The Measure of Our Days is a beautiful, sensitively written book of essays by Jerome Groopman, an oncologist and professor at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Groopman's own humanity and dedication to his patients are quite awe-inspiring, as is the courage displayed by the people featured in these stories. A very engaging read.
The Poetry of Healing is another amazing book about a physician's personal experiences. Raphael Campo's poet sensibilities are obvious throughout this book exploring his identity as a queer Latino physician. Dr. Campo was born in Cuba, went to Amherst College and Harvard Medical School, completed residency training at UCSF at the height of the AIDS epidemic, and is now a staff physician at Boston's Beth Israel Hospital.
A Not Entirely Benign Procedure is Perri Klass' collection of essays about her experiences as a Harvard medical student. This is an interesting, thoughtful, often humorous book that gives a pretty realistic impression of life at HMS. Dr. Klass is now a pediatrician at Boston Medical Center.
Becoming a Doctor is an HMS story of a different sort. Mel Konner was in his thirties and a Harvard anthropology professor when he decided to go to medical school. He went through med school with a relatively detached, anthropological eye, and so developed a very different 'physician identity' than most medical students do. He is very critical (often rightly so) of medical training. This book is excellently written. Konner (to my knowledge) never did a residency, and is now a highly regarded anthropology professor at Emory. He is also the author of the canonical biological anthropology text The Tangled Wing.
Now a classic, The House of God is a fictionalized account of the pseudonymous Samuel Shem's internship year at Boston's Beth Israel Hospital in the late 1960s (early 1970s? I forget). It is hilarious and disturbing and scathing. A scary but required read for anyone interested in medical training. Much of the jargon and 'Rules' of the House of God are now intern canon all over the world. "Shem" went on to become a psychiatrist and practices at McLean Hospital in Belmont, Massachusetts. He recently wrote a similar account of his psychiatry training, called Mount Misery, which I have not read. Legend has it that he has never again set foot in the BI, more out of the hospital's refusal than his own.
My Own Country is a doctor's story about treating AIDS patients in the very early days of the epidemic. Abraham Verghese was an infectious disease specialist in Tennessee when he began taking care of people with HIV. This is his personal account of his growth as a person and a physician as his career took an unexpected turn while he became one of the only HIV specialists in his area. Honest and moving.
A patient's point of view: Girl, Interrupted is Susanna Kaysen's retrospective account of her two year long psychiatric admission to McLean Hospital as a teenager. This well written, exceedingly honest book will make you question your definition of sanity and the accuracy of memory as Kaysen illustrates how blurred the lines can become.
In Reviving Ophelia, Mary Pipher uses stories from her practice as an adolescent and family psychologist to discuss the problems of teenage girls growing up in America today. This is an accessible, fascinating exploration of this critical topic.
Irwin Yalom, a preeminent psychoanalyst and psychiatrist, explores his relationships with his analysis patients in Love's Executioner. This is a great book for learning about psychiatry and talk therapy through Yalom's intelligent, sensitive, anecdotal style.
Leah Hager Cohen grew up in New York, the hearing child of Deaf parents who ran a school for hearing-impaired students. In Train Go Sorry she takes the reader into her unique world, opening a fascinating window into Deaf culture. This is really a wonderful book.
Another amazing book about deafness is Oliver Sacks' Seeing Voices. Sacks, the author of Awakenings and many other books about neurology, writes accessibly about the history of deafness and Deaf culture in the United States. A terrific introduction to the topic by a great science writer.
Another don't miss Oliver Sacks book is The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, in which Sacks relates the stories of patients stricken by mysterious or downright bizarre neurological illnesses, some of which challenge definitions of personhood and identity.
This is a really terrific book, despite or because of the fact that it's aimed at a young adult/junior high kind of audience. Freak the Mighty, written by Rodman Philbrick, is a sweet novel about two misfit boys, one gangly, clumsy and accustomed to being called stupid, the other brilliant and physically stunted, who tap each other's strengths and become great friends, sharing adventures, triumphs and sadness. It is a surprisingly wonderful read that only takes a few hours at most. I picked it up because it is soon to be released as a movie, entitled The Mighty, starring the incredible Gillian Anderson. The IMDB sez it will be released 10/30/98, but it was shown at Cannes, and is already getting some nice reviews.
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