Steven Johnson's fave books about plagues

And speaking of Steven Johnson (yes, that one), I missed his excellent item in the Wall Street Journal a few weeks ago where he lists his five favorite account of plagues. Steven should know a good plague tale–his new book, Ghost Map, due out next month, is about an 1854 cholera outbreak in London and what it tells us about the dynamics of cities. From Steven's list in the WSJ of five great plague books, titled "Read Them in Good Health":

3. "Rats, Lice and History" by Hans Zinnser (Little, Brown, 1935).

A "biography" of the virus behind typhoid fever, "Rats, Lice, and History" was an unlikely best seller when it was published in 1935, given that it reads like a cross between a biology textbook and "Tristram Shandy." Written by Harvard bacteriologist Hans Zinnser, the book makes the first systematic case for the crucial role of microbes in world history, documenting how disease helped topple the Roman Empire and derail Napoleon's march on Moscow. The chapters on the louse and the rat remain classics of popular science writing, explaining how those troublesome critters shaped European society from the Middle Ages on. The most memorable image: the vermin crawling out–"like water in a simmering cauldron"–from the woolen garments covering the body of Thomas à Beckett, as he lies in state in Canterbury Cathedral.

Link to the WSJ article, Link to purchase Rats, Lice, and History, Link to pre-order Ghost Map

UPDATE: BB reader Paul Baum writes "Typhoid fever is caused by salmonella (a bacterium); Zinnser's book is about typhus, caused by Rickettsiae. Neither of these are viruses!"