All posts tagged: learn something new

December + January Book

The new year calls for us to learn something new. Our selection this time of year is always a nonfiction book that encourages its readers to see things in a new light. That’s exactly why we’ve chosen Angela Y. Davis‘ early 1980’s classic Women, Race and Class. After watching Ava DuVernay’s award-winning Netflix documentary 13th (WATCH THIS if you haven’t already), which features a strong presence by Davis, we were inspired to add her keystone work to our list. Davis is a prominent activist who was thrust into the spotlight in 1970 when she was labeled a “terrorist” by President Reagan for a loose connection to the crimes of Jonathan Jackson.  Although one can assume her only “crime” was an association with the Communist Party, Black Panther Party, and Civil Rights Movement. Ultimately she was found not guilty by an all-white jury. Davis later went on to use her strength and intellect on speaking tours, further political activism, and professorships at esteemed universities. She’s led (and is leading) a critical and fascinating life with a deep …

book on lap

A Worldwide Tour of Health Care

“On September 11, 2001, some three thousand Americans were killed by terrorists; our country has spent hundreds of billions of dollars to make sure it doesn’t happen again. But that same year, and every year since then, some twenty thousand Americans died because they couldn’t get health care. That doesn’t happen in any other developed country. Hundreds of thousands of Americans go bankrupt every year because of medical bills. That doesn’t happen in any other developed country either.” As someone with a chronic illness, health care is a necessity. My life depends on medications that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars each and every year, not to mention doctors appointments, hospital stays, lab tests, bloodwork, etc. The issue of access to affordable health care has been on my mind for years, particularly during the past 12 months as the current administration tried to repeal the Affordable Car Act. It’s a fraught issue that has become entrenched in politics. But, in my opinion, being able to get the care one needs isn’t political, it’s personal. And …

Everything I Didn’t Know

I’ve never read a book like this before. Historically, the non-fiction books I’ve read have been about a person, places, a period of time. But this is the first time I’ve read such an in depth study of a particular policy. In case you missed it, “The Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper, and Fairer Health Care” by T.R. Reid is a examination of our health care system in contrast to others around the world. And it was fascinating. “Economic growth is not the sole aim of out society… The value of a human life must be decided without regard to… economic considerations. We must take into account the human and spiritual aspects involved.” The Hall Report, 1964 There are a few things I know for certain: our health care system is broken, there are too many Americans without access to health care, our country’s approach to health care is far too politically leaning when it should be a moral issue. But besides that, my knowledge was fairly limited. This book put …

December / January Book

It’s that time of year when your calendar starts to look really cluttered, your to do list grows longer, and you start to consider resolutions for the new year. Well, every year we resolve to read a book that teaches us something new. And something we all need to learn so much more about is our country’s healthcare system. So, the December/January book we’ve picked is T.R. Reid’s The Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper, and Fairer Health Care. It’s a brief 250 pages with chapters like “Different Models, Common Principles,” “Too Big to Change,” and five separate chapters examining the systems of different countries (France, Germany, Japan, Canada, the UK). Also, there’s an afterword titled “‘Obamacare’ Explained,” which we all need to read. Anyone else feeling like our healthcare system is intimidating and confusing?! We feel like reading this is a step in the right direction. The author Reid is a career journalist who, for this book, visited over half a dozen different countries to examine their health care and use …

The Quick and the Dead

I will be honest – I was not looking forward to reading this book, but I have been on an unintentional hiatus and I just didn’t want it to last any longer. So here I was, holding my Kindle, Stiff on the screen, simply dreading reading a book about dead bodies when I so recently had to confront the reality of death in my life. That being said, here’s the good side. Roach’s writing is engaging, the topic is (admittedly) interesting, and I even found myself chuckling more than just a bit – she seems to have a delightfully dry, witty sense of humor and it comes across clearly in her writing. I truly do understand the value in using human cadavers to study most of the things Roach wrote about, and it really is fascinating what important information and learning can come from the science of the dead. Also, it was a fast read – just what I needed to break the hiatus. And here’s the bad side. Not really bad, I suppose. More like… …

