Health-y Summer Reading

Need a little lighter fare for the summer, but still crave the health sciences? Here are our picks:

Brain in a Jar: A Daughter’s Journey Through Her Father’s Memory, by Nancy Stearns Bercaw

In this unflinchingly honest memoir, Nancy Stearns Bercaw (a staff member with UVM Libraries) recounts her life with Dr. Beauregard Lee Bercaw,  who became a neurologist in response to watching his own father deteriorate and die of Alzheimer’s. For many years Beau kept an autopsied brain in a jar on the desk in his office as a constant reminder of the struggle that he waged against the disease first with his patients, and ultimately for himself as he succumbed to its effects. This is also the story of the author’s own struggle to establish her identity and to navigate the treacherous and ever-changing emotional terrain of her relationship with her father, as she literally traveled the world in her quest to make sense of both of their lives.

The ghost map : the story of London’s most terrifying epidemic–and how it changed science, cities, and the modern world, by Steven Johnson

This engaging chronicle of the cholera epidemic has been chosen as the book that all incoming UVM first-year students read over the summer before entering in the fall.

Publisher’s Description: “It’s the summer of 1854, and London is just emerging as one of the first modern cities in the world. But lacking the infrastructure-garbage removal, clean water, sewers-necessary to support its rapidly expanding population, the city has become the perfect breeding ground for a terrifying disease no one knows how to cure. As the cholera outbreak takes hold, a physician and a local curate are spurred to action-and ultimately solve the most pressing medical riddle of their time.

In a triumph of multidisciplinary thinking, Johnson illuminates the intertwined histories of the spread of disease, the rise of cities, and the nature of scientific inquiry, offering both a riveting history and a powerful explanation of how it has shaped the world we live in.”

The mind’s eye, by Oliver Sacks.

Publisher’s description: “Includes stories of people who are able to navigate the world and communicate with others despite losing what many of us consider indispensable senses and faculties: the power of speech, the capacity to recognize faces, the sense of three-dimensional space, the ability to read, and the sense of sight. This book is a testament to the complexity of vision and the brain and to the power of creativity and adaptation, and it provides a whole new perspective on the power of language and communication, as we try to imagine what it is to perceive through another person’s eyes, or another person’s mind.”

Unaccountable : what hospitals won’t tell you and how transparency can revolutionize health care, by Marty Makary

Publisher’s description: “Dr. Marty Makary is co-developer of the life-saving checklist outlined in Atul Gawande’s bestselling The Checklist Manifesto. As a busy surgeon who has worked in many of the best hospitals in the nation, he can testify to the amazing power of modern medicine to cure. But he’s also been a witness to a medical culture that routinely leaves surgical sponges inside patients, amputates the wrong limbs, and overdoses children because of sloppy handwriting. Over the last ten years, neither error rates nor costs have come down, despite scientific progress and efforts to curb expenses. Why?To patients, the healthcare system is a black box. Doctors and hospitals are unaccountable, and the lack of transparency leaves both bad doctors and systemic flaws unchecked. Patients need to know more of what healthcare workers know, so they can make informed choices. Accountability in healthcare would expose dangerous doctors, reward good performance, and force positive change nationally, using the power of the free market. Unaccountable is a powerful, no-nonsense, non-partisan diagnosis for healing our hospitals and reforming our broken healthcare system”