Michael Lewis on the Unlikely Trio That Defeated the Pandemic

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The saga of local public health officials tasked with fighting epidemic disease, and their clashes with national health authorities who didn’t care, was a perfect recipe for putting readers to sleep. But Michael Lewis made it into high drama.

I couldn’t put it down. That’s about the worst opening for a book review that I can think of, but I did read Lewis’s The Premonition: A Pandemic Story in one sitting – despite my having gobbled up reams of literature about COVID-19 in the last year and a third.

This is the second of Michael Lewis’s books about the micro-functioning of government. It is a sequel to his 2018 book, The Fifth Risk, which was about the Departments of Energy, Agriculture, and Commerce under the Trump administration. In that volume, Lewis coaxed us into appreciating the diligent work done by experts several layers down from the top, working in agencies that we know little about. (The first four risks are not specific threats but categories: severe and mild consequences, plotted against low and high likelihood. The fifth one is project management, as unlikely a topic for a page-turner as has ever been chosen.)

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