Sunday, March 11, 2012

#MedRead (part 2) Non-fiction books: Patient narratives, culture, society, and science

This is the second in a series of blog posts that will list books recommended for medical students as a result my asking for suggestions on Facebook and Twitter.  This second installment (the first installment can be read here) focuses on society, patient narratives, science, and culture.

In each case, I've linked the book title to its listing...mainly because I didn't want to link to larger sites such as Amazon.  In practice, I would strongly advise looking for these books at the library (to test them out--use this site to find the books at a library near you) or at your local independent bookstore (such as Chop Suey Books, in Richmond).  Remember that if you're local bookseller doesn't carry these titles, they can probably order them for you--and they'll keep your money local.

Alternately, if you wish to support the authors directly, feel free to see if you can purchase the book you are interested in from the author's own website.

Grand Pursuit: The Story of Economic Genius – Sylvia Nasar

The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures – Anne Fadiman

And the Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic – Randy Shilts

A Question of Intent: A Great American Battle with a Deadly Industry – David Kessler

Medicine and Human Welfare – Henry Sigerist

Guerrilla Warfare – Ernesto Guevara

28 Stories of AIDS in Africa – Stephanie Nolen

The Year of Magical Thinking – Joan Didion

Autobiography of a Face – Lucy Grealy

Nickle and Dimed – Barbara Ehrenreich

Wretched of the Earth – Frantz Fanon

Pedagogy of the Oppressed – Paulo Friere

Anything by Emily Martin: A good start might be Bipolar Expeditions: Mania and Depression in American Culture

Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks – Rebecca Skloot

The Match: "Savior Siblings" and one Family's Battle to Heal Their Daughter – Beth Whitehouse

Medial Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present – Harriet Washington

The Ghost Map: The Story of London’s Most Terrifying Epidemic—and how it Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World – Steven Johnson

Mountains Beyond Mountains – Tracy Kidder

Treatment Kind and Fair: Letters to a Young Doctor – Perry Klass

As Nature Made Him: The Boy who was Raised as a Girl – John Colapinto

Anything by Richard Feynman: What Do You Care What Other People Think?  Further Adventures of  Curious Character seems a good start.

A Whole New Life: An Illness and a Healing – Reynolds Price

Mama Might Be Better Off Dead: The Failure of Health Care in Urban America – Laurie Kaye Abraham

Let Us Now Praise Famous Men – James Agee and Walker Evans

Broke, USA: From Pawnshops to Poverty, Inc – How the Working Poor Became Big Business – Gary Rivlin

Barefoot Heart: Stories of a Migrant Child – Elva Treviño Hart

Still Alice ­­­­– Lisa Genova

Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide – Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn

If you have read these books (or if you recommended them), please use the comments below to provide us with some thoughts on why the book mattered to you.


Billy Rubin said...

Hey Mark--I'm a first-time listener/caller. Saw your guest piece on Kevin MD (about which I'd like to send you a comment if you wish), and followed the link here.

It's a nice pair of entries. I guess the issue about book recommendations boils down at some level to knowing something about the stud and what his or her interests are--not just in medicine but in life. I personally loved reading Henrietta Lacks, but I can see how Skloot's style might be off-putting to some types who just want a story about the Lacks family and not her involvement with them. I can imagine some studs just gobbling up Rachel Naomi Remen, and others sending her work in the opposite direction from their GI tracts. So "know thy audience" plays a role.

That said, besides Skloot's book above, for med students in general I think that anything by Sacks (esp the one you recommended), Groopman, Verghese, Nuland and Gawande are safe bets (but I haven't read any of Gawande yet, just going off rep there). Not on your list but ones that leap to mind are Simon Winchester's The Professor and the Madman; Carl Elliott's White Coat/Black Hat, Marcia Angell's The Truth About Drug Companies or Jerome Kassirer's On The Take (for the more politically inclined studs); Sidhartha Mukherjee's The Emperor Of All Maladies for anyone interested in cancer; Thomas Hager's The Demon Under the Microscope for the future ID doc; and the best memoir of the 3rd year of med school, Steven Hatch's Blind Man's Marathon (file under: shameless self promotion, since I wrote that one).

Others on your list I love: Laurie Garrett's books, Great Influenza, Band Played On.

Look forward to reading more. Best, Billy

Mark Ryan said...


Thanks for the comment. I've belatedly added your suggested books to the various lists. I still have a couple more posts to write before covering all the suggestions.