New Books on Medicine
One of my favorite traditions from my homeland (Catalonia, just across the Pyrenees from France) is Saint George’s Day, which happens on the 23rd of April. Saint George is the classic medieval hero who goes around slaying dragons and rescuing princesses, and such displays of bravery earned him the title of patron saint of many places, from England to Georgia, including Ethiopia, Portugal and, of course, Catalonia.
However, contributing to the extinction of a race of legendary beasts is not what makes his day interesting. Since the 15th century, the 23rd of April has been our equivalent of Saint Valentine’s Day, an excuse to celebrate love. Instead of chocolate sweets, lovers exchange red roses (something to do with the color of the blood of the slayed dragon, where a magic shrub grew as the monster lay dying).
Things get more interesting when, in the 1920s, an editor comes up with the idea of celebrating a “book day” and fill the streets with stands where people can readily buy the latest bestsellers. The first event takes place in October and it’s a success, but they soon realize that a spring date would be more appropriate for such outdoor activities. And here is where Saint George gets lucky: It so happens that the 23rd of April is also the date when Miguel de Cervantes was buried and Shakespeare died, both in 1616. The perfect pretext.
If you visit Catalonia on St George’s Day, you will witness an amazing festival of books and roses, during which even people who usually don’t read much flock the streets to buy something for their loved ones (and, possibly, get an inscription from the author after standing in line for a while in front of one of the stands). And this rather long and winding introduction is my justification to use this April post to recommend some interesting recent books related to science and medicine.
I’ll start with This Is Going to Hurt, a funny (but tragic) first-person account of the trials and tribulations of a junior doctor in the British public health system. Although the book is 5 years old already, it’s back on the spotlight due to the recently aired adaptation made by the BBC, which I will also recommend. Many of you will probably recognize some of the anecdotes in the book and may have experienced or witnessed similar situations, which often (as was the case for the author) end up in a severe case of burnout. Even if it’s a tragedy at the core, this is an amusing and entertaining read.
While we wait for his highly anticipated new bookcoming up in September, it is also a good time to discover Henry Marsh, a retired neurosurgeon who has written two highly entertaining memoirs about his profession. In particular, Admissions is a very interesting collection of musings on one of the most difficult areas of surgery and one of the (still) most unknown organs in our bodies.
This one is perfect for anyone with a general interest in science: When We Cease to Understand the World, by Benjamín Labatut, is a very original mix of physics, math, and history. Labatut uses famous characters, like Heisenberg or Schrödinger, to explain the revolution that, in the 20th century, allowed us to better understand our world. It’s done in such an engaging prose that the book has become a worldwide success.
And I couldn’t end this list without an entry related to the (very much still ongoing) pandemic. preventable is the latest of a long list of books on the topic (I also wrote one!), focused now on what to do next instead of dwelling too much on what happened so far (and I also wrote one of those, but sadly it’s only available in Spanish). It is necessary to find ways to avoid repeating the same mistakes next time we face a worldwide health challenge, and Devi Sridhar, professor of global public health at the University of Edinburgh, has been one of the lucid voices that has been featured in the media in these past months and has helped us navigate through the pandemic via her Twitter account (while advising WHO; UNICEF; UNESCO; and the Scottish, UK and German governments). It’s worth listening to her from her.
These are just a few options from the long list of interesting books published recently that are related to science and medicine, two topics that often get overlooked when we go to the bookstores. Check them out. Saint George will thank you.
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About Dr Salvador Macip
Salvador Macip, MD, PhD is a doctor, researcher and writer. He obtained his MD/PhD at the University of Barcelona (Spain) in 1998, then moved to do oncological research at the Mount Sinai Hospital (New York). Since 2008, I have led the Mechanisms of Aging and Cancer Lab at the University of Leicester (UK). Macip has published over 30 books, including
Where Science and Ethics Meet (2016) and
Modern Epidemics (2021). Connect with him on Twitter: