Selected Works

Winner of the 1998 Francis Parkman Prize from the Society of American Historians for the year's best book on American history, named in 2005 by the New York Public Library one of the 50 "most memorable" books of the preceding 50 years.
Winner of the 2005 Keck Award from the National Academies of Science for the year's outstanding book on science or medicine.
A look at power in all its incarnations, from the strength of a world champion caliber weightlifter to the power of the Washington press corps.

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Works

Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and How It Changed America
A New York Times best-seller.
In 1927 the Mississippi River and its tributaries flooded the homes of more than one million people. The flood brought with it a human storm: white and black collided, honor and money collided, regional and national power structures collided. The collisions shook-- and continue to shake-- America. The 1927 flood was the greatest natural disaster in the nation's history, and it had more impact on the nation than Katrina.

REVIEWS

The New York Times
"Extraordinary... Rising Tide stands not only as a powerful story of disaster but as an accomplsiehd and important social history, magisterial in its scope and fiercely dedicated to unearthing the turth."

San Diego Union-Tribune
"Like the river, John Barry's history is broad- shouldered and violent and fascinating... The Mississippi cannot be placated or conquered. I was not sure it could be captured in words, either, but I am thrilled to report that John M. Barry and Rising Tide have proved me wrong."

The New Yorker
"This story of human defeat by a savage, unpredictable river has the power of an epic... A virutoso piece of exposition."

The Chicago Tribune
"A brilliant match of scholarship and investigative journalism."

New Orleans Times-Picayune
"Barry's brilliant new book is a timely, disturbing and fascinating look at the Missisippi during its most powerufl self-assertion.. Barry is adroit in drawing his reader into complex political and scientific issues, rendering them with perfect clarity. After reading this book you'll never look at the river the same way again."

The Great Influenza: The Epic Story of the Deadliest Plague in History
A New York Times best-seller.
In 1918, a new influenza virus jumped from birds-- all influenza viruses originate in birds-- to people. One year later, according to a Nobel laureate, at least 50 million people, and possibly 100 million, were dead. In 26 weeks the virus killed more people than AIDS has killed in 26 years. This book tells the story of that outbreak, focusing on a handful of scientists in the United States who confronted that disease, and from whom came the most important biological discovery of the 20th century. But it is not just a story of science; it is also a story of politics, power, and war. The book offers essential lessons for today, as we face concerns about both bioterrorism and a new avian influenza virus that is threatening to jump species and create another pandemic.

Reviews:

Journal of the American Medical Association:
"Here is a writer of distinction with a deep philosophical underpinning... I loved the range of this book, how it directs a searchlight on science and scientists and gives us so much more than its title. We have no cold statistics to pore over, no tables of case fatalites. Instead, we are entering the forgotten world of personalities of medical science... compelling and brilliant."

BOOKLIST (STARRED REVIEW):
"An enthralling symphony of a book, whose every page compels."

The San Diego Union-Tribune:
Spellbinding . . . a compelling and scary read.”

Newsweek:
"Terrifying... The lessons of 1918 couldn't be more relevant."

Chicago Tribune:
"Monumental... powerfully intelligent... unflinching... Barry's book is not just a masterful narrative of the events of 1918 but also an authoritative and disturbing morality tale of science, politics and culture... One of the strengths of Barry's book is that it goes well beyond medical facts and figures... A sweeping style that consistently focuses on real human beings, and he cares deeply and unapologetically about morality and politics... Barry has done a remarkable service in writing The Great Influenza."


Seattle Times:
"Magisterial... a multi-stranded narrative account of the most devastating pandemic the world has ever known, as well as a history for 20th century science and medicine... He describes how the influenza virus attacks the body with a clarity that lays the conceptual groundwork for much that would ensue... An immensely readable book. And as a piece of social history, The Great Influenza is invaluable. It shows the courage and cowardice of individuals under great pressure; it shows how institutions, captive to the ethics of the time, can rise to the occasion or abjectly fall... It's a lesson to ponder in our times."

Boston Globe:
"Compelling and timely."

New York Review of Books:
"magisterial... evocative... unusual literary panache... very artfully constructed [with phrases] repeated like Wagner's leitmotifs... very well informed... impressively up-to-date understanding... The fact is that flu is one of the most formidable infections confronting humankind. The virus mutates constantly as it circulates among birds, pigs, and human beings, so each new flu season now challenges experts... his message for our time is clear."—

Nature
"Barry writes like an angel.... Through a vision of the scientists of the day he brings back the tension and excitement, the despair and the sorrow... yes I have indulged myself and read the book twice...Barry's writing...manag[es] to capture the science of virology...This book is a wake-up call. "

Los Angeles Times:
“Barry puts the pandemic into a context of medical, national, and world history. Barry's well-researched and well-written account raises the obvious question: Could it happen again? And the answer is: Of course it could."

Washington Post:
"Fascinating."

Charlotte Observer:
"Compelling... Sometimes the book reads like a detective novel; other times it reads like science fiction... a fascinating and frightening account of sickness, fear, stupidity, scientific exploration, and occasional heroism…Barry brings his narrative into the present with provocative implications."

Providence Journal:
"Hypnotizing, horrifying, almost incomprehensible... energetic, lucid prose... His important story stands solidly and eloquently on its own as a work of history and a cautionary tale."

Dallas Morning-News:
"What distinguishes Mr. Barry's account is its thoroughness and the writer's comand of both the science and the politics that conspired to spread the disease... compelling... The story telling is vivid... masterly detail."

KIRKUS (STARRED REVIEW):
"Majestic, spellbinding treatment of a mass kiler... With the same terrorizing flair of Richard preston's Hot Zone, the author follows the disease... as if from Weegee's camera."--

Arkansas Times:
"A medical thriller...It combines popular history and popular science in a way that reminds one of David McCullough's great books on the Johnstown flood and the building of the Panama Canal and the Brooklyn Bridge. The Great Influenza might be the most interesting such concoction since... well, since the same author's Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and How It Changed America."

Baton Rouge Advocate:
"History brilliantly written... The Great Influenza is a masterpiece."

Power Plays: Politics, Football, and Other Blood Sports
"The great political process was not begun by workers, or businessmen, or priests, but by youth, preoccupied by women and resolved to fight-- the lover, the warrior, the athlete." Jose Ortega y Gasset

In this extraordinarily provocative collection, Barry, who coached major college football before becoming a writer, examines power from unusual perspectives, from political power-- the rise of Newt Gingrich and role of the Washington media-- to physical power-- the determination of an undrafted long shot trying to make the NFL. This book includes not only work that first appeared in Sports Illustrated but extended excerpts from the author's first book, The Ambition and the Power: A true story of Washington. Now out of print, that work was cited The New York Times as one of the eleven best books ever written on Washington and the Congress.

REVIEWS (for The Ambition and the Power)

The Washington Post
"This chronicle of aspiration and defeat is an important document, a prodigious work giving a rare picture."

Business Week
"This is a riveting portrait of how [Washington ] really works... Brilliant."

The Los Angeles Times
"The quality of Barry's reporting makes most newspaper work seem like the funny pages... Scenes dance on the page as if blocked out by Frank Capra."


The National Review
"Barry raises the curtain on the inside game as no other writer is likely to do for a long time."

The New York Times
"An overwhelmingly powerful story.... one of the best political books in several years... An important accomplishment."