Online Reading Challenge – January Wrap-Up

Hello Fellow Readers!

How did your reading/listening/movie watching go in January? As I mentioned earlier in the month, I outdid myself and read two medicine-related books! And they were both great!

My Name is Mary Sutter by Robin Oliveira. Opening just as the Civil War begins, this book is about a young midwife who yearns to be a surgeon. However, it is nearly impossible for a woman to be admitted to medical school or even to intern with a doctor and Mary has been turned down repeatedly. However, the outbreak of the war creates possibilities and Mary leaves her comfortable home in Albany and travels to Washington alone in an effort to help the wounded. Women as nurses (let alone doctors) are viewed with suspicion and considered unnecessary since, at this exuberant beginning, everyone believes the war will be over in three months. Mary ends up volunteering at an understaffed, poorly supplied, decaying hospital acting more as a cleaning person than a nurse. Gradually the doctor (there is only one doctor for the dozens of wounded) trusts Mary and allows her to assist him, her training as a midwife making her comfortable with blood and suffering. It is training that she will need when the wounded begin pouring in with horrific injuries, many requiring amputation and many that they are helpless to cure.

The Civil War lasted much longer than three months, of course and the reluctance to accept women as nurses was quickly abandoned. Woefully unprepared for the human cost, doctors and nurses struggle to care for patients under brutal conditions. Mary’s story as she navigates harsh realities is fascinating and her courage and strength are inspiring.

The Winter Soldier by Daniel Mason is set during World War I and takes place on the Eastern Front of the war, far removed from the trenches of France but no less horrific. Raised in comfort in opulent Vienna, Lucius has not even completed his medical training when the war breaks out. He volunteers as a surgeon and is sent to a remote outpost in the Carpathian Mountains where a church has been requisitioned as a hospital. Supplies are nearly nonexsistent, the weather is brutal and the only medical personnel is a nurse, some orderlies and Lucius himself who has never actually performed an operation.

Margarete, the nurse, subtly assists Lucius when he must perform amputations almost immediately. Over time they become a team, working to heal their patients and keep them safe. Safe because not only do they have to grapple with injury, disease, shell shock and weather, they must watch out for recruiters who comb the hospitals looking for “deserters” to return to the front. So desperate are they for men, the Army will force anyone back into the war no matter their injury, so long as they can walk.

Relatively safe from the immediate fighting, this changes when the Austrian army suddenly retreats. Caught in the chaos, Lucius and Margarete are separated and lost to each other. Lucius finishes his war in the relative safety of Vienna and then goes in search of Margarete.

I really enjoyed both of these books – they are hard to put down. The wartime action is gripping and both Mary’s and Lucius’ personal stories add another layer – each spends some time at home during their wars and the contrast between battle and home is shocking. The grim realities of war are difficult to read about, but the sad fact is, war has always created many opportunities for the advancement of medicine whether through the discovery of new drugs or new techniques. Reading about some of that and how medical staff coped is fascinating. Both are highly recommended.

Now it’s your turn – what did you read this month?

Online Reading Challenge – Mid-Month Check

Hello Fellow Challengers!

How is your reading going this month? Have you had any luck finding a great book about Medicine?

I have a confession to make. I’ve read not one but two books already this month! Ha! (I actually finished the second one on January 6!) “Overachiever” is not a word people usually associate with me, and don’t expect this to happen every (or any other!) month but this time I found two can’t-put-down books. And the month is only half over – maybe I’ll find another!

If you’re struggling to find the right book, or are short on time this month, why not try a television show movie? (Yes, movies are allowed!) Here’s a selection of movies and television shows that might interest you.

The Big Sick

Grey’s Anatomy

The Good Doctor

House

M*A*S*H

There are lots more – medical dramas are always popular. Stop by any Davenport Library location and browse the selection!

Welcome to the 2019 Online Reading Challenge!

r e a d (reed), v. 1. to look at carefully so as to understand the meaning of something written. 2. to occupy oneself seriously with reading or study. 3. to obtain knowledge or learn of something by reading.


