working stiffWarning: this book is not for the faint of stomach. Working Stiff: Two Years, 262 Bodies, and the Making of a Medical Examiner by Judy Melinek, M.D., and T.J. Mitchell goes into detail about the many years of training and hundreds of autopsies that Melinek went through to become a forensic pathologist trained in death investigation. Melinek began as a surgical resident, but during her fellowship, she came to the realization that surgery was not for her. As a result, she switched to forensic pathology, a subject she had always enjoyed in medical school, taking a residency position at UCLA. She and her husband bounced between LA and New York where she eventually took on a year long fellowship commitment at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.

Background out of the way, I found this book to be a fascinating read. It is slightly gory, I’m not going to lie, as Melinek goes into sometimes graphic detail about the autopsies that she has performed and how they helped shape her as a forensic pathologist. The science that she presents throughout the book as well as the reasons for her becoming a forensic pathologist allow readers to see just why she is able to look at even the most decomposed bodies and the bodies of children in order to do her job. As she repeats throughout the book, it is all about the training. Her training added not necessarily a level of detachment to her work, but instead a level of understanding and skill that allowed her to treat every new case as an opportunity to learn something new about the human body.

Melinek was also working at the OCME when the planes struck on September 11th, so reading her input as her office was tasked with identifying the thousands of victims in the initial eight months after the tragedy was jarring, but at the same time, I was awed at the behind-the-scenes look that readers were granted regarding the rescue and recovery effort, as well as the volunteer and first responders’ stories. This book shines a light on all of the hard work and training that goes in to figuring out the mysteries of our deaths.


If the above description interested you or if you are looking for something similar, check out the books below. Click on the covers for more information and to be directed right to our catalog.

Mary Roach has written several medical nonfiction books, as well as Atul Gawande.

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something for the painOn a day-to-day basis, emergency room doctors see a staggering amount of patients. This can become daunting especially when you work the night shift and have a growing family that relies on you during the day. The training and schooling involved in order to become a doctor is somewhat designed to introduce interested candidates to the stressors and rigor of being a doctor, but even armed with that knowledge and experience, the first few shifts and even months until you fall into the swing of things can seem daunting.

Paul Austin, a former firefighter with more than twenty years of experience working in emergencies, has crafted together Something for the Pain: Compassion and Burn-out in the ER. This book, Austin’s memoir, provides an account of what it is really like to struggle through years of medical school, decide your specialty, and then commit to that area. Austin details for readers some of the challenges that emergency room doctors go through on a day-to-day basis. No matter how difficult his day is, he acknowledges that working in a busy emergency room has allowed him to grow and become a better doctor and person.

The endless line of patients and the daily labors of working in an emergency room threatened to tear him apart and destroy his family, but Austin worked hard to find himself again through therapy and looking for moments of clarity, sanity, and compassion throughout the hospital corridors.

It’s August. It’s BACK-TO-SCHOOL time! Perhaps you’ve been busy shopping for new clothes for the kids or trying to cross items off those very specific school supply lists. While you’re out and about, stop by the library and check out some of these titles:

Schools of Fish: Welcome Back to the Reason You Became an Educator by Philip Strand, John Christensen and Andy Halper. This fun, attractively arranged book can help any teacher, new or experienced, approach the school year with enthusiasm.

Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Home Schooling by Brad Miser. Not everyone opts for the traditional school setting. If you’re interested in teaching the kids yourself at home, this book can get you started on the right track.

What Your 1st Grader Needs to Know by E.D. Hirsch, Jr. There is a whole series of these books, known as the Core Knowledge series, covering first through sixth grade. Though written in the 90’s, these books, based upon the cultural literacy concept, have not gone out of style. They make a good, quick review for parents. Who knows, the adults might just learn something new! 372.19 Wha

Freedom Writers. If you prefer watching versus reading, try this inspirational DVD featuring Hilary Swank, based upon a true story of a teacher and her 150 students “who used writing to change themselves and the world around them.”

And don’t forget to check the Davenport Community Schools’ website for information on current events, academic calendars and the latest news about your school.