It’s time to make New Year’s resolutions again. Is reading more on your list? This year’s publications include a number of leaf-turning memoirs, well-researched prose works and compelling stories. Looking back at 2020, Alopah asked readers and staff to pick what they thought were the best health and science books of the year. Add these titles to your to-read list, or to your Amazon shopping cart, and look forward to reading them in 2021.
Admissions: Life as a Brain Surgeon
By Henry Marsh
Henry Marsh was a wonderful surgeon and writer, and I read his masterpiece, “Do No Harm.” What prompted me to read his second book in the first place was his admission that surgeons are only human. Perhaps he was at ease in the twilight of his career, or perhaps he was just plain English enough to put the essence of medicine into words without flinching.
The Cell: Discovering the Microscopic World that Determines Our Health, Our Consciousness, and Our Future
By Joshua Z. Rappoport
Rappoport’s writing is very succinct and engaging to read. He can efficiently and easily communicate the cutting-edge ideas that underlie cell biology, highlighting the bright spots in the history of cell biology thinking and technology. Using vivid imagery and sharp metaphors, he succeeded in sublimating the discipline with poetry and reverence.
In Shock: My Journey from Death to Recovery and the Redemptive Power of Hope
By Rana Awdish
Rana Awdish is a doctor who had a near-death experience. We’re lucky she didn’t die. His book “Shock” is a must-read for patients and doctors alike. It is a tour de force to advocate for a cultural change that will help health care professionals communicate more effectively with patients and put their voices at the forefront of care.
The Longevity Economy: Unlocking The World’s fastest-growing, Most Misunderstood Market
By Joseph F. Coughlin
The book offers a powerful perspective on the importance of an ageing population, the urgency of business prowess and the importance of women’s roles. This book is a wonderful reading experience, written humorously and beautifully.
Patent Politics: Life Forms, Markets, and the Public Interest in the United States and Europe
By Shobita Parthasarathy
This is an excellent, well-researched book that sheds light on how and why the American public is excluded from ethical and political debates in the life sciences, but not the European public. In the United States, patents are seen as technical issues, while in Europe, they are seen as ethical and political issues, influenced by the law and long-standing political culture. As a result, patents exist in far more forms in America than in Europe, and can be monetized without public input.
The Family Imprint: A Daughter’s Portrait of Love and Loss
By Nancy Borowick
This is a book about grief and loss, but also about love, family and joy. In “Family Mark,” photojournalist Nancy Borowick Chronicles her mother and father’s battle with cancer together. Her daily family photos document moments of pure joy and sadness, and everything in between. Borowick’s portfolio is displayed alongside family snapshots to bring comfort to those who have lost loved ones.
Drug Wars: How Big Pharma Raises Prices and Keeps Generics off the Market
By Robin Feldman and Evan Frondorf
In this book, the authors explore the various ways in which drug companies try to control generic drugs to reduce competition and reverse health policy to achieve goals that run counter to the public interest. The Drug Price Competition and Patent Term Restoration Act, often referred to as the Hatch-Waxman Act, was enacted in 1984 to stimulate the generics market. The original intention of the act was to strike a balance between the benefits of the inventor and the public interest. But drug companies and their lawyers have found ways to buy valuable time by extending patent life and slowing the approval process for generic drugs, at the expense of taxpayers and patients. I was a happier person before reading this book, but after reading it I realized that The real world was more depressing than I had imagined, reminding me of Kafka’s world (The Trial, or even The more abstract Metamorphosis).
Big Chicken: The Incredible Story of How Antibiotics Created Modern Agriculture and Changed the Way the World Eats
By Maryn McKenna
As a journalist and writer, Maryn McKenna was smart enough to write about drug-resistant STaphylococcus aureus infections before most of us took the MRSA threat seriously. In his new book, Big Phoenix, McKenna reveals how the overuse of antibiotics has transformed the once rare and expensive drug, modest chicken into a cheap international commodity, helping to spread antibiotic-resistant diseases. McKenna describes how 34 million pounds of antibiotics — four times the amount used by humans — became animal feed, but none of them cured infections. Chicken is the most common meat dish in America, and after reading this book, you’ll never look at chicken nuggets the same way again.
The Bright Hour: A Memoir of Living and Dying
By Nina Riggs
The author wrote this book while suffering from stage 1 to 4 breast cancer. Nina Riggs takes you through her life: dealing with the death of her mother from cancer, snuggling up with her two young sons, finding the perfect couch online, and talking to her husband late at night when he admits, “I’m so scared, I can’t breathe.” Riggs, who died before the book was published, was entertaining but not shy about sharing her deepest inhibitions and fears, weaving them together into a masterful story.
The Butchering Art: Joseph Lister’s Quest to Transform The Grisly World of Victorian Medicine
By Lindsey Fitzharris
There are several elements in this book that I like, including history, biography and medicine. The story is simple and compelling at the same time. The book describes a time when surgeons, following the teachings of their mentors, struggled with the remnants of various medical procedures; They don’t bother to wash their hands after the autopsy because they have to deliver the baby and then they have to clean up after that.
Against this backdrop, Dr. Joseph Lister, an English man born to a Quaker family, has spent years trying to convince colleagues of the benefits of embalming. Eventually it did, but it was slow and painful for Lister. Yes, we named our brand Listerine after him, and for a while lister- became a prefix for almost every disinfectant and antiseptic. But he never had a chance to find out.