Monday, January 18, 2010

Books By Theme: Doctor as Author

As some of my readers may recall, I recently read and reviewed a wonderful autobiography of neurosurgeon Katrina Firlik and her experiences in the operating room (Another Day in the Frontal Lobe). Curiosity got the better of me and I thought I'd go digging around for more doctors who moonlight as authors. Here are the fruits of that search...

As I Live and Breathe
by Jamie Weisman

A memoir in which the author, born with a rare defect in her immune system, looks at illness and medicine from her dual perspectives as both a patient and a doctor, discussing the fickleness of disease, and the real desire of both patients and physicians for restored health.

One hundred days : my unexpected journey from doctor to patient
by David Biro

The author, a doctor in New York City, tells the story of his life-threatening struggle with the rare disease paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria, or PNH, discussing, among other aspects, his bone marrow transplant.

Raising Lazarus
by Robert Pensack

This memoir by 43-year-old psychiatrist Pensack is really three stories in one: his battle to survive HCM (hypertrophic cardiomyopathy), a usually fatal hereditary disease of the heart muscle; the struggle to retain his sanity; and his simultaneous efforts to complete medical school. Accounts of heart failure, near-death episodes and months of waiting for an available replacement heart, followed in 1993 by the suspenseful, prolonged surgery at University Hospital in Denver, recovery, and beginning of what Pensack hopes will be a new life make for wrenching and engrossing reading.

Complications: A surgeon's notes on an imperfect science
by Atul Gawande

The author, nearing the end of eight years of training in general surgery, contemplates the nature of modern medicine, discussing the fallibility of doctors, the mysteries and unknowns of medicine and the struggle to know what to do about them, and the issue of uncertainty.

My own country : a doctor's story of a town and its people in the age of AIDS
by Abraham Verghese

Infectious disease specialist Verghese is a Christian from subcontinental India who earned his M.D. in Ethiopia, and living in various cultures has helped him to be open-minded toward and supportive of his patients, who currently are the veterans and civilians living in and around Johnson City in east Tennessee. His book covers the five years in the latter 1980s when AIDS began to make itself felt in the area and during which he treated gays, victims of tainted transfusions, and infected spouses.

What books would you add to this list?

*For more themed list fun, check out Listless Monday over at One Librarian's Book Reviews.


melissa @ 1lbr said...

This is fabulous! I can't think of any books by doctors off the top of my head, but now I think I'll link to your Books by Theme on my Listless Mondays.

Greg Zimmerman said...

I'd add two, though both are fiction. But, in both cases the novelist is a doctor.

Cutting for Stone, by Abraham Verghese
Beat the Reaper, by Josh Bazell

Both were at or near the top of many Best of 2009 lists!

A Bookshelf Monstrosity said...

Yes! I own both of these books. I actually didn't know that Bazell was a doctor until I read your review a little while back...

Zibilee said...

You know, this is a great list, and one that I am going to print out the next time I am looking for a book that is not my usual fare. I really like Oliver Sachs and thinks he writes great books, but I think those are more like studies of patients with various disorders instead of stories from a doctor's perspective like these are. Very interesting post. You've got a great site here, I think I'll be following it!

A Bookshelf Monstrosity said...

Ooh, yeah, I forgot about Oliver Sachs...I actually haven't read anything by him yet. *Bad Amanda!*

Anonymous said...

Ooh...Books did a review of Coppola: A Pediatric Surgeon in Iraq.

raidergirl3 said...

I love this feature, I just found it last week with the epistolary novels, one of my favorite types of books.

Doctor books? I was going to suggest Beat the Reaper, glad to see it already rec'd. I didn't realize that Cutting for Stone was written by a doctor. I just got it today, so am quite excited to see the raves.

Michael Crichton was a doctor, and it's his Five Patients books, a study of when he was an intern that I really enjoyed. But he's got lots of other great books!

Veens said...

Wow, this is something new for me! I have not read any books by authors but I can see, I am loosing out on some good books here!

christa @ mental foodie said...

I'd read Complications, it's a pretty good read.

There are 2 medical memoir that made my "honorable" non-fiction in 2009:

Something for the Pain (One Doctor's Account of Life and Death in the ER) by Paul Austin.

Blue Collar Blue Scrubs: The Making of a Surgeon by Michael Collins. Though I liked his first book a bit better: Hot Lights, Cold Steel.

They are both pretty easy reads without a lot of jargon. I highly recommend them.

Kate said...

What about Bloodletting and Miraculous Cures by Vincent Lam? Fiction, but based on his experiences as a doctor. A good read for sure.

I've read a few by Oliver Sacks with a mixed opinion. I love his storytelling, but don't think that he's a very good writer. Maybe he needs a better editor (or a ghostwriter?). For a book along the same lines but with better writing, I liked Phantoms in the Brain by VS. Ramachandran/Sandra Blakeslee.

A Bookshelf Monstrosity said...

If it's not apparent by now, I do these posts for a selfish reason: to get even more wonderful reading ideas from all of you! So, thanks for all the recommendations so far, readers :)

Lisa said...

This is a theme I'm entirely unable to contribute to. I don't think I've ever read a book by a doctor about actual doctoring stuff.

Anonymous said...

Atul Gawande's books are great. The others sound fantastic too. I wish I had thought of these themed lists.

Unknown said...

Atul Gawande's newest book, The Checklist Manifesto, is excellent. Also, Healing Hearts: A Memoir of a Female Heart Surgeon by Kathy Magliato is very good.

Great list idea!!

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