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  • Published: 12 April 2023
  • ISBN: 9780141998138
  • Imprint: Penguin Press
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 416
  • RRP: $24.99

The Plague Year

America in the Time of Covid

The acclaimed account of the shocking American response to Covid-19, from the author of The Looming Tower

The story of The Plague Year starts with the initial moments of Covid's appearance in Wuhan and ends with Joseph Biden's inauguration in an America ravaged by well over 400,000 deaths - a mortality already some ten times worse than US combat deaths in the entire Vietnam War.

This is an anguished, furious memorial to a year in which all of America's great strengths - its scientific knowledge, its great civic and intellectual institutions, its spirit of voluntarism and community - were brought low, not by a terrifying new illness alone, but by political incompetence and cynicism on a scale for which there has been no precedent.

With insight, sympathy, clarity and rage, The Plague Year allows the reader to see the unfolding of this great tragedy, talking with individuals on the front line, bringing together many moving and surprising stories and painting a devastating picture of a country literally and fatally misled.

  • Published: 12 April 2023
  • ISBN: 9780141998138
  • Imprint: Penguin Press
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 416
  • RRP: $24.99

About the author

Lawrence Wright

Lawrence Wright is a staff writer for the New Yorker and a fellow at the Center on Law and Security at New York University School of Law. He has won several awards for his journalism. He is the author of Twins and Remembering Satan, and the co-writer of the movie The Siege.

Also by Lawrence Wright

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Praise for The Plague Year

In his characteristically rigorous and engrossing style, Wright documents innumerable episodes of ineptitude and malfeasance ... Maddening and sobering - as comprehensive an account of the first year of the pandemic as we've yet seen.


A devastating analysis ... Wright is a master of knitting together complex narratives ... A story about hubris and division, complacency and insularity, but most of all precariousness.

Andrew Anthony, The Observer

A virtuoso feat ... [Wright has] given us a book of panoramic breadth, [ranging] from science to politics to economics to culture with a commanding scrutiny, managing to surprise us about even those episodes we have only recently lived through and thought we knew well. The story he tells is immediate and often piercingly intimate ... Wright's storytelling dexterity makes all this come alive.

Sonali Deraniyagala, New York Times Book Review

Arresting, lean-limbed, immersive ... Rich with peerless reportage and incisive critique ... Translates the complexities of epidemiology into plain English ... Wright is at his commanding best.

Hamilton Cain, Minneapolis Star Tribune

[An] incredibly-crafted telling ... [Wright] is an earnest prober, with sober-minded curiosity ... [He] provides a well-wrought map covering the institutions and politicians that failed America during this stretch of the pandemic [and] crucially highlights those that also saved us - the first responders and the reasonable.

Eric Allen Been, The Boston Globe

Insightful ... Indispensable as a coronavirus compendium. Very little escapes Wright's notice, and he is adept at placing the ongoing story in an enlightening context.

Michael King, Austin Chronicle

Taut, thriller-like, The Plague Year captures the chaos and courage of this unprecedented era that's forever changed us.

Oprah Daily

By far the best book yet on COVID-19 ... [An] exemplary chronicle [with] countless examples of hope, sacrifice, and heroic feats. Wright's interviews with experts in virology, economics, public health, history, politics, and medicine are enlightening ... Wright is at his finest here in frontline research, expert analysis, and lucid writing.

Tony Miksanek, Booklist

In his characteristic style, Mr Wright provides many small sketches of people touched by Covid-19 - from whizzy scientists like Barney Graham to victims like 96-year-old Jim Miller, a D-Day veteran who died of the disease in a cruelly mismanaged home for old soldiers. But the book's main character is Mr Trump, and its main service is in weighing his responsibility for the disaster.

The Economist

Wright explains political mistakes and scientific breakthroughs, but The Plague Year has a more intimate register, too, in its record of how the virus upended everyday lives. The most heartbreaking moments are those that juxtapose ordinary people falling ill with the incompetence, negligence or politicking of the Trump White House ... The Plague Year suggests it was even worse than we remembered or realised at the time.

Emily Tamkin, New Statesman