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My 5 favorite health/medicine books of 2012

Posted by Dr. Suzanne Koven  December 27, 2012 03:27 PM

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Books.jpg No, not that kind of health/medicine books. If you were interested in learning more about how to go gluten-free, have clearer sinuses, or be less co-dependent, I have recommendations for reading--but not here.

Rather, I'd like to share with you my five favorite works of literature relating to health and medicine published in 2012. This genre is ever-growing, with new memoirs, literary nonfiction, and even novels and poetry collections added each year.

Enjoy--and do comment below or write to me with your own favorites:

Memoir of a Debulked Woman by Susan Gubar: When Gubar, a distinguished professor of literature, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2008, she felt neither rage, self-pity, nor paralyzing fear. Rather, she felt compelled to do what she'd done her whole professional life: write. The result is a mixture of memoir and medical and cultural history that brings welcome voice to women with the disease that's been called "the silent killer."

Hallucinations by Oliver Sacks: It was once thought that only the delirious or mentally ill could hear or see things that don't really exist. It turns out that most of us will have a hallucination of one sort or another in our lives, whether from migraine, sleep deprivation, medications, or many other reasons. Combining scholarship and personal stories--including a remarkable chapter on his own experimentation with hallucinogenic drugs--neurologist Sacks shows, yet again, why he is the most popular medical writer. I reviewed Hallucinations here.

Far From The Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity by Andrew Solomon: In this big, ambitious, and far-ranging book, Andrew Solomon profiles families in which children differ in some major way from their parents. Some of these children are deaf, transgendered, have Down syndrome, dwarfism, are prodigies or criminals. Solomon considers difficult questions regarding prenatal testing, mainstreaming, and the distinction between medical condition and identity. Read my recent interview with Solomon here.

God's Hotel by Victoria Sweet Have you ever seen those old public hospital wards in black and white photos or old movies? The kind where patients stayed forever and doctors and nurses really got to know them? It turns out that such a hospital existed until just recently in San Francisco. Sweet, a physician and medical historian, writes beautifully of her work with patients there, including her (sometimes successful) attempts to incorporate medieval philosophy into modern medical care. I reviewed God's Hotel here.

Dora: A Headcase by Lidia Yuknavitch: At the turn of the last century Sigmund Freud treated a young woman named Ida whose mysterious physical symptoms he attributed to her psychological conflicts. Freud called her "Dora" when he published an account of her analysis, the most famous of his case histories. In this farcical, sharp-witted, but also tender novel, Yuknavitch restores Ida's name and re-imagines her as a brilliant and rebellious teenager in contemporary Seattle. It's not absolutely necessary to be familiar with Freud's Dora to enjoy this novel. But, Freud's classic case history is a pleasure to read in its own right--and doing so will let you in on all of Yuknavitch's delightful literary mischief.

Happy reading...and happy new year!

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About the author

Suzanne Koven, M.D. practices internal medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. She writes a monthly column for the Globe's G Health section and her essays have appeared in the More »


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