What does Atul Gawande read?
October 13, 2013 7:58 AM   Subscribe

What comes next after popular medical non-fiction?

I love reading popular non-fiction about healthcare/medicine, e.g. Atul Gawande's books, The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, etc. To a slightly lesser extent I've also enjoyed books about the history of medicine like The Ghost Map.

I'm looking for book recommendations along two veins:

1) Other popular non-fiction books about healthcare and medicine that are really great or really popular (I add the "really popular" stipulation because I want to be "fluent" in this stuff and reach a point where I've read most of what everyone else has read), and more importantly,

2) I want to go deeper. What is there between, say, Complications and the New England Journal of Medicine?
posted by telegraph to Education (18 answers total) 57 users marked this as a favorite
Oliver Sacks' stuff is quite popular.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:05 AM on October 13, 2013 [3 favorites]

Well, in the first vein, there's Becoming a Doctor by Melvin Konner, a PhD sociologist who went to med school. It's a classic of the genre.
posted by killdevil at 8:06 AM on October 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

Another very popular one would be Mountains Beyond Mountains, by Tracy Kidder, about Dr. Paul Farmer the global health guru.
posted by killdevil at 8:08 AM on October 13, 2013 [5 favorites]

You could read And The Band Played On (paying attention, of course, to subsequent criticism of the book). It's not perfect, but I do actually know an HIV researcher with a pretty solid professional career who feels that it is well worth reading. There was a lot of controversy around the book because the author supported closing the bathhouses during the height of the AIDS epidemic. (There's an Allen Berube essay which takes the opposite view and which is also very worthwhile.) I found it interesting simply because the whole question was a really difficult one, with neither answer being a really good solution.
posted by Frowner at 8:08 AM on October 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

Everybody says The Emperor of All Maladies is truly amazing. If you want to go more "healthcare/policy" and less "medical science," and you don't mind a little fightiness, Seth Mnookin's The Panic Virus about the history of vaccine scares is very good, too.
posted by escabeche at 8:10 AM on October 13, 2013 [3 favorites]

This list of medical non-fiction at Goodreads should keep you going for awhile.
posted by killdevil at 8:14 AM on October 13, 2013 [5 favorites]

I'm a copyeditor, and a book I worked on is coming out in a few weeks. It's called A Thousand Hills to Heaven by Josh Ruxin. Really good stuff. (And no, I don't get anything for promoting it.) If you liked Mountains Beyond Mountains (mentioned above), you'll probably like this one too.
posted by wisekaren at 8:35 AM on October 13, 2013

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is both popular and 100 percent worth your time.
posted by ActionPopulated at 8:38 AM on October 13, 2013 [7 favorites]

If you want to read about healthcare then you should read about nurses - the largest group of health care workers... Try these books. I especially like Suzanne Gordon and Echo Heron's work.
posted by SyraCarol at 8:50 AM on October 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

Laurie Garrett's seminal book The Coming Plague was first published in 94 and just came out in paperback a couple years ago. Well worth reading though. Looking for that book took me to her blog which looks worthwhile.
posted by leslies at 8:53 AM on October 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

If you want to try more scholarly work but books that still don't require a M.D. to understand, try the Critical Series in Health and Medicine from Rutgers University Press. There are books like Medical Research for Hire: The Political Economy of Pharmaceutical Clinical Trials and Neurasthenic Nation: America's Search for Health, Happiness, and Comfort, 1869-1920 and The Morning After: A History of Emergency Contraception in the United States to name just three.

I also enjoyed the popular non-fiction book Overdiagnosed.
posted by spamandkimchi at 9:28 AM on October 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

Seconding Emperor of All Maladies-- it won the Pulitzer for nonfiction in 2011.

You might also check out 5 Days at Memorial, which is about what happened post-Katrina at Memorial Hospital in New Orleans; particularly the allegations that some patients were euthanized as part of forced health-care rationing in the wake of the storm.
posted by pocketfullofrye at 10:43 AM on October 13, 2013 [3 favorites]

Seconding the Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. An awesome read. Vincent Racinello (sp?) at virology.ws was an adviser and he has a popular blog and podcast you might enjoy.
posted by kathrynm at 11:19 AM on October 13, 2013

Try Rats, Lice and History, The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History, and/or Flu: The Story of the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918. Once you search for a number of these books, and put them in your cart, Amazon will suggest many more.
posted by theora55 at 11:22 AM on October 13, 2013

If you're interested in psychiatry or mental healthcare Crazy Like Us: The Globalization of the American Psyche is a really fascinating look at the social/cultural construction of American ideas of mental illness and how the Western exportation (and pharma company marketing) of those ideas have affected other cultures and their concepts of emotional distress and healing. Definitely recommended if you liked "The Spirit Catches You..."
posted by horizons at 3:25 PM on October 13, 2013

Most of the reports by the Institute of Medicine are available online for free. They're generally reviews of a particular topic in medicine done by a group of experts and they tend to be exhaustive (i.e., incredibly long) but they're fairly accessible.
posted by MadamM at 5:58 PM on October 13, 2013

Before The New Yorker had Atul Gawande, they had Berton Roueché, who wrote fascinting stories of medical detection in a recurring "Annals of Medicine" feature. These were collected in ten? classic books, published from the 1950s to the 1990s, which should still be findable.

(E.g, an early episode of House made a very deliberate hat-tip to Roueché's piece "The Orange Man", the title piece of his early book of the same name.)
posted by AsYouKnow Bob at 8:30 AM on October 14, 2013 [3 favorites]

Literal answer-he reads Oliver Sacks, Thomas Lewis, Adam Gopnik and Hemingway among others.
posted by cynicalidealist at 9:00 AM on October 14, 2013

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