The Premonition by Michael Lewis


Michael Lewis’s name on the cover of this book is set in bigger type than the title of the book because he has a following. I, too, have read several of his books: The Big Short, Moneyball, Liar’s Poker. This one is newly published because it is “A Pandemic Story.” It’s not about the people on the inside, in Washington and Atlanta. It’s about a fascinating few people who knew what was coming and then what was here and what needed to be done right away, at the beginning, when something could have been done. Wow. What fabulously interesting men and woman. They had so much to offer but were turned aside by our broken public health system. For instance, while the CDC was fritzing around with testing kits, a testing laboratory was set up in 8 days to do tests for hospitals for free and with rapid results. Why did the hospitals not gratefully take advantage of this amazing opportunity? For one, their billing systems would not allow them to enter a service that didn’t have an associated cost! For another, it would cause problems under their contracts with the big providers of lab services! By the time testing started, it was too late to be used for containment. And this is just one of the many revelations in the book. I’ve walked away with a completely different view of the CDC, which I have hoped I was right in defending.

Anyway, this book is one I whole-heartedly recommend. It’s much different from other pandemic books. As John Williams of the New York Times Book Review says, “I would read an 800-page history of the stapler if he wrote it.”

29 comments on “The Premonition by Michael Lewis”

  1. Have not read Michael Lewis, though clearly I need to. This sounds like a very revealing read, one well worth the time. Heading over to my library to put it on my shelf. Thanks for bringing it to our attention, Teri.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. I had the same thoughts about Borkali, JNaz. She will understand the chart in the book that I couldn’t handle, even though it’s supposed to be understandable to all!

        Liked by 2 people

      2. #1 I am blushing and giggling reading this comment thread!
        #2 I can’t wait to see this chart…

        I already know I’m gonna cry reading this book — hopefully in a cathartic, feeling less alone kind of way.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. You are going to love these folks, borkali. They are not only brilliant, but fearless. They are your people.


  2. Ok, here goes…

    As I headed to the library Saturday to pick up this book, I found myself wondering why on earth I wanted to read a book about this #%&@$ pandemic. So tired of reading and thinking about it, shaping my life around it. But I reminded myself that Teri recommended it highly and, when I got home, sat down to read a few pages and assess my decision. Thirty minutes later I came up for air. I was in deep. This is a riveting, compelling read. And very important. I was knocked out by these brilliant, courageous, out of the box thinkers who we have never heard of, these people flying under the radar who are doing incredible research and work in expanding our understanding of contagion and public health. And they are not just thinkers, but doers. Each and every one of these people stepped willingly into the muck to make things happen. A disparate bunch, they all have one thing in common – curiosity. Curiosity and a compulsion to follow the thread not just to a conclusion, but a resolution. I loved reading about these smart people, about their lives and experiences leading up to this moment.

    I flew through this book, reading most of it the day I checked it out (I kept sitting down to read “just a few more pages”). Admittedly, I read through the final section much more slowly. This is the section that deals with how badly we, as a nation, bungled our response to this pandemic while these brilliant folks were shouting in the background and offering government and health care agencies and hospitals all the tools they would need to contain it. It was pretty surreal reading a history I had so recently lived through.

    So, thank you, Teri, for bringing this book to my attention. I NEVER would have read it otherwise.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. JNaz, I’m so glad you read this book and that you think it warrants my high recommendation. I was thinking last night that I should have included in my original post “a woman and a GIRL.” I continue to be amazed that a kid’s science projects (for she stuck with this and refined it year after year), applying her father’s model made for a purpose other than the spread of disease to the spread of disease, was a major part of this behind-the-scenes effort. Although I’m so angry about the system that failed us, I am heartened to know there are brilliant people like these out there, dedicated to public health.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. The natural inclination to iterate continuously over time is very powerful in some — it’s a testament to stick-to-it-iveness which is 100% requisite to be a scientist of any kind! That inclination + training your brain in the scientific method has real consequences !

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  3. Aha! Charity Dean, who is a prominent person in this book, is quoted in a newspaper article about the move to make at-home rapid tests reimbursable. “Free and highly available rapid tests would be a game-changer…” It was like having a close friend pop up in print. She is now the CEO of something called the Public Health Company. Go, Charity, go!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes to Charity Dean. Getting out there and doing it. I remember reading that she was starting Public Health but still not certain what it would be, other than a way to put her knowledge and experience to use. She is a wonder.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for this, Teri. This looks like the source. So much information out there and so much of it filtered through bias, bureaucracy, and bullshit.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. As many know, I tend to read backwards especially if I have insider information about a book such as this lively discussion about The Premonition. I was pleasantly surprised to find this on the hold shelf at the library — I just finished the epilogue — Charity, a welcome friend. I’ll post more once I have read the whole thing. I’m going to try and find this chart next šŸ˜€

    Liked by 2 people

  5. RE the incomprehensible figure — that’s a perfect description. My brother Brian and I spent a solid amount of time wondering why this is even included, what value it adds, since there are already so many better visualizations of how disease spreads. For ex, The Swiss Cheese Model (pardon if this is mentioned in the book- still reading) came to mind as a better alternative than this figure (, which has legend issues at least in my printing– very difficult to interpret, seems unnecessary. So, y’all have good instincts! Here’s some visualizations I found more satisfying RE population wide disease spread:

    Liked by 1 person

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