Dan Werb's THE INVISIBLE SIEGE Finalist for Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction


THE INVISIBLE SIEGE (Crown) is a finalist in The Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction, which is awarded for literary excellence in the category of Canadian nonfiction, which includes personal or journalistic essays, history, biography, memoir, commentary, and criticism. Funded annually by the Weston Family Foundation, the $60,000 prize is the richest annual literary award for a book of nonfiction by a Canadian writer.

Of Dan Werb’s timely book, the jury said, ““The COVID-19 pandemic has been the most disruptive event in world history since the Second World War. More than one million people have died, the global economy has been shaken, anti-science populist extremism has become a potent force, and other issues like climate change have been overshadowed by the debate over public health measures. Dan Werb tells us how we got here through an authoritative, scientific explanation of coronaviruses. THE INVISIBLE SIEGE is a scientific detective story that leaves the reader frightened that the villain is still on the loose, and maybe in the house.”

About the Book
The urgency of the devastating COVID-19 pandemic has fixed humanity’s gaze on the present crisis. But the story of this pandemic extends far further back than many realize. In this engrossing narrative, epidemiologist Dan Werb traces the rising threat of the coronavirus family and the attempts by a small group of scientists who worked for decades to stop a looming viral pandemic.

When virologist Ralph Baric began researching coronaviruses in the 1980s, the field was a scientific backwater—the few variants that infected humans caused little more than the common cold. But when a novel coronavirus sparked the 2003 SARS epidemic, and then the MERS epidemic a decade later, Baric and his allies realized that time was running out before a pandemic strain would make the inevitable jump from animals to human hosts.

In THE INVISIBLE SIEGE, Werb unpacks the dynamic history and microscopic complexity of an organism that has wreaked cycles of havoc upon the world for millennia. Elegantly tracing decades of scientific investigation, Werb’s book reveals how Baric’s team of scientists hatched an audacious plan not merely to battle COVID-19 but to end pandemics forever. Yet as they raced to find a cure, they ran into a complicated nexus of science, ethics, industry, and politics that threatened to derail their efforts just as COVID-19 loomed ever larger.

About the Author
Dan Werb, PhD, is an award-winning writer and epidemiologist whose work has appeared in The New York Times, SalonThe BelieverThe Walrus, and elsewhere. His first book, City of Omens: A Search for the Missing Women of the Borderlands, was a finalist for the 2019 Governor-General’s Award for Non-Fiction. Beyond his writing, Dan holds dual faculty appointments at the University of Toronto and the University of California San Diego. He has won several awards for his epidemiologic work, including a U.S. National Institutes of Health Avenir Award and a Canadian Institutes of Health Research Traiblazer Award.

Posted: October 7, 2022