To see accurate pricing, please choose your delivery country.
United States
All Shops
We're still open for business - read our EU and Covid-19 statements

British Wildlife

8 issues per year 84 pages per issue Subscription only

British Wildlife is the leading natural history magazine in the UK, providing essential reading for both enthusiast and professional naturalists and wildlife conservationists. Published eight times a year, British Wildlife bridges the gap between popular writing and scientific literature through a combination of long-form articles, regular columns and reports, book reviews and letters.

Subscriptions from £40 per year

Conservation Land Management

4 issues per year 44 pages per issue Subscription only

Conservation Land Management (CLM) is a quarterly magazine that is widely regarded as essential reading for all who are involved in land management for nature conservation, across the British Isles. CLM includes long-form articles, events listings, publication reviews, new product information and updates, reports of conferences and letters.

Subscriptions from £22 per year
Good Reads  Organismal to Molecular Biology  Microbiology

Understanding Coronavirus

Popular Science
By: Raul Rabadan(Author)
146 pages, colour & b/w photos, colour illustrations
Though some topics are a bit specific, Understanding Coronavirus is a much-needed primer that offers basic information in a neat little package.
Understanding Coronavirus
Click to have a closer look
Select version
Average customer review
  • Understanding Coronavirus ISBN: 9781108826716 Edition: 1 Paperback Jul 2020 Usually dispatched within 6 days
  • Understanding Coronavirus ISBN: 9781009088572 Edition: 2 Paperback Oct 2021 Usually dispatched within 6 days
  • Understanding Coronavirus ISBN: 9781316514863 Edition: 2 Hardback Oct 2021 Usually dispatched within 6 days
Selected version: £9.99
About this book Contents Customer reviews Biography Related titles Recommended titles
Images Additional images
Understanding CoronavirusUnderstanding CoronavirusUnderstanding Coronavirus

About this book

Since the identification of the first cases of the coronavirus in December 2019, there has been a significant amount of confusion regarding the origin and spread of the so-called 'coronavirus', SARS-CoV-2, and the cause of the disease COVID-19. Conflicting messages from the media and officials across different countries and organizations, the abundance of disparate sources of information, unfounded conspiracy theories on the origins of the virus, unproven therapies, and inconsistent public health measures, have all served to increase anxiety in the population. Where did the virus come from? How is it transmitted? How does it cause disease? Is it like flu? What is a pandemic? In this concise and accessible introduction, a leading expert provides answers to these commonly asked questions.

This revised and updated edition now also covers how the virus mutates, how important these mutations are, how vaccines work, and what we can expect in the near and long-term future.



1. Introduction
2. How Is the Coronavirus Spreading?
3. What Is a Coronavirus?
4. How Is the Coronavirus Changing?
5. How Did the COVID-19 Outbreak Start and Evolve?
6. How Does the COVID-19 Outbreak Compare to the SARS Outbreak in 2003?
7. How Does the COVID-19 Outbreak Compare to Seasonal and Pandemic Influenza?
8. How Can We Treat the Virus and Prevent Infections?

Summary of Common Misunderstandings
Suggested Further Reading

Customer Reviews (1)

  • A much-needed primer that offers basic information
    By Leon (NHBS Catalogue Editor) 1 Jul 2020 Written for Paperback

    With the COVID-19 pandemic shaping up to be one of the most influential public health crises in living memory, it was only a matter of time before books would be written about it. One of the first to make it to press is Understanding Coronavirus by systems biologist and bioinformatician Raul Rabadan Amidst the swirl of dubious and outright false information that is circulating, there is desperate need for a book that clears up misconceptions and gives a concise introduction to what we know about the virus so far. Given that he spearheaded research in 2009 that confirmed the animal origin of swine flu, Rabadan seems like the right man for the job.  Is this the primer that everybody should have on their bedside table?

    Understanding Coronavirus inaugurates a new series from Cambridge University Press called Understanding Life that offers concise introductions to current biological topics. If you are familiar with Oxford University Press’s Very Short Introduction series, this first book looks a bit like that: a slim, 120-page paperback that will slip in your average coat pocket.

    The book consists of an introduction followed by seven chapters written in a question-and-answer format with the table of contents helpfully listing each question. Rabadan mentions it is written for the lay reader with minimal knowledge of biology, virology, epidemiology, or medicine. I would change that to “some knowledge” as it does get rather technical in places. Personally, I got along fine with it but I am somewhat hesitant to give this to, say, my mother.

    What Understanding Coronavirus does very well is clarify virology and epidemiology basics. Asking how quickly the virus spreads means explaining the basic reproduction number R0 and concepts such as “flattening the curve” and herd immunity that everyone has been confronted with. It explains the symptoms, the typical course of the disease, how deadly it is, and that, yes, children and young adults get infected too, but their symptoms are usually less severe.

    Next to these basics it also goes into the frequent comparisons made with SARS and influenza, something specific to this pandemic. Rabadan explains their origins and clarifies the differences and similarities with COVID-19. Regarding SARS, the viruses SARS-CoV and SARS-CoV-2 are very similar, but the diseases are different enough that the World Health Organization gave them two different names. Regarding influenza, Rabadan calls the comparison to COVID-19: “one of the most unfortunate and confusing metaphors from the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak”. Although we can draw some useful lessons from previous influenza pandemics where public health measures are concerned, the two are not related by any stretch of the imagination. Also, can you explain the difference between seasonal and pandemic influenza? You will after reading this book.

