Kim’s Reading for Medicinal Purposes

Kim from Sophisticated Dorkiness was a guest blogger here last summer, and I’m very happy she was willing to make a return visit to The 3 R’s! You may recall that her blog specializes in nonfiction. Since her last appearance, Sophisticated Dorkiness was chosen “Best Nonfiction Review Blog” in the 2010 BBAW Awards, and Kim chaired the Nonfiction judging panel for the first Indie Lit Awards.


I do a semi-regular feature on my blog called Narrative Nonfiction 5, where I put together lists of nonfiction books on a particular topic. So far I’ve ranged from politics to football to ocean creatures — there’s almost no topic I wouldn’t love to write a list on.

Since Florinda is taking this time off because she had surgery, I thought it would be fun to do a special Narrative Nonfiction 5 on books related to medicine. There’s a wealth of nonfiction and memoir about surgery, disease, and health care, so narrowing it down to just five was a challenge.

1. The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman

This book is, hands down, one of my favorite nonfiction reads of all time. At the center of the story is a three-year-old Hmong girl named Lia who suffers from debilitating seizures. Despite both well-intentioned and talented people around her, Lia’s condition worsens because of the way cultural differences prevent communication between her family and her doctors. This is not an easy book to read, but one that I think fairly and honestly looks at the way medicine is practiced and what we could do differently.

I recently convinced both Care (Care’s Online Book Club) and Jeanne (Necromancy Never Pays) to read this book, and I think they were both glad they did.

2. Complications: A Surgeon’s Notes on an Imperfect Science by Dr. Atul Gawande

I got a copy of this book for Christmas from my parents because they know how much I love memoirs by people who do things I will never get to experience. In this book, Gawande writes about the ups and downs of being a doctor, of dealing with patients and with learning from mistakes. He also includes ways to improve medicine and change the status quo, something I am interested in reading. A number of bloggers I enjoy and respect have said great things about this book, including Eva (A Striped Armchair), Raych (books i done read), and Lisa (Books Lists Life). The book is quickly moving up my TBR pile.

3. Cover Me: A Health Insurance Memoir by Sonya Huber

This is another book I haven’t read yet, even though it’s been sitting on my shelf to read since October. That doesn’t say anything bad about the book, just the sheer number of books on that shelf that I don’t have time to read! The book is Huber’s story of going from a person who viewed health care as an inconvenience, or simply didn’t think about it, to someone learning to navigate the complex world of our national health care system. As someone just getting of my parents insurance and having to deal with the system on my own, I’m curious to read about her experience and see what I can learn from it.

4. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

This book has gotten a lot of buzz in the last year or so, which makes it feel like cheating to put it on this list. But I’m going to because it’s a very, very good book. The Immortal Life of Heniretta Lacks is story of the first line of human stem cells that can live on their own. The original cells are cervical cancer cells from a woman named Henrietta Lacks, and were taken from her without permission. The book is a look a the thorny issue of race in medicine, medical ethics, and what it means to think a person can never die because their cells continue to live on.

Many many bloggers who don’t normally read nonfiction have had wonderful things to say about this book, and for good reason. The paperback version is coming out in March, so grab a copy then if your library hold list is too long now.

5. The Ghost Map by Steven Johnson

It’s possible that this book is a bit of a stretch for the list, but I’m so looking forward to reading it that I wanted it here anyway. The subtitle of the book sort of explains it all: “The Story of London’s Most Terrifying Epidemic — and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World.” I’m a bit of a sucker for history books about medicine and public health measures, and this book covers both topics. I’ve read one of Johnson’s other books, Everything Bad is Good for You, and find his style engaging and thought provoking. I’m optimistic this book will be similar. 

I’ve read one of the books on this list and will be adding a couple of the others to my wish list soon! What about you? 

Also: while Kim’s here today, I’m over at Anna Lefler’s place, Life Just Keeps Getting Weirder, participating in today’s Chicken Link Showcase!

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 9 other subscribers

Sunday Salon: Reading, Watching, Recuperating

Sunday Salon: Reading, Watching, Recuperating

  As you may recall, I’ve been home for the last week recuperating from shoulder surgery. It’s been a decent week for reading, once the pain subsided and the stronger drugs wore off. Friday 1/21: Surgery Day: not much reading, which should surprise no one at all. I was in surgery itself for four hours, and given the pain meds and anesthesia still in my system, I wasn’t awake for all that much of the […]

Friday Fill-ins…and fillin’ y’all in!

Friday Fill-ins…and fillin’ y’all in!

I haven’t done one of these in a while, but they don’t require much typing. I also didn’t have a post already scheduled for today, and that hasn’t happened for a while either…and hence, convergence! But since I haven’t really been here for a few days, how about another sort of “fill-in” first? My shoulder surgery was a week ago today, and by my own estimation, I’m not doing badly. I’ll still be recuperating at […]

Serena’s Year of Change and Poetry (and request for recommendations!)

Serena’s Year of Change and Poetry (and request for recommendations!)

