Out now from MCD/Farrar, Straus and Giroux (US) and Picador (UK)
The Wall Street Journal calls it “compelling” and “enlightening”—“this is an exceptionally powerful book.” In a starred review, Publishers Weekly says the book is “riveting and timely… this thoughtful study couldn’t arrive at a better moment.” Dr. Tom Frieden, former director of the CDC, recommends Until Proven Safe—it is “engrossing, entertaining, timely, and important.”
Read excerpts in Wired, The Guardian, and The Atlantic.
Quarantine is our most powerful response to uncertainty: it means waiting to see if something hidden inside us will be revealed. It is also one of our most dangerous, operating through an assumption of guilt. In quarantine, we are considered infectious until proven safe.
Until Proven Safe tracks the history and future of quarantine around the globe, chasing the story of emergency isolation through time and space—from crumbling Mediterranean lazarettos built to contain the Black Death to an experimental Ebola unit in London, from the hallways of the CDC to closed-door simulations where pharmaceutical execs and epidemiologists prepare for pandemics yet to come.
But the story of quarantine ranges far beyond the history of medical isolation. The authors tour a nuclear-waste isolation facility beneath the New Mexican desert, see plants stricken with a disease that threatens the world’s wheat supply, and meet NASA’s Planetary Protection Officer, tasked with saving Earth from extraterrestrial infections.
Geoff Manaugh and Nicola Twilley have been researching quarantine since long before the COVID-19 pandemic. With Until Proven Safe, they bring us a book as compelling as it is definitive, an up-to-the-minute investigation of the interplay of forces—biological, political, technological—that shape our modern world. It is a thrillingly reported, thought-provoking exploration of the meaning of freedom, governance, and mutual responsibility.
Until Proven Safe helps us make sense of our new reality.
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UK Edition: Bookshop UK | Hive | Amazon UK | Blackwell’s | Waterstones
EARLY PRAISE FOR
“As Twilley and Manaugh reveal in this timely but timeless, ambitious and flawlessly executed account, quarantines have shaped our history―shifting geopolitical boundaries, fomenting racial hatreds, facilitating authoritarian control. The struggle to protect ourselves from invisible and deadly contagions is waged daily and largely out of sight―along borders and spore superhighways, in biosecure piggeries and nuclear waste facilities a half-mile underground. Quarantine: boring to live through but unbelievably interesting to read about.”
Author of Stiff, Grunt,
Fuzz: When Nature Breaks the Law
“Until Proven Safe is an engrossing, entertaining, timely, and important book with historical lessons that are highly relevant today. Twilley and Manaugh’s enjoyable tour through quarantine’s past, present, and future helps make sense of the sacrifices we’ve all made during COVID-19, while offering hope that we can rethink this essential tool in time for pandemics yet to come.”
DR. TOM FRIEDEN
Centers for Disease Control and
“Until Proven Safe is the book of our historical moment―a provocative meditation on how society uses quarantine to define the boundaries of self and other when faced with the terrifying unknown. Startlingly timely, authoritatively researched, and electrifyingly written.”
Author of NeuroTribes:
The Legacy of Autism and the Future of
“What does it mean to isolate threats: people carrying diseases, the microbes themselves, radioactive materials? For centuries the primary tool of isolation has been quarantine, and in this globe-trotting tale of history and today’s COVID-19 crisis, Geoff Manaugh and Nicola Twilley offer answers that will make your jaw drop. Nothing about quarantine is as simple or straight-forward as you think.”
author of The Coming Plague: Newly Emerging
Diseases in a World out of Balance
“Until Proven Safe combines history, geography, epidemiology, and the ethics of space exploration―how can this be? Because, as the authors explain in a very entertaining and wide-ranging way, quarantine, ironically enough, crosses borders of space and time to make a complex knot of stories. Timely, eye-opening, provocative―you will see the world differently after reading it.”
KIM STANLEY ROBINSON
Author of The
Ministry for the Future
“An engrossing study of the ways in which quarantines have changed social, emotional, and political life over hundreds of years, and a fascinating exploration of the perennial roles of fear, conspiracy theories, greed, and prejudice, to which we now add the threat of permanent digital surveillance in the name of public health. Perfect for our time and guidance for the future.”
Author of Close to the
Machine and Life in Code
“Strap on your plague beaks and round up the loose women! In this intrepid, occasionally creepy jaunt through seven centuries of disease control, Twilley and Manaugh prove that the past is never dead; it’s just in quarantine.”
Author of You Never
Forget Your First: A Biography of George Washington
“Riveting and timely… This thoughtful study couldn’t arrive at a better moment.”
Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
“Captivating… An infectiously appealing overview of efforts to contain the potentially infectious.”
Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)
“Compelling... enlightening... this is an exceptionally powerful book.”
“Uncanny in its prescience... Twilley and Manaugh see things that others don’t. Their insatiable curiosity reveals itself through all of their endeavors... fascinating.”
“Compelling and prescient history of
quarantine through the ages,”
San Francisco Chronicle
“[The authors] bring an impressively wide range of interests to bear on a subject that involves not only infectious disease but also—in their ambitious yet seamless narration—politics, agriculture, surveillance and even outer space. (...) quarantine takes on dimensions that feel simultaneously urgent and fantastical.”
