Summer reading list

I'm looking forward to having some time to read this summer. I've planned a total of two weeks away from work, and if all goes well, I'll get some time to plow through a few good reads. My first trip away will be my usual gig as a camp doctor in Ontario. Last year I brought up The Great Influenza by John Barry, which was ironic, given I landed at flu central. My second week off will be up in northern Michigan. Here's my list, which is heavily biased in subject matter (I'm far too lazy to give a three-source bookstore link, so you'll have to google them):

  1. Breakthrough: Elizabeth Hughes, the Discovery of Insulin, and the Making of a Medical Miracle, by Thea Cooper and Arthur Ainsberg.  Actually, I just finished this one, and I'll have a review up by the end of the summer.  It's a great read about the discovery of insulin, but not available until the fall.
  2. Newton and the Counterfeiter: The Unknown Detective Career of the World's Greatest Scientist, by Thomas Levenson.  I've been dying to read this one.
  3. Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World, by Tracy Kidder.  A friend sent me this one a while back, and I finally started it.  The first sentence contains the word "beheading".  It's about a doctor, and I love it.
  4. The Poisoner's Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York, by scibling Deborah Blum.  I've been dying to read this (heh...)
  5.  Inside the Outbreaks: The Elite Medical Detectives of the Epidemic Intelligence Service, by Mark Pendergrast.  Hopefully it will be as good as The Medical Detectives, one of the first medical books I read, a couple of decades ago.
  6. & 7. Superbug, by Maryn McKenna, another scibling.  It's about bacteria, resistance, and all sorts of geeky things that affect what I do on a daily basis, and that may affect you, especially if you are ever in a hospital or nursing home.  Oops, and one more from Maryn, Beating Back the Devil.

I really wish people would stop writing such interesting books---I don't know when I'll read everything I want to.   Now if award-winning science writer Ed Yong would just crank out a new one, I'll never get anything done.

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This is super helpful - I try to use "real world" books in teaching my high school students, so finding out about new ones is always a good thing! Thanks.

Mountains Beyond Mountains is amazing! I read it last summer.

Mountains Beyond Mountains is a stunning book. Dr Paul Fisher is one of those rare human beings that seem to exist on a separate plain from the rest of us. But then everyone else in the book is remarkable too.

Loved it.

Now I would like to read Breakthrough.

By CanadaGoose (not verified) on 21 Jun 2010 #permalink

The Poisoner's Handbook is a fascinating bit of history. I highly recommend it.

By Texas Reader (not verified) on 21 Jun 2010 #permalink

I just finished The Poisoner's Handbook, it was very interesting, sometimes sad and a very good read. It was like watching CSI, but it was about the guys who literally wrote the books on forensics.

I read The Great Influenza years ago (I believe it involved sitting for daughter's violin lesson to finish). I think it should be read after reading Gina Kolata's book on the same subject. There is really not much overlap.

I have Mountains Beyond Mountains, but that is in my waiting pile.

I'm on Strength in What Remains, also by Tracy Kidder, about a Burundian protege of Dr. Farmer arguably more remarkable than Farmer.

By Nathan Myers (not verified) on 21 Jun 2010 #permalink

The Great Influenza was terrific.
Another book I recommend is The China Syndrome by Karl Greenfeld, the story of the SARS epidemic. Riveting.

I recommend "Charlatan" by Pope Brock (there is a longer subtitle that I can't remember) about a really famous quack in early 20th century US and the investigator from the AMA who tried to shut him down. It's a fast read, entertaining, and a reminder of what happens when there is little to no medical regulation.

Many thanks for the mention!

I'll add to the chorus of praise for Mountains...a really fine book. I especially liked the fact that Kidder was able to present Farmer as the remarkable person and doctor that he is, while also getting the three dimensions of his personality in as well. Hard to do, especially when your subject is the object of such admiration.

Also props re Poisoner and the Great Influenza, the only other two here I've read -- and I see I have something of a summer set of assignments/pleasures with the balance of the list.

My favorite medical reads in the last year:

"Cure Unknown" winner of the American Medical Writers Association award for best book, 2009, by Pam Weintraub, an editor at Discover Magazine.

"Side Effects: A Prosecutor, a Whistleblower, and a Bestselling Antidepressant on Trial" by Alison Bass of the Washington Post

"Cutting for Stone" by Abraham Verghese