Fast and Loose with Stiff

It took me longer than I’d expected to finish(ish) this one. I was excited to read this one, but it came at a busy time… the holidays, my brother’s wedding, the onset of winter illnesses for every member of my family. Ya know, the usual December/January stuff. So, I started off strong, but things kind of tapered off toward the end. I definitely enjoyed what I read, and learned a lot. There is a surprising amount to learn from cadaver “lives.” But I guess that’s what I liked most about this book, not only was it well written with a healthy lighten-the-mood sense of humor, but you could jump around with the chapters if needed. For example, I didn’t really have an interest in reading about plane crash cadavers. As a nervous flyer, I thought I’d do us all a favor by avoiding that one. But “Crimes of Anatomy,” “Holy Cadaver,” and “How to Know if You’re Dead” were my personal favorites. But, admittedly, there were a few more chapters at the end that I didn’t read. …

Stiff: An Interesting Case for Coping with Humor

  As a physician and, I guess more specifically, someone who has participated in a gross anatomy lab, I have a specific point of view about human cadavers.  I will start by saying this – the book provides some truly interesting history on the matter.  For that point alone, I would say Roach’s book is a worthy one. Albeit, it is not one for everyone. The subject is a bit – um – macabre.  If you didn’t know that from the cover, I’m not sure reading is for you. Now what I really took away from this book is that how we deal with things that make us uncomfortable is rather universal. I often wondered why I wasn’t more bothered by anatomy lab my first year of medical school. I didn’t particularly want to get physically sick or feel overwhelming guilt. But I also didn’t want to feel how I did – like it was normal. There was nothing normal about what I was doing. History may suggest otherwise. Personally, though, gross anatomy lab was …

December & January Book

Happy holidays! Hope you didn’t come here for a good holiday selection, because our next book probably couldn’t be farther from the holiday spirit. But it should be interested none-the-less! Maybe just start reading after Christmas? We’ve combined December and January into one book. And in appreciation of the approaching new year we’ve picked our next book as a way to learn something new. Something that we might never otherwise have the occasion to learn. Have any of you ever heard of Mary Roach? She’s an author who has her roots in journalism and now writes books. She has published seven books, all of which deal with unique non-fiction subject matter. Most of which follow the same title formula of a single noun or adjective: Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife (2005), Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex (2008), Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal (2013), and Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War (2016). Her style is notable for its humor, curiosity, and interesting subject matter. She becomes a part of her …

Shopping the Periphery

Truth time: This book wasn’t as compelling as I expected it to be. I bought it years ago, and because of my habit of buying books (much) faster than I can read them, it sat on my shelf until just a couple weeks ago. I bought it not long after it was first published, when this idea – that how we were being told to eat might not be the best way to eat – first became popular. We clearly still have a long way to go in terms of changing the accessibility and affordability of whole foods in our society. But I like to think that at least a little bit of what Pollan talked about in In Defense of Food has taken hold. Organic fruits and vegetables are a tiny bit more readily available; farmers’ markets have risen in popularity; trans fats have disappeared; more and more discussions are being had about sugar and good fats and whole grains. Some progress has been made. What I found most fascinating, if not a little …

Logic, Meet Eating

One thing I appreciate more than possibly anything else is logic. This may sound obvious, but I just simply enjoy a well-reasoned and thought out argument. To that point that I have been known to change my mind multiple times about an issue (sometimes in the span of one discussion) simply because of logical, articulate points. That said, it should come as no surprise that I loved Pollan’s book. Full disclosure: I started reading In Defense of Food almost two years ago, loved it, got distracted by a few fiction reads, and, since I felt like I had pretty much grasped the concept of the book, never returned. Until now. I reread and continued reading and found myself just as impressed as the first time. It is such a good reminder of the fact that SO MUCH of what we as Americans are ingesting is not even food. Pollan points this out throughout the book and it’s worth repeating: we are not eating food. We are eating food product. I was about to make a …