeps pontificating on – a triumph of hope over experience. Infamously in 1998 he published the controversial paper by Andrew Wakefield, which suggested that vaccines could cause autism. This howler resulted in a major decline in vaccinations globally, with Horton declining to retract the article for another 12 years.
He even managed to call Covid wrong, tweeting back in January 2020 that the virus probably 'has moderate transmissibility and relatively low pathogenicity' and adding praise for the Chinese response to the virus which turned a regional virus into a pandemic. His own book is titled ‘The Covid-19 catastrophe: What went wrong and how to stop it happening again’. Mr S suggests the editor starts by looking a bit closer to home…
If neither Horton or Sridhar takes your fancy then what about the musings from the UK government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage)? Jeremy Farrar, a senior member of Sage, has got a book out called Spike. It promises to answer whether the government really were ‘following the science.’ Given the various missteps of Sage these past 18 months, Mr S is tempted to reply 'if only they hadn’t.'
Elsewhere, few people were busier during the pandemic than the top Oxford University scientists Dame Sarah Gilbert and Catherine Green. Their book Vaxxers reveals the inside story of the creation of the Astra Zeneca vaccine. Mr S suspects this book won’t be on Monsieur Macron’s Christmas list. Other notables include the Labour member and professor John Ashton, who has written Blinded by Corona, and Duty of Care by Dominic Pinenta, the notorious cardiologist who quit his job following Dominic Cummings' lockdown excursion to Barnard Castle.
With such an avalanche of epidemiological musing, Steerpike is tempted to remember the words of Christopher Hitchens: ‘Everyone has a book in them and that, in most cases, is where it should stay.’