I admit, reading for pleasure has never been my favorite pastime, but over the years there are a few books that spoke to my OT brain and helped me be a more empathic practitioner. So, if you are looking for an end-of-summer read with a connection to your career, check out my short list of classic reads that help you explore death, ethics, the brain, stroke and Alzheimer’s.
When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
Facing a fatal diagnosis, the author writes an autobiographical account of his journey as a young doctor turned patient. The book touches on doctor-patient relationships and reminds us all to live life to the fullest. While you know the ending, it is a little shocking that the book was finished by his wife.
My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey by Jill Bolte Taylor
This pick is another book by a health professional turned patient turned author. As a scientist devoted to brain research, the author details her experience with a stroke and the eight year journey to a full recovery. For health professionals, the book provides the patient’s point of view. For lay persons, the first few chapters about how the brain works, are easy to understand and fascinating. While it might veer too far into the new age spiritual realm for some, it is full of insight from a patient’s perspective including a practical list for family, friends, and yes, even health professionals, about what the author needed most during her recovery.
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
As I mentioned before, reading is not my first choice of leisure activity, but since this book was set in my home town and centered on an institution I had worked with, I was intrigued. Henrietta Lacks, dying of cancer, unknowing contributes cells that drive medical research and profits for decades. This account of her story is my all-time favorite book. The ethics of this decision continues to fuel debates today and will impact our choices long into the future. Thank you Henrietta Lacks for all you contributed.
The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Other Clinical Tales by Oliver Sacks
A neurologist, Dr. Sacks, compiled a set of unique case studies he treated over his career. Written for a layperson, you won’t as a healthcare professional gain a deeper understanding of the disorder, but you may walk away with a deeper empathy for persons you treat with a neurological disorder.
Still Alice by Lisa Genova
The author of this novel holds a Ph. D in neuroscience. That background helps her craft a story of a busy professional coping with a mid-life diagnosis of early onset Alzheimer’s. Forgetfulness starts to creep in and to disrupt her life, leading to the devastating diagnosis. The novel follows her through the many losses suffered as Alzheimer’s takes its steady toll, including forgetting even how to eat an ice cream cone.