Sonia Shah

Sonia Shah is an investigative journalist and author of critically acclaimed and prize-winning books on science, human rights, and international politics. Her fourth book, Pandemic: Tracking Contagions from Cholera to Ebola and Beyond has been called “superbly written,” (The Economist) , “bracingly intelligent” (Nature),  “provocative” and “chilling,” (New York Times), a “lively, rigorously researched and highly informative read,” (Wall Street Journal) and “absorbing, complex, and ominous,” (Publishers Weekly). It was selected as a New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice.

Her critically acclaimed 2010 book, The Fever: How Malaria Has Ruled Humankind for 500,000 Years (Sarah Crichton Books/ Farrar, Straus & Giroux, July 2010), which is based on five years of original reportage in Cameroon, Malawi, Panama and elsewhere, was called a “tour-de-force” by the New York Times,” and was long-listed for the Royal Society Winton Prize. Philanthropist Bill Gates called it one of his top four “good books on disease” in recent years.

Shah’s prize-winning 2006 drug industry exposé, The Body Hunters: Testing New Drugs on the World’s Poorest Patients (New Press), was described by Publishers Weekly as “a tautly argued study…a trenchant exposé…meticulously researched and packed with documentary evidence,” and as “important [and] powerful” by The New England Journal of Medicine. The book, which international bestselling novelist and The Constant Gardener author John Le Carré called “an act of courage,” has enjoyed wide international distribution, including French, Japanese, and Italian editions.

Her 2004 book, Crude: The Story of Oil (Seven Stories), was acclaimed as “brilliant” and “beautifully written” by The Guardian and “required reading” by The Nation, and has been widely translated, from Japanese, Greek, and Italian to Bahasa Indonesia.

A former writing fellow of the Nation Institute and the Puffin Foundation, Shah’s writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Scientific American, Foreign Affairs, and elsewhere, and has been featured on current affairs programs around the United States, including RadioLab, Fresh Air with Terry Gross, and other NPR shows, as well as on CNN, Al Jazeera, and BBC.  A popular public speaker (her TED talk on malaria has been viewed by over 1,000,000 around the world; she delivered the opening talk at the 2014 TEDMED conference) Shah has lectured at universities and colleges across the country, including Columbia’s Earth Institute, MIT, Harvard, Yale, Brown, Georgetown and elsewhere. She served as the 2014 Ottaway Professor of Journalism at SUNY New Paltz and has been frequently supported by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting and The Nation Investigative Fund.

Shah was born in 1969 in New York City to Indian immigrants. Growing up, she shuttled between the northeastern United States where her parents practiced medicine and Mumbai and Bangalore, India, where her extended working-class family lived, developing a life-long interest in inequality between and within societies. She holds a BA in journalism, philosophy, and neuroscience from Oberlin College, and lives with molecular ecologist Mark Bulmer and has two sons, Zakir and Kush.


Session: Pandemic: Tracking Contagions from Cholera to Ebola and Beyond