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.