The best decision I have made so far this summer, and probably even this year, was to start a book club. Once a month, about 12 friends and I gather at a member’s house, munch on hours d’ oeuvres, sip on a glass (or two) of wine and share our opinions about the latest read.
While the book club conversation never gets very literary, it is an excellent excuse to spend an evening with friends and build some mandatory reading time into my schedule. Having an impending monthly deadline makes my weekend poolside reading sessions a must.
Usually on the blog, I feature more serious books, ones about the state of the healthcare system and such, but summertime calls for lighter fare. These summer reads somehow tie into the medical profession, whether featuring a medical plot or being authored by a medical professional, but don’t seem to delve too deep (that’s not to say they aren’t tear jerkers), the perfect beach reads. Here’s my reading list for this summer:
1. God’s Hotel: A Doctor, a Hospital, and a Pilgrimage to the Heart of Medicine
By Victoria Sweet
Internal medicine physician Dr. Victoria Sweet authors God’s Hotel, a memoir about her time working in San Francisco’s old Laguna Honda Hospital. An almshouse, this hospital provided chronic care for San Francisco’s most ill and destitute. Despite their lot in life, patients lived well among the picturesque columns and arches of the old building. Swallows could be heard chirping during morning hours, patients assisted in caring for the hospital’s community garden and even received hand knitted blankets from some of the nurses. Although a late comer to the era of medical modernization, Laguna Honda Hospital eventually changed it’s ways and modernized into a short-term rehabilitation facility.
While a memoir on this topic could prove a dull read, reviewers of Sweet’s masterpiece, God’s Hotel, call the book “Transcendent…readable chapters go down like restorative sips of cool water” lauding it “the best non-fiction book I’ve read all year”.
2. A Case of Need
By Michael Crichton
Famous for bestsellers like Jurassic Park and Rising Sun, Michael Crichton first penned novels during his time as a Harvard Medical Student in the 1960’s. Originally published in 1968 under Crichton’s pseudonym Jeffery Hudson, medical thriller A Case of Need, tells the story of a surgery tragically ending in the death of a patient. Tensions flare and questions of malpractice vs. murder must be answered.
Readers say that “Any fan of Michael Crichton should not miss this book”.
3. The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures
By Anne Fadiman
Born in 1981, the 13th child of Hmong refugees in California, Lia Lee suffers a seizure at the age of three months and is quickly diagnosed with epilepsy. The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down tells the compelling story of this family’s clash with modern medicine. The family attempts to cure Lia through shamanistic intervention such as home sacrifices of pigs and chickens while the traditional medical community advises she be taken away from home and hospitalized.
Fadiman relates this true story with compassion and understanding for all parties involved. One of the physicians involved in Lia Lee’s care describes the novel as “Astounding”. He remarks that Anne Fadiman “walks an incredibly fine line as she describes what happens when American medical technology meets up with ancient Eastern culture”.
4. Cutting for Stone
By Abraham Verghese
A doctor himself, Abraham Verghese carefully weaves together this tale of two adopted boys living in Ethiopia during a period of political turmoil. The boy’s adopted parents are both doctors and the boys become physicians as well. Verghese weaves medical detail in throughout the novel never allowing it to overwhelm the story.
Readers call Cutting for Stone “A story with believble characters and amazing descriptions of every country and setting…this book really makes you want to think for a long time after you read it”.
5. The Hospital at the End of the World
By Joe Niemczura
Nurse Joe Niemczura relates the day-to-day realities of life in a rural hospital. Based on his time spent working and teaching in Nepal, Niemczura brings to life rural medical care in a location that really is at the “end of the world”. Readers call The Hospital at the End of the World “a story of transition and a personal, spiritual and professional journey.
What are you reading this summer? Let us know about your lastest literary finds!
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