Friday, August 16, 2013

How Pathogenic Viruses Think: Making Sense of Virology by Lauren Sompayrac

Normally a book about viruses would not be the kind of book about which I would consider writing a review, but Lauren Sompayrac’s book, How Pathogenic Viruses Think: Making Sense of Virology is the exception.  As soon as I looked at the cover of the book, I noticed that this book did not look like the typical medical laboratory sciences book.  An illustration of what might be reminiscent of Freud sitting with an odd-headed body laying on couch gave me the clue that Sompayrac was about to take a unique position in describing viruses.  The author's humorous perspective helps the reader to understand different types of viruses. Black, white, and purple line illustrations are used to convey the concepts.

In the first part of the book, Sompayrac helps the reader understand her organizing principle, i.e. her use of the technique of learning how viruses “think”.   She also discusses human defense systems against viruses.  In Part II, Sompayrac stages the description in terms of an interview with the virus through which the properties of each is described in detail. The first page of each chapter shows a drawing of the virus talking to a psychologist illustrating to the reader the concept “how the virus thinks”.  Each virus is illustrated uniquely  such as the Rhinovirus shown as a body with a rhinoceros head, and Measles: A “Trojan Horse” virus being shown as a body with a Trojan warrior helmeted head. The same style of black, white, and purple drawings are used to illustrate the specific properties of the virus. In Part III, newly emerging viruses, virus-associated cancer, vaccines, and antiviral drugs are described.  Each chapter concludes, as all previous chapters, with a listing of the general principles and sometimes including thought questions.  The book ends with Summary Tables, continuing in the same light-hearted style as the rest of the book.  Tables listing the various groups of viruses are labeled with humorous titles such as “Viruses We Inhale”, “Viruses We Eat,” and “Viruses We Get from Mom”. 

Although only 167 pages long, this book on viruses gives the reader a good understanding of the characteristics of the pathogenic viruses and a humorous manner to recall each. The book lives up to the author’s idea as stated in the dedication to this book, “...although science is serious, it should also be fun!” This book may be found in the Medical Laboratory Sciences library (QR 482 .S65 2013) at the Schaeffer Building in Fort Worth. 

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