Please note that for the paperback, the author has updated some sections to reflect the events of 2020; the hardback was finalised just before the COVID-19 pandemic broke out in December 2019.
A deadly virus suddenly explodes into the population. A political movement gathers pace, and then quickly vanishes. An idea takes off like wildfire, changing our world forever. We live in a world that's more interconnected than ever before. Our lives are shaped by outbreaks – of disease, of misinformation, even of violence – that appear, spread and fade away with bewildering speed.
To understand them, we need to learn the hidden laws that govern them. From 'superspreaders' who might spark a pandemic or bring down a financial system to the social dynamics that make loneliness catch on, The Rules of Contagion offers compelling insights into human behaviour and explains how we can get better at predicting what happens next.
Along the way, Adam Kucharski explores how innovations spread through friendship networks, what links computer viruses with folk stories – and why the most useful predictions aren't necessarily the ones that come
– An Observer Book of the Year
– A Times Science Book of the Year
– A New Statesman Book of the Year
– A Financial Times Science Book of the Year
– Daily Mail
"Perfect timing [...] prepares the ground comprehensively for readers to make sense of what is happening today, by distilling the wisdom gathered by studying previous epidemics over more than a century."
– Financial Times
"It is hard to imagine a more timely book [...] much of the modern world will make more sense having read it."
– The Times
"This is a hell of a moment for a book like this to come out [...] the principles of contagion, which, Kucharski argues, can be applied to everything from folk stories and financial crises to itching and loneliness, are suddenly of pressing interest to all of us."
– Sunday Times
"The Rules of Contagion is popular science at its best. The prose is sparkling and clear. The subject is deeply fascinating and highly relevant. Touching on psychology, medicine, network theory and mathematics, epidemiologist Adam Kucharski has written a brilliant and authoritative guide to the hidden laws of how things spread – from ideas and memes, to violence and deadly viruses. An example of its subject matter, this book is also highly contagious: once you have read it, you will want to make sure others read it too."
– Alex Bellos, author of Alex's Adventures in Numberland
"Rich in stories, The Rules of Contagion is a down-to-earth account of how mathematical approaches can help us better understand and, in turn, better respond to contagion in all its dynamic forms. Tackling issues from pandemics and gun violence, to financial crises and misinformation, Adam Kucharski inspires us all to think like mathematicians. A must read for anybody interested in epidemics and other crises."
– Peter Piot, Director of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine
"An impressively fluent, fascinating and accessible introduction to how epidemics, trends, behaviours and ideas start, spread – and end [...] a work of contemporary relevance that Malcolm Gladwell devotees would enjoy."
– New Statesman
"Adam Kucharski [is] fast becoming a key voice of reason in the media circus surrounding the virus [...] Here he gives a clear, calm, historical overview of the mathematical ideas at the forefront of our pandemic response, where they came from and how well they stand up when you put them to the test."
– Hannah Fry, Guardian
"For anyone wanting to know how diseases spread, Adam Kucharski's book, The Rules of Contagion is a timely introduction."
– Irish Independent
"For now Adam Kucharski's The Rules of Contagion is the book you want to reach for [...] interesting and topical"
– Laura Spinney, Guardian