If you're feeling down this season what with "economy being what it is", the world geo-political factions cracking up, cheese at $5/lb, and "retirement fund? I apparently didn't need no stinking retirement fund." allow me to recommend the following book:
The Black Death: A Personal History by John Hatcher(http://www.amazon.com/Black-Death-Personal-History/dp/0306815710/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1229403293&sr=8-1) slated for pbk release june 2009
I finished reading this over Thanksgiving. I never felt more grateful for modern medicine itellyouwhat. What if 1/2 of everyone we knew died in the space of two months? That's the horror/reality that Professor Hatcher portrays in his book. It's an interesting mix of non-fiction and fiction. He takes primary source materials from the time of the black death in late 1340s england and puts them in context for the modern reader (tho I do agree with one reviewer: a glossary of middle english legal and land terminology would have been nice). Mr. Hatcher then creates a fictionalized narrative (docudrama) from the viewpoint of the villagers in the small town of Walsham (the place/source of the primary source documents) and shows how landed gentry, church, and peasantry dealt with the upheaval of the time. It's not far off to say that the labor shortages caused by the plague lead to the end of feudalism.
Aside from the novel "Domesday Book" by Connie Willis (again, another favorite) I haven't done much plague reading, so this was both frightening and fascinating as it revealed the specific workings of agragian life in the mid-1300s england. Plates (pix from illuminations) and maps enhance the narrative.
Enjoy! and give your healthcare provider a big hug the next time you see them.
Yours in Service,