It’s January – that means it’s the start of a new Online Reading Challenge! I hope you join us whenever and however you can. As in the past, this is a low-key, no-pressure book club. Each month we’ll explore a new theme through books. You can read old-fashioned paper books or new-fangled ebooks, listen to audio books, even watch relevant movies! Remember, there are no Library Police! Read whatever catches your interest. There is also no penalty for skipping a month or not finishing a book by the end of the month. The goal of our Online Reading Challenge is simply to find great books to read/listen to/movies to watch!

This year the Challenge is called “r e a d” (although yes, movies still count!). I’ve chosen a variety of general subjects, topics that touch on all of us throughout our lives – like family, art,  and the world around us. Each month I’ll suggest titles (both fiction and non-fiction) to get you started and there will be displays at each building with even more. The topics can be explored from a variety of angles – serious to light, historical to current events. How you approach each month is entirely up to you! And don’t forget to pick up a bookmark/book log at the library to help you keep track of your reading progress.

For a complete list of this year’s topics, check out the 2019 Online Reading Challenge Page.

So, let’s get started! January’s topic is Medicine.

Everyone has had to deal with the medical field at some point, even if you’re healthy as a horse and rarely need to see a doctor, health and fitness is important to everyone. Titles to read in this subject can vary widely – fiction and non-fiction, light or scary, physical health or mental health, the field is wide open. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

For serious non-fiction, take a look at Bellevue by David Oshinsky about the infamous New York City hosipital or the acclaimed book The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot which delves into bioethics and informed consent. Pandemic 1918 by Catharine Arnold looks at the devastating “Spanish Influenza” which killed millions. When Breath Becomes Air is written by physician Paul Kalanithi after he discovers he has terminal cancer while In an Instant by Lee Woodruff looks at how traumatic brain injury affects both the individual and their family. Still Alice by Lisa Genova delves into dementia while Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick examines mental health.

It’s not all grim and scary though; books in this subject are often uplifting and optimistic. Try The Midwife by Jennifer Worth about young nurses working in 1950s London as midwives to the poor. Or read something from the Irish Doctor series by Patrick Taylor about a country doctor living in a small village of eccentric personalities. And James Herriot’s charming All Creatures Great and Small books, set in Yorkshire, England never disappoint (hey, I know he’s a vet treating animals but it’s still medicine!) If you prefer to be kept awake at night, reach for Robin Cook’s medical thrillers.

I’m going to read My Name is Mary Sutter by Robin Oliveira which is about a young woman who dreams of becoming a surgeon. Set during the Civil War, she must overcome the prejudices against women in medicine while working to help the thousands of wounded soldiers. The time period and story line both sound interesting to me and I’m looking forward to reading it!

Now, what about you? Will you be joining us this year? What will you read in January?

 

The Escape Artist by Brad Meltzer

Military suspense thrillers have been popular for years, yet I have seldom read any. I decided to change this by stepping lightly into this genre. The Escape Artist by Brad Meltzer may not be considered a strict military suspense thriller, but there is a definite military feel since the majority of this book takes place on or near Dover Air Force Base in Delaware. Add in a compelling story line, missing people, and high levels of secrecy and I was hooked.

The Escape Artist tells the story of Jim ‘Zig’ Zigarowski and his quest to find out what really happened to Nola Brown. Nola Brown was on a flight from Alaska when the plane mysteriously fell from the sky. All on the plane perished and Nola’s body was found not far from the crash site. Mysteries surround this crash as one of the President’s very close friends was on board: the Librarian of Congress. Tasked with finding out what happened, Zig soon finds all of the bodies from the crash delivered to him at the morgue at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware. With identities already confirmed by their supervisors, Zig and his colleagues are expected to perform the autopsies as quick as possible and get the bodies back to the families.

When looking at Nola’s body, Zig discovers that there is no way that the body in front of him could be that of Nola Brown. Nola was a childhood friend of Zig’s daughter. A long time ago, Nola saved Zig’s daughter’s life. As a result of that, Nola has a tell-tale scar that Zig knows to look for on Nola. Discovering that it isn’t there and knowing that there wouldn’t be a cosmetic way to make that disappear, Zig realizes that Nola is still alive. The question of why someone would go through such steps to say that this body is Nola’s nags at Zig. He decides that he has to find Nola, if for no other reason than to pay her back for the time that she saved his daughter’s life.

