Sonia Shah

Sonia Shah, an investigative science journalist and historian, challenges conventional understandings about the real causes of pandemics.

“She has the eye of a journalist, the mind of a scientist, and the heart of a humanitarian.”
— Carleton College


Sonia Shah is a widely published journalist and science historian who has authored critically acclaimed books on science, human rights, and international politics. Growing up, she shuttled between the northeastern United States, where her parents practiced medicine, and India, where her extended working-class family lived, developing a life-long sensitivity to inequality between and within societies. Sonia spent five years researching her book, The Fever: How Malaria Has Ruled Humankind for 500,000 Years, reporting from Cameroon, Malawi,and Panama. Most recently, she has been a visiting professor at SUNY New Paltz and a grantee of the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, where she has been investigating the origins of pandemics and emerging infectious diseases for her new book, Pandemic: Tracking Contagions, from Cholera to Ebola and Beyond, to be published in 2016.

Who or what had the most influence over your current work?
The experience of seeing extreme poverty (in India) at a very young age. It was deeply confusing. I’ve spent much of my writing career trying to understand why.

What sparks your imagination?
Writing requires multiple small acts of imagination. For me the trick is: tidy the house, go for a run, and then sit, relaxed and peaceful, and wait for it to come.

What do you do to lift your spirits?
Being out on the water is restorative: sailing, kayaking, swimming, or even taking a shower or a bath.


Rethinking New Diseases
Q&A with Sonia Shah on the TEDMED Blog

Pandemic: Tracking Contagions, from Cholera to Ebola and Beyond
Shah S. Sarah Crichton Books/Farrar, Straus & Giroux. 2016.

Mapping Cholera: A Tale of Two Cities (An Interactive Map)
Shah S & Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting. 2014.

The Fever: How malaria has ruled humankind for 500,000 years 
Shah S. Farrar, Straus & Giroux. 2010.

The Body Hunters: Testing new drugs on the world’s poorest patients
Shah S. New Press, 2006.

Crude: The story of oil
Shah S. Seven Stories. 2004.

Dragon Ladies: Asian American Feminists Breathe Fire
Shah S, (editor). South End Press. 1999.

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Social Justice Science Journalist