    All of this is supported by numerous colour illustrations that demystify concepts. Rabadan’s explanations are concise and the reference list at the back helpfully includes a short note on what each paper or book contains. But I feel that in the middle the book goes off-script somewhat and betrays Rabadan’s specific interests.

    See, as a bioinformatician and computational biologist Rabadan is fascinated by the evolution of complex systems. Thus he provides details on the molecular biology of SARS-CoV-2: its structure, the size and architecture of its genome, and the cell receptor (a protein called ACE2) that the virus uses to enter host cells. And he specifically discusses how the virus is changing: how we can draw up evolutionary family trees (phylogenetic trees) to track its spread and determine from what animal it jumped to humans (its zoonotic origin). For an evolutionary biologist such as myself, these are mightily interesting details: I did not know that, next to point mutations, viruses also evolve by recombination, just as many other organisms do. But I feel Rabadan almost forgets who he is writing for. For example, when discussing ACE2, he casually mentions that protein levels differ between men and women because (in brackets) “the gene is located on the X-chromosome”. To a biologist, this little throwaway clause makes sense (those are the sex chromosomes, women are XX, men XY, so women have two copies of the gene producing ACE2, etc.), but to most people, this will not be self-evident, I think.

    Now, it is not that these topics are not relevant – because they are – but more to the research community than to the average lay reader. What they probably will want to know, and what I found noticeably missing, are questions regarding prevention. Why is washing of hands so important? Why is there a difference between using soap and bottled hand sanitiser? How and why do contact tracing strategies work? Why has there been such conflicting advice on wearing face masks? And how do they work? (hint: it is not just to protect you from others, but especially others from you.) What do we know about the survival of the virus on other surfaces? Can we transmit the virus via clothing or packaging material? Rabadan does mention viral half-life in water droplets and on metallic surfaces in one sentence, but I have been wondering about this. Since viruses are not really alive, they cannot really die. But apparently, virus particles can degrade or decay. How? Is that because of exposure to light or heat? Chemical instability with time? These are the kinds of mundane questions many people have.

    One risk of a book published under the current circumstances is that it ages quickly. There is a brief “updates at press” section where Rabadan can just in time point out that hydroxychloroquine, initially considered a promising drug treatment, is not so effective after all, and mention that COVID-19 also seems to attack other organs. Of course, none of this is Rabadan’s fault: the science moves particularly fast in this area and you go with the best information you have at publication.

    Unsurprisingly, the publishing floodgates have been opened. Already several books are in the making or due any moment. Simultaneously, many publishers have spotted an opportunity to reissue older books on pandemics with some extra material. Amidst this deluge of books, you need to have your basics covered. Despite a few topics being of interest primarily to scientists while a few other topics are not covered, Understanding Coronavirus overall provides a lot of relevant information in a very readable and concise format. And at this price, you cannot really go wrong.
    1 of 1 found this helpful - Was this helpful to you? Yes No


Raul Rabadan is a Professor in the Department of Systems Biology and Biomedical Informatics, as well as the director of the Program for Mathematical Genomics, at Columbia University. From 2001 to 2003, Dr. Rabadan was a fellow at the Theoretical Physics Division at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, in Geneva, Switzerland. In 2003 he joined the School of Natural Sciences at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey. He has been named one of Popular Science's Brilliant 10 (2010), a Stewart Trust Fellow (2013), and he received the Harold and Golden Lamport (2014), Diz Pintado (2018) and Phillip Sharp (2018) awards. Dr. Rabadan's current interest focuses on uncovering patterns of evolution in biological systems – in particular, RNA viruses and cancer.

Popular Science
By: Raul Rabadan(Author)
146 pages, colour & b/w photos, colour illustrations
Though some topics are a bit specific, Understanding Coronavirus is a much-needed primer that offers basic information in a neat little package.
Media reviews

"With all the technology and medical knowledge of the 21st century a pandemic virus has defeated us. This book tells us why and how that could happen and what we can do about it. And as a bonus we get a comparison with the 1918 pandemic Flu. All this wrapped up in a clear, understandable and interesting way. We learn what is happening to us now and how to better prepare for the future."
– Arnold J. Levine, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, New Jersey

"An extremely concise and important book that everyone should read to understand the dynamics of the COVID-19 pandemic."
– Siddhartha Mukherjee, Columbia University, New York, and author of The Gene and The Emperor of All Maladies

"Raul Rabadan has written an essential book for the first pandemic of the 21st century, COVID19 caused by SARS-CoV-2. It's a wonderfully concise and accessible explanation of everything you want to know about the virus, the disease, and the outbreak. If you want to learn what is a coronavirus, how the outbreak started, what are the therapeutic options, and much more, I highly recommend this book. Professor Rabadan explains viruses in a way that is accessible to all."
– Vincent Racaniello, Columbia University, New York

Current promotions
British WildlifeAnts - The Ultimate Social InsectsNew Year SaleBacklist Bargains 2022