Serena‘s book blog, Savvy Verse & Wit, was voted “Best Poetry Blog” in the 2010 BBAW Awards, and she hosts the weekly Virtual Poetry Circle there. She is also a published poet. I was fortunate to meet Serena in person last summer while visiting her hometown, Washington DC, and am happy she’s visiting The 3 R’s today! Thanks to Florinda for inviting me to guest blog. Although 2010 was a productive year for me in […]

Josie’s Internet-Dating Dispatches: A pursuit that’s not for the faint of heart

Josie’s Internet-Dating Dispatches: A pursuit that’s not for the faint of heart

Today’s guest post comes from quite a distance, and from a blogger I’ve only recently met myself: Josie Speaks Up all the way from Australia! She’s a (young) widowed teacher with one four-legged child (dog variety), and she’s relatively new to blogging. When Josie offered me her take on this particular topic, I went for it because her experience with it is a bit different from mine: many of y’all know that Tall Paul and […]

Ten years of (sometimes reluctant) adventure

Ten years of (sometimes reluctant) adventure

This post was inspired by BlogHer.com‘s year-long “Own Your Beauty” initiative and its January theme, “Adventure.” And sorry to disappoint those of you who would marvel at my speedy recovery, but it was written prior to my surgery last Friday. If I were still married to my first husband, we would have celebrated our twenty-seventh wedding anniversary on January 7. (Hopefully, “celebrated” would have been the right word.) We would have been married to each […]

Jeanne’s Overlooked-Book Spotlight: *Halfway Human*, by Carolyn Ives Gilman

Jeanne’s Overlooked-Book Spotlight: *Halfway Human*, by Carolyn Ives Gilman

Please welcome Jeanne from Necromancy Never Pays to The 3 R’s today! Jeanne’s blog is particularly known for thoughtful discussions of genre fiction and poetry. She has a PhD in English, is a college Writing Center Director at a liberal arts college in Ohio, and loves cats, caviar, satire, musical theater, and hot weather. Rhetorically speaking, Carolyn Ives Gilman’s science fiction novel Halfway Human is the most interesting thing I’ve read since I first moved to […]

Sunday Salon: Greetings from the Recovery Room

Sunday Salon: Greetings from the Recovery Room

    Regular readers already know about this, but just in case you hadn’t heard, I had shoulder surgery on Friday. It was an outpatient procedure and I’m at home, but my right arm will be in a sling for the next four to six weeks. While I am capable of typing left-handed if I have to, it’s slow and uncomfortable going, so posting frequency around here will most likely drop off during the next […]

Friday Foto: Hello, Old Frenemy

Friday Foto: Hello, Old Frenemy

The Ultrasling and I will be reunited today! I am not as enthused about the prospect as that exclamation point might imply. My shoulder surgery – rotator cuff repair and anterior stabilization – is scheduled for 7:30 this morning. It’s estimated to take two to three hours – which I will never remember, because I’ll be under general anesthesia – and when I wake up in recovery, my right arm will be cradled in the […]

The Literate City: Without libraries and bookstores, how can it exist?

The Literate City: Without libraries and bookstores, how can it exist?

Image by The Library of Congress via Flickr The annual survey ranking America’s Most Literate Cities was released this month, evaluating the USA’s 75 largest metro areas on six criteria that foster or support literacy: level of education, libraries, booksellers, Internet resources, and circulation of newspapers and periodicals. For the first time in five years, the #1 spot was not claimed by either Seattle or Minneapolis, although those cities still scored very well. Are you […]

Book Talk: *Let’s Take the Long Way Home*, by Gail Caldwell

Book Talk: *Let’s Take the Long Way Home*, by Gail Caldwell

Let’s Take the Long Way Home: A Memoir of Friendship Gail Caldwell Random House (2010), Hardcover (ISBN 1400067383 / 9781400067381) Nonfiction/memoir, 208 pages Source: purchased (e-book for Amazon Kindle: ASIN B003E8AIHU) Reason for reading: Independent Literary Awards non-fiction short list Opening Lines (Chapter 1): “I can still see her standing on the shore, a towel around her neck and a post-workout cigarette in her hand—half Gidget and half splendid splinter, her rower’s arms in defiant […]

Did you need another reason NOT to trust your horoscope?

Did you need another reason NOT to trust your horoscope?

Image via Wikipedia “Hey baby, what’s your sign?” You may have to start answering that question differently. It turns out that the stars aren’t aligned quite the way we thought they were. A group of Minnesota astronomers recently pointed out that the relative positions of the Earth and the sun have shifted in the 3000 years since the Babylonians developed the “zodiac” calendar. The moon’s gravitational pull causes Earth to “wobble” on its axis, changing […]

Sunday Salon: Abandonment Issues

Sunday Salon: Abandonment Issues

  Last week, participants in The Broke and the Bookish’s “Top Ten Tuesday” posted reading and blogging resolutions for the New Year. I wasn’t one of them. For one thing, I don’t really do New Year’s resolutions; and secondly, because I try to write and schedule my posts ahead of time, I don’t do many daily/weekly memes any more unless the prompts are posted in advance. However, I did read quite a few lists of […]

A (Weekly) Geeky Friday Foto – and by the way, it’s Delurking Day!

A (Weekly) Geeky Friday Foto – and by the way, it’s Delurking Day!

I’m not a consistent Weekly Geek these days, but the first assignment of 2011 is a fun one: This week, for a Geeky assignment, how about a picture? A self portrait of sorts. I think it would be fun if you all took a picture of yourself (or have someone help you most likely) reading your current book (so we can see what it is) in your favorite reading spot. Then post it! It can […]

Major Medical: The next episode in the Shoulder Saga

Major Medical: The next episode in the Shoulder Saga

You may have heard something about this before, but I hope you’ll indulge my ruminating for a minute or two… In a little more than a week, I will be having Major Surgery. At least I think it’s Major. It’s outpatient surgery, since it will be done at a surgery facility and not in the hospital and I’ll go home the same day. It’s an arthroscopic procedure, so it will be less invasive. However, it […]