“Unapologetically delightful... There is perhaps no more reassuring summer read than learning how the science of isolation is consistently recalibrated to safeguard society, offering protection from biological, technological, and, yes, even extraterrestrial threats.”
“Initially intended as a warning for a future pandemic, their book became an explanation for what was happening all around us... invaluable reading.”
“Dangerous Until Proven Safe,”
C. Kaye Rawlings, Grow
“When they first started studying quarantine, it seemed more like a relic of a past era than a harbinger of our collective future... They found themselves writing about quarantine while in quarantine, a surreal experience that reinforced the lessons of their research—that quarantine was central to our lives, that we had not prepared adequately for it, that it could and must be reenvisioned.”
“A World Apart,” Susie Allen,
The University of Chicago Magazine
“Manaugh and Twilley are not out to frighten us. They are too enthusiastic about their research. Throughout the book, they cross continents and disciplines, applying the benefits, and the detriments, of isolation to an array of circumstances... The stakes could not be higher.”
“Through a mix of globetrotting journalism, narrative nonfiction, and a deep historical look at how quarantine has been used over centuries, Manaugh and Twilley’s book shows how quarantines are likely to continue to be part of our world, even in the unlikely event this is the last pandemic we see.”
“If you seek an entertaining yet sober account of how the world has dealt with lockdowns in the past and how we can better protect ourselves in the future, you should read Until Proven Safe... They have produced a superb story—part travelogue, part science, part history, and wholly fascinating.”
“The perfect postpandemic read—an imaginative, layperson-friendly way to make sense of and contextualize what we just lived through... fascinating.”
BuzzFeed, Best New Books of the Summer
“It’s a subject that remains all too relevant right now.”
InsideHook, 10 Books You Should Be Reading This July
“...as Geoff Manaugh and Nicola Twilley reveal in Until Proven Safe, this kind of segregation is nothing new for the human race, which has always turned to quarantine in the face of new and unknown pestilence. And as the 21st-century brings new, weird threats (lab accidents! space plagues!) we have to be as vigilant as ever about protecting the herd.”
“The history lessons in Until Proven Safe help illuminate where things went wrong in 2020 and what needs to change before the next lockdown, which they say is definitely coming.”
“Why did we fail at COVID quarantines?
Ask the L.A. writers who predicted it,”
Stuart Miller, Los Angeles Times
“Freakishly prescient... Manaugh and Twilley make the case that disease and the quarantines they inspire have in fact shaped much of the modern world.”
“Echoes Across Centuries Are Reminders That The Next Quarantine Is A Matter Of When,”
Annalisa Quinn, National Public Radio
BOOK TOUR & EVENTS
(More Dates & Links to Come)
June 24: Exploring Quarantine with Atlas Obscura | 7pm ET
July 15: Strelka Institute with Benjamin Bratton | 8pm Moscow/1pm ET | Register here!
July 20: Architectural Association Bookshop/Victoria & Albert Museum with Brendan Cormier | 6pm London/1pm ET | Register here!
July 20: Greenlight Bookstore with Mary Roach | 7:30pm ET | Register here!
July 21: Politics and Prose with Steve Silberman | 7pm ET | Register here!
July 22: Book Passage with Alexis Madrigal | 8:30pm ET | Register here!
July 28: New Republic Salon Series, with Laura Marsh | 7pm ET
July 29: Harvard Book Store with Cynthia Graber | 7pm ET | Register here!
August 3: Point Reyes Books with Adam Rogers | 7pm Pacific | Register here!
August 6: Nevada Museum of Art, Center for Art + Environment, with William L. Fox | 12pm Pacific | Register here!
August 11: Alta Live with David L. Ulin | 12:30pm Pacific | Register here!
August 17: Live and in person! The Interval at the Long Now Foundation, San Francisco | 7pm Pacific | Register here!
September 21: Town Hall Seattle | 6pm Pacific
If you are interested in hosting an event or scheduling an interview, please contact Stephen Weil (US) or Grace Harrison (UK), below.
Geoff Manaugh is the author of the New York Times-bestselling book A Burglar’s Guide to the City, as well as the architecture and technology website BLDGBLOG. He regularly writes for The New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic, The New Yorker, Wired, and many other publications. @geoffmanaugh
Nicola Twilley is cohost of the award-winning podcast Gastropod, which looks at food through the lens of science and history, and is a frequent contributor to The New Yorker. @nicolatwilley
Manaugh and Twilley live in Los Angeles, California.
Until Proven Safe: The History and Future of Quarantine (July 2021)
Authors: Geoff Manaugh and Nicola Twilley
Publisher: MCD/Farrar, Straus and Giroux (US), Picador (UK)
Press Contacts: Stephen Weil (US), stephen.weil [at] fsgbooks.com | Grace Harrison (UK), grace.harrison [at] macmillan.com
Author Photos: Gleb Kuznetsov/Strelka Institute (Geoff Manaugh), Jenny GG (Nicola Twilley)
US cover design (depicted) by Alex Merto.