Top 5 Books on Lyme Disease

There are a lot of books on Lyme disease out there and it can be difficult to know which ones contain valuable information that can help you to better understand Lyme disease and which ones fan the flames of controversy without delivering much in the way of knowledge. Here are a few that I found helpful when I was sifting through a mountain of research trying to get my head around what makes this disease tick.

Biography of a Germ by Arno Karlen (Anchor Books, 2000) - Although it may be a bit unusual for someone to devote an entire book to a single bacterium, Borrelia burgdorferi (Bb for short) quickly proves to be the organism that deserves this kind of star treatment. By the time you get to the end of this book you'll have a gained several insights into why Bb is the way it is. From its ancient origins, to its remarkable and highly adaptable structure, to the reasons why this pathogen has evolved over the millennia to become such a talented mimic, Karlen takes the readers on a journey through the microscopic world that gives rise to Lyme disease. And he does so with such clarity that even readers who ditched biology at the earliest opportunity can understand the information he's conveying. There have been several scientific discoveries in the past 15 years that have further added to our collective understanding of Lyme bacteria, but this book remains relevant, giving readers a solid foundation for understanding what those recent discoveries mean.

Bull's Eye: Unraveling the Medical Mystery of Lyme Disease by Jonathan A. Edlow, MD (Yale Universty Press, 2004) - This book introduces readers to the fascinating history of Lyme disease, one that is significantly more complicated than is often presented. Tracing investigations across multiple countries spanning more a century into what appeared to be a handful of unrelated diseases and syndromes, this book introduces readers to the epidemiologists, microbiologists, doctors and others who collectively contributed to the eventual discovery of Lyme disease. Bull's Eye offers an excellent window on the often messy world of scientific discovery and is a must-read for anyone wanting to better understand the genesis of many of the battleground issues that are still being fought today. Included in this book is one of the better explanations I've come across about why testing is as problematic as it is.

Healing Lyme: Natural Healing and Prevention of Lyme Borreliosis and Its Coinfections by Stephen Harrod Buhner (Raven Press, 2005) - I remember reading this book for the first time and feeling frighteningly well informed about what Lyme disease was doing to cause all of those inexplicable and often devastating symptoms. There is a huge amount of information in this book, not just describing symptoms that you thought you were alone in suffering, but also explaining what those symptoms mean and offering practical advice for what to do about them. Written by a master herbalist, much of the book is devoted to treatment protocols for Lyme disease and, to a lesser extent, its coinfections. I can't claim to have followed these protocols. The value of this book for me was to answer many of the questions I had about symptoms that I couldn't seem to get from any other source.

Lyme Disease: The Cause, The Cure, The Controversy by Alan Barbour, MD (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996) - Medical doctor and microbiologist Alan Barbour is one of the original researchers who in the early 1980s - alongside famed Lyme researcher Willy Burgdorfer - first identified Borrelia burgdorferi as the causative agent of Lyme disease. Barbour continues his research into spirochetal infections (primarily Lyme disease and relapsing tick fever) to this day and this book is the distillation of everything he learned about Lyme disease to that point. Although Lyme Disease: The Cause, The Cure, The Controversy is 20 years old and there have been many discoveries in the intervening years, the basic information it contains puts Lyme disease in a helpful perspective. Along the way, Barbour delves into some thorny issues (diagnosing, testing, treatment, misdiagnosis) as well as some not so thorny ones (prevention, ecology, history). This is a good book if you want to learn more about Lyme disease from a researcher who has more objective experience with Lyme disease than many who claim to be experts.

Lyme Disease: The Ecology of a Complex System by Richard S. Ostfeld (Oxford University Press, 2011) - Written by a senior scientist at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies located in Dutchess county New York - a region that boasts one of the highest per capita rates of Lyme disease in the world - this book takes a look at what scientists have learned from two decades of studying Lyme disease in nature. And what they've learned is plenty. The Cary Institute made headlines a few years ago when they found a correlation between heavy acorn producing years and increased rates of Lyme disease in human populations. While they were at it, they exploded some long-held myths about Lyme disease such as the central role it was believed - without much in the way of corroborating evidence - that deer played in the lifecycle of ticks. (A myth, by the way, that you will find often repeated to this day.) They've also learned some interesting things about how Lyme disease behaves in urban and suburban landscapes that buck conventional wisdom.


Picture of Vanessa FarnsworthVanessa Farnsworth is a British Columbia-based writer with an in-depth knowledge of Lyme disease. Her work has been published in magazines & journals across Canada and in the United States.
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