FEVERED LIVES: TUBERCULOSIS IN AMERICAN CULTURE SINCE 1870, by Katherine Ott (Harvard University Press, 256 pages, $27.95).

In her account of the dreaded tuberculosis, Katherine Ott–a historian in the Smithsonian Institution’s Division of Science, Medicine, and Society–delves into the history of this infectious disease, which attacks the lungs and was so debilitating at the end of the last century, when medical science could offer little relief to victims. The author details the treatments for the disease–now combated with a 12-month regimen of chemotherapy–that were originally recommended, including the removal of an entire lung, removal of a number of ribs, and sending children who had contracted the disease out into the snow to play in their underwear “as a means of toughening their constitutions.” Ott also describes some of the precautions that formerly were taken to prevent the spread of the disease, such as the disinfecting of public library books and keeping a list of consumptive borrowers in order to isolate what they read.