In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.”
Albert Camus, French author of The Plague
As the COVID-19 pandemic rages on this winter and we seek solace and refuge in our homes even with the advent of several promising vaccines, Apollo’s Arrow: The Profound and Enduring Impact of Coronavirus On the Way We Live is a welcome book that offers both a literary sanctuary and an essential resource.
Nicholas Christakis is both a doctor and a professor of social and natural science at Yale (author of other social science works Connected and Blueprint as well as the excellent TEDTalk), and this dual perspective engenders unique insights into the greatest global health crisis of our time.
The title of the book embodies the arrows, symbolizing the plague, that Apollo rained upon the Greeks in Homer’s ancient Greek poem, the Iliad.
This book is intelligently written and covers both the history and lessons of past pandemics (such as 1918 influenza, the 1980’s HIV, and 2003 SARS) as well as the myriad of controversies of the current one, ranging from the inept responses of most countries to the mask and social distancing symbolizing the struggle between public health and civil liberties.
In this work, Christakis provides many intellectual signals in the midst of relentless media noise. As he is both a clinician and a sociologist, his cogent insights into the pandemic as a social laboratory for network science is particularly enlightening framework in which he covers some of the essential pandemic mini topics: superspreader events, reproduction number R0, and herd immunity.
The evolving social and economic forces within this apocalyptic disruption and how this global pandemic will recede as well as how we redefine many aspects of our lives are the most fascinating sections of this book.
As the coronavirus mutates in Europe into a more transmissible form and the future of the virus remaining colossally uncertain, this riveting book provides the much needed anchoring of our intellects and emotions as we endure the most challenging winter of our lives.