Originally published in: 2018
What it’s about: Oh, just another woman who got ignored by doctors because she had pain in her lady bits.
What made me pick it up: Honestly, I saw the title and thought it’d be like a funny how-to guide to women’s reproductive health. It was more of a memoir about one woman’s experience with chronic pain and endometriosis.
My favorite parts: It’s hard to have favorite parts from such a heartbreaking book, so I guess it would be just having yet another example for doctors to see that points out their obvious dismissal of women and their symptoms. Also, there is good information here on how disparate the health information and research are on these issues including the almost total lack of training in medical disciplines. Endometriosis is a debilitating disease most women find hard to even have properly diagnosed, let alone treated with care. It ruins lives, as this story makes abundantly clear, and women deserve better.
Who should read this: Medical professionals, of any stripe. Men. And women who want to find or provide solidarity to those suffering.
Originally published in: 2018
What it’s about: I’ll let the subtitle speak for itself – “The Truth About How Bad Medicine and Lazy Science Leave Women Dismissed, Misdiagnosed, and Sick”.
What made me pick it up: A while ago one of my friends added it as to-read on Goodreads and then I eventually put a hold on it and here we are.
My favorite parts: I guess my favorite part is the validation this book provides many women with serious conditions who find it very hard to get adequate, and sometimes any, treatment from medical professionals. The book is well written and informative but sheesh, it’s 2019 and we’re still being written off as hysterical women. It’s very upsetting. I spent the entirety of the book being grateful for not having had most of these experiences yet and being saddened by all the friends I have who suffer from MS, thyroid conditions, fibromyalgia, undiagnosed Lyme, vulvodynia, and vaginismus and all the insufficient remedies they’ve been given. I have certainly been given ridiculously dismissive medical treatment like being told my dysmenorrhea would get better after I had a baby – advice no 16 year old needs to hear. “Don’t worry, you only have to suffer through these symptoms for at least another decade but once you give birth all will be resolved! In the meantime here is a cure-all oral contraceptive!” I know what it’s like to go to doctor after doctor hoping someone will listen and offer actual, helpful treatment. I also know the joy and relief of finding one who does. Women’s whole health and lives are being affected by this poor treatment – from employment to relationships to the will to go on living. The medical profession must do better. Believe women. Trust women. We know our bodies. It’s not all in our heads.
Who it’s great for: All women. And also everybody else, especially doctors.
Originally published in: 2017
What it’s about: A (former) doctor in the National Health Service in the UK on why it’s great and why it’s awful and why he eventually had to leave.
What made me pick it up: I love memoirs. I love medicine and all things miscellany about the body. And I enjoy humor writing. This had it all.
My favorite parts: This book is hilarious for the first ¾. Kay tells ghastly stories with heart and levity like you expect he’d do at any party, if he could get out of work in time to attend. Then it reverses completely and the reveal he promised you takes up the next ¼ of the book – why he left. It’s so sincere, and powerful, and profoundly sad you will be in tears. Failed relationships, rocky friendships, low pay, and no breaks bring him to his decision to walk away. Anyone who has ever had a job they invested much of themselves in for a long period of time, trained for, and overspent resources qualifying to do can relate. Now add the horrific pressure to save lives, and the catastrophic realization that sometimes you can’t.
Who it’s great for: Fans of medical memoirs, tv shows, movies/documentaries. Former or current medical professionals or their close relatives.
Find this book in your local library or on Amazon (affiliate link).
Originally published in: 2017
What it’s about: A look back through history at some of the questionable medical and pseudo-medical practices.
What made me pick it up: How could I not? It was full of miscellany which is my favorite thing and it was about medicine something which endlessly fascinates me. Perfect combo.
My favorite things: It’s so informative! I learned so many horrific things that I can now share awkwardly at social gatherings. And it was told with such candor and humor. The authors acknowledge that a lot of the things mentioned in this book are totally bananas, and have a brief laugh at how off the mark they were, but they also make a point to say that the science didn’t exist yet and people were unfortunately doing the best they could. The ampules of human (cadaver) fat almost made me lose my lunch though, not gonna lie.
Who it’s great for: Science, medicine, and history minded individuals who can stomach a lot of detailed information and discomforting descriptions of some practices.
Get this book in your local library or on Amazon (affiliate link).
Originally published in: 2014
What it’s about: Award-winning surgeon Gawande looks at how medicine approaches death and dying and some new ideas that might provide a more holistic end-of-life experience.
What made me pick it up: I’m curious about medical everything, and already had a place on my death Goodreads shelf to add this. I think anyone who has seen a loved one waste away in a nursing home or hospital has a sense that maybe we aren’t focusing on the right things at the end of life. I really like how much he recognizes the great work of hospice.
My favorite things: I liked how the author recognized that the drive to fix patients comes at the expense of quality of life sometimes in both general medical practice as well as his own professional experience. I also liked his emphasis on how we need to have hard conversations before it’s too late so our wishes can be documented and our loved ones can know what we want. This will make you reconsider how you might want your life to taper and move you to support alternatives in elder care that are just emerging. More than anything it will help you realize that there is more to life than medical sustainability at the end.
Who it’s great for: Adults of any age who are facing or will face end-of-life situations (so, that’s…. let’s see… all of us). It’s never too early to think, plan, and share our wishes.
Get this book from your local library or on Amazon (affiliate link).
Best Nonfiction: A Thousand Naked Strangers by Kevin Hazzard
What it’s about: A former paramedic in Atlanta tells you how he got into the gig and what it was like patrolling some of the city’s toughest neighborhoods.
What made me pick it up: It has a good font on the cover. It’s about a paramedic. It was nonfiction. Sold!
My favorite things: This book is a trip! The author drops you right into the action and keeps it going the whole time. As someone who works with a sometimes outrageous public I could both relate and still be surprised by his narratives. You feel like you’re riding along on his emergency calls. Also, it’s hilarious.
Who it’s great for: Teens or adults. Anyone interested in nonfiction, especially about medicine. Those looking to be shocked and awed and made to laugh out loud.
Best Fiction: A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
What it’s about: A man who loses his wife of 40 years and his job all at once and how he picks up the pieces, or doesn’t.
What made me pick it up: It came highly recommended from a coworker. I’m obviously into books about older men adjusting to some massive change in their later lives, so I placed it on hold. Also, I liked the font on the cover.
My favorite things: This book is perfect. I am still in awe of the mastery of character and emotion (and audio narration, as I listened to it) in what is Backman’s debut novel. It’s the best combination of happysad I’ve read all year, hence why it’s on this list. More than that though, this shows the complexity of grief and community and how much we can misunderstand an individual just because of the front they put up. You will love Ove. You will ache for him and laugh at his antics and root for him. You will recognize him in your grandfather or your neighbor and you will not forget.
Who it’s great for: Adults looking for an outstanding novel. Anyone who wants to laugh while they are crying or vice versa. Fans of the movie UP.
What were your favorite books in 2016?
Get a copy of either book on Amazon (affiliate links): A Thousand Naked Strangers; A Man Called Ove or from your local library.