One of the nicest perks of being an established-and-at-one-point-somewhat-prolific medical blogger is that really talented people send me really good books.
Two I'd like to highlight for you now are below.
Dr. Jay Baruch's Fourteen Stories: Doctors, Patients and Other Strangers. This award-winning collection of short stories from an ED physician had me pretty engrossed. Dr. Baruch does a good job of motivating his characters, and often the motivation is fear -- not just the sick patient but the student with an HIV needlestick, the doctor walking home late at night who encounters a dissatisfied patient. The dialogue is minimal, and often at odds with the situation -- but he's written these characters in such a way that it's easy to crawl into their thoughts and insecurities.
In his afterward, Dr. Baruch gives his take on the difference between getting to the truth of a medical presentation, and the truth of a short story. It's an informed and insightful essay -- required reading for aspiring physician-writers.
The other book I received recently is Laurie Edwards' Life Disrupted. I first read this author in the pages of the Boston Globe Magazine, then learned of her blog and finally, got to interview her for Medscape's Pre-Rounds.
Unlike Dr. Baruch's book above, Life Disrupted is decidedly nonfiction -- the subtitle is "Getting Real about Chronic Illness in your Twenties and Thirties." Medical blog readers will recognize many of the book's subjects, like Jenny Prokopy (chronicbabe.com) and Kerri Morrone (sixuntilme.com). Even some of the insleeve reviewers are longtime bloggers (Amy Tenderich, Paul Levy).
I'll confess, these familiar names actually helped me approach this book, which is an expert guide on empowering patients to get more out of life, and more out of the medical world. Why should I even be reluctant to read it? Because (though this has never been true of Edwards' earlier works) I've seen too many patient-empowerment books that read like self-help bromides or screeds against modern healthcare.
Not surprisingly, my reluctance was completely unfounded. Edwards is too smart, and has been through too much, to simply encourage her readers to distrust all medical professionals (although some of her readers and subjects have earned the right). Instead, she treats the physicians and nurses much like she considers her fellow patients: motivated, knowledgeable, but sometimes inflexible and afraid to adapt.
Her candid and conciliatory writing style quickly won me over. Her book is full of specific advice regarding relationships, socializing, career, and yes, navigating hospital stays and the healthcare system. I found it extremely practical and accessible, and learned a lot more than I had expected to. So, I heartily recommend it.