Nola is supposed to be dead. With some investigating, Zig digs into Nola’s past and tries to learn what in her life caused people to want to kill her. He discovers that Nola is a mystery, her previous supervisors believe that she is a curse and trouble follows her everywhere. Looking into these incidents, it becomes clear why the Army chooses to sequester Nola as their artist-in-residence. This keeps her out of the line of fire and hopefully decreases her tendency to bring trouble to any situation.

Nola’s current job allows her to travel the world to any location and any catastrophe in order to make art and observe. Each artist-in-residence has a theme to their artwork throughout their residency. As Zig looks around, he discovers that Nola’s missions may have triggered the notice of an enemy who will do whatever it takes to silence her. Zig and Nola find themselves thrown together on a journey to discover the truth behind a centuries-old conspiracy that reaches all the way up to the highest levels of government and involves an unlikely partner: Harry Houdini.

Here’s to hoping that Brad Metzler turns this book into a series! I’d love to find out what happens with Zig and Nola next.


This book is also available in the following formats:

The Big Sick on DVD

Guest blog by Laura

The Big Sick is based on the true story of the early relationship between comedian Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon. Nanjiani and Gordon fall in love, which is a problem because Nanjiani’s religion dictates that he must marry a woman of his faith in an arranged marriage. Gordon becomes seriously ill and falls into a coma shortly after they break up and Nanjiani and her parents are thrust into a tenuous exchange while they watch Gordon’s condition deteriorate.

I’ve had Muslim friends for decades so I am familiar with traditional customs and the cultural schisms that arise on occasion among Muslim children raised in American culture. This movie accurately captured the essence of such a divide.

Nanjiani portrays himself and actress Zoe Kazan portrays Gordon. They have a great onscreen rapport and quickly develop into amiable characters. Zenobia Shroff and Anupam Kher play the role of Nanjiani’s parents. Shroff humorously captures the zeal of an overeager Pakastani/Muslim mother who is persistent in her efforts to play matchmaker. Shroff and Kher deliver one of my favorite scenes in the movie when Nanjiani is leaving for New York.

Holly Hunter and Ray Romano play Gordon’s parents. Hunter is natural in her role of a woman who displays both her ferocity and tenderness as a mother. Romano’s understated, dry humor plays off of Nanjian’s quick and sarcastic wit.

Charlatans by Robin Cook

Medical school is daunting, add in the added responsibility you take on the further and further you go in teaching hospitals and even before residents are hired on as staff, they are forced to make tough decisions. Robin Cook’s newest medical suspense novel, Charlatans, deals with the tough calls that doctors have to make on a day-to-day basis and just who is around to make sure those doctors stay honest. No one knows this more than the newly minted chief resident at Boston Memorial Hospital, Noah Rothauser. His new super chief position means that he is now responsible for all the surgical schedules, the training of the new residents, and handling the Morbidity and Mortality conferences that happen every time a patient dies. Noah is hopeful that the recent updates to the BMH’s operating rooms will be positive and will decrease the number of deaths that happen during surgery. After all, Boston Memorial Hospital is a famed teaching hospital that is known for being at the top in terms of medical advances and is also known for hiring only the best of the best. Updating those operating rooms will only help, not hinder.

That’s what Noah thinks anyway. All is going well until the death of a healthy hospital employee during a routine procedure. An anesthesia error seems to be the cause of death, but Noah doubts that. He believes that Dr. William Mason, a world-class surgeon, juggled patients and made a fatal error during the surgery that cost the patient his life. Mason won’t go down without a fight however and blames the anesthesiologist, Dr. Ava London. Noah isn’t sure who to believe, but does his due diligence into the background of this case to find out what really happened.

Thinking this case is behind him, Noah tries to move on. More anesthesia-related deaths occur however, and Noah finds himself having to question everyone that was involved in each case. Secrets come out and Noah finds himself getting to know Dr. Ava London more closely as he works with her to find out what really happened to cause those deaths.

Noah has to figure out what happened quickly because he soon realizes that there is much more to Ava than he originally thought. His own job and credibility are soon put to the test. Noah’s search for the truth is at an all time high as he works to figure out who really is at fault surrounding those three deaths and who is really telling the truth. After all, we all have something to hide, don’t we?


