An Outside Conversation with ‘Breathless’ Author David Quammen

This article originally appeared on Outside

In 1981, writer David Quammen took over a monthly column for Outside called "Natural Acts," which investigated all sorts of wildlife- and nature-related questions. It ran for 15 years, becoming a beloved regular offering in the print magazine and helping launch Quammen's career as a preeminent science writer. He's now written 16 books, won multiple magazine and book awards, and was a Guggenheim Fellow. In 2012, he wrote Spillover, a nonfiction look at how zoonotic diseases pass from animals into humans. That reporting positioned him perfectly to understand what was going on when a novel coronavirus started infecting people in Wuhan, China, in late 2019.

Breathless: The Scientific Race to Defeat a Deadly Virus, on shelves October 4, is the result of two years of research and interviews with scientists on the frontlines of understanding SARS-CoV-2 and the pandemic it caused. The day it was released, it was named a nonfiction finalist for the National Book Awards. For this book, Quammen talked to 95 people working on the virus, from unknown graduate students to Anthony Fauci. Add to that the dozens he met in person while reporting Spillover, and multiply it by his many years traveling in the kind of remote environments where new zoonotic diseases tend to emerge, and you have the most authorative account yet of SARS-CoV-2 and its spread. To boot, Breathless is full of the lyrical prose and the kind of compelling narrative drama that has become Quammen's signature.

We are hosting a live Zoom Q and A with David Quammen on Thursday, October 13, at 6 p.m. Mountain Time--and we want you to join us. Outside Book Club host Elizabeth Hightower Allen will moderate, and you'll have opportunities to ask Quammen your own questions.

This conversation is open to anyone, whether or not you’re an Outside+ member. But you do need to register for the Zoom event by clicking the button below. In the meantime, you can order a copy of the book here. (Note that if you purchase through this link, you'll be generating a small commission for Outside in addition to supporting independent bookstores--you can read more about our affiliate policy here.)

Register for the Q&A Here

For exclusive access to all of our fitness, gear, adventure, and travel stories, plus discounts on trips, events, and gear, sign up for Outside+ today.