Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 280 pages, $26
One of the reasons the immunization rate is falling is because young parents don’t know what vaccine-preventable diseases look like. Many of today’s generation are complacent; they don’t remember the horrible effects of measles, mumps and rubella. But our parents or grandparents can tell harrowing stories, especially about the polio scourge that terrorized the U.S. during the 1940s and ‘50s. Nemesis, by great American novelist Philip Roth, is set in 1944 Newark, New Jersey. The story follows Bucky Cantor, a 23-year-old P.E. teacher and summer playground instructor whose bad vision keeps him out of the service. Against the backdrop of a war overseas and a polio outbreak in his own neighborhood, Bucky strives to live a good and honorable life. “This was real war too,” writes Roth, “a war of slaughter, ruin, waste and damnation, war with the ravages of war — war upon the children of Newark.” For those too young to remember, Roth paints a vivid example of the paralyzing fear that preceded vaccines, and why immunization is a modern miracle that the older generations revere.