This book is also available in the following formats:

Alpha Docs: The Making of a Cardiologist by Dan Munoz

alpha docsAlpha Docs: The Making of a Cardiologist follows Dan Muñoz through his training to become a cardiologist at Johns Hopkins Hospital. This medical nonfiction highlights Muñoz’s first year of his fellowship at Johns Hopkins, a year where he does a rotation through all of the fields of cardiology: preventive care, nuclear medicine, echocardiography, intensive care, heart failure and transplantation, and electrophysiology. He takes the time to explain the workings of each different cardiology field and tries to decide which area he will end up in after his fellowship is over.

Alpha Docs walks readers through complicated procedures, but in layman’s terms, so that they are easily understandable. Throughout this book, Muñoz talks about how this fellowship is allowing him to search, learn, and discover more about his place in medicine. I really enjoyed his breakdown of each profession and how within each rotation, the cardiologists do very different things, but that there is an overarching goal for all: to keep learning and training and practicing medicine to provide better healthcare for patients. This book really showed the different stages that certain doctors go through while trying to find their niche in the world, while also providing an in-depth look into such a highly sought after fellowship at Johns Hopkins.

Beat the Reaper by Josh Bazell

beat the reaper1What would you do if you lived a double life? If you had the option to better yourself and change your life for the better, would you take it, no matter the cost? How far would you be willing to go for revenge? All of these questions and more are what the characters in Josh Bazell’s Beat the Reaper deal with on a daily basis.

Beat the Reaper begins by introducing us to Dr. Peter Brown, an intern at Manhattan Catholic, on his way to work when he is held up at gunpoint. Brown springs into action, showing a vast knowledge of martial arts and combat skills that are so tailored to seriously main and kill that they couldn’t simply have been learned by taking classes at the local gym; they must have been put to actual use. How did this seemingly normal man gain these skills? The mystery begins.

Peter Brown, aka Pietro Brnwa, used to be a contract killer/hitman for the mafia, a relationship that began in his teen years after the brutal murder of his grandparents and one that ends with him having to join Witness Protection when one job turns his life upside down and ultimately leads to Brown tossing his best friend out of a 6th floor window. In WITSEC, Brown decides to become a doctor to honor the legacy of his grandfather, a job that, so far, has not put him into contact with anyone in his previous life until the day he walks into patient Eddie Squillante aka Nicholas LoBrutto’s room and finds himself face-to-face with a man dying of cancer who demands to be saved or he will reveal Brown’s new identity, thus guaranteeing a group of other hitmen to come after him. Brown is forced to reconcile the sudden thrusting of his two lives together and decide how far he is willing to go to get what he wants.

This book is Josh Bazell’s debut novel and his background as a physician shows through in the intricately detailed medical digressions and footnotes that populate the book. If footnotes throw you off, don’t be worried. Bazell has molded Brown’s character into a perfect mix of the medical and the criminal that the descriptions of medical issues come across as the well-articulated discussions of a compartmentalized and highly knowledgeable individual. This darky humorous, suspenseful crime novel will have you wondering where Brnwa ends and Brown begins, a dichotomy that will either lead to life or death for this compelling main character.

Something for the Pain: Compassion and Burn-out in the ER by Paul Austin

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.

Pet Pals: Animal Doctor

pet pals animal doctorAll throughout college, my teachers told me that the best way to entice a child to learn was to make learning fun. You’d also get bonus points as a teacher if you could trick kids into learning without them even knowing it. One of the best ways that I have found to do this is to slip that learning to them in the form of a video game or even a classic novel that has been re-done as an illustrated graphic novel.

As I was searching for new titles to intrigue the kids I know, I stumbled upon Pet Pals: Animal Doctor, a game available for the Wii. It allows players to pretend they are a veterinarian and perform surgeries using the Wii remote. What I found most interesting about this game is that the level of learning is high. More than thirty medical cases, that are based on real events, are presented within this game with mini- and micro-games that allow players to play, feed, and clean the animals and to also perform some specialized procedures. Players will be able to operate and interact with a variety of animals that range from the familiar to the exotic. This game won the Editor’s Choice Award of Excellence from the Children’s Technology Review and also the Parents’ Choice Silver Award.