2018 Summer Reading for Compassionate Clinicians

We compiled this list of 15 books published in the past year that we’re looking forward to reading this summer.  They were chosen for their likelihood of inspiring clinicians to commit themselves to the compassionate care of both patients and themselves.  We have listed them below in alphabetical order by author.

Comment below if you’ve read any of them already. What did you think?  What else is on your summer reading list that might inspire other clinicians?

Cover of In ShockIn Shock: My Journey from Death to Recovery and the Redemptive Power of Hope by Rana Awdish
At the end of her medical training, physician Rana Awdish spent months fighting for her life after a massive hemorrhage. During this ordeal, she found “repeated cavalier behavior from her fellow physicians — indifference following human loss, disregard for anguish and suffering, and an exacting emotional distance.” In a New York Times book review, a fellow physician wrote, “Awdish’s book is the one I wished we were given as assigned reading our first year of medical school, alongside our white coats and stethoscopes.” Dr. Awdish will be joining the Gold Foundation for an event at Bo’s Restaurant in New York City in November.
Cover of Tears of SaltTears of Salt: A Doctor’s Story by Pietro Bartolo
“The rocky island of Lampedusa has hit world headlines in recent years as the first port of call for hundreds of thousands of fleeing civil war and terrorism and hoping to make a new life in Europe. Dr. Pietro Bartolo, who runs the lone medical clinic on the island, has been caring for many of them…for a quarter century.” A New York Times article asserts: “Bartolo’s observations about the human condition have very little to do with medicine as a technical trade and everything to do with what it means to provide care for people regardless of station or story.”
Cover of Every Note PlayedEvery Note Played by Lisa Genova
In this new novel from the bestselling author of Still Alice, neuroscientist Lisa Genova tells the story of a concert pianist struck by ALS. “When Richard becomes increasingly paralyzed and is no longer able to live on his own, [his ex-wife] Karina becomes his reluctant caretaker. As Richard’s muscles, voice, and breath fade, both he and Karina try to reconcile their past before it’s too late.” Publishers Weekly commented: “Genova captivates. Gut-wrenching but suspenseful reading… Both substantively informative about ALS and an emotionally wrenching psychological portrait.”
Cover of Turtles All the Way DownTurtles All the Way Down by John Green
John Green, author of #1 New York Times bestseller, Fault In Our Stars, offers another young adult novel that can be appreciated by a broad audience. 16-year-old Aza and her friends attempt to solve a mystery involving a fugitive billionaire. Ava’s struggle with obsessive-compulsive disorder is shown by Green through an intimate look at her debilitating spiral of thoughts. The New York Times commented “So surprising and moving and true that I became completely unstrung. . . . One needn’t be suffering like Aza to identify with it. One need only be human.”
Cover of ResilientResilient: How to Grow an Unshakable Core of Calm, Strength, and Happiness by Rick Hanson
Clinicians need an “unshakeable core” of resilience in order to withstand the challenges of today’s healthcare system and have enough energy remaining to provide compassionate care to patients. In his latest book, New York Times bestselling author Dr. Rick Hanson offers “a practical guide full of concrete suggestions, experiential practices, personal examples, and insights into the brain.” Gold grantee James R. Doty, MD reviewed the book, saying “Marshaling years of experience combined with the latest science, Rick Hanson gives us a guide for developing resilient well-being. Thoughtful, profound and practical.”
Cover of The RecoveringThe Recovering: Intoxication and Its Aftermath by Leslie Jamison
In 2014, Leslie Jamison wrote The Empathy Exams about her experience as a standardized patient and it became a New York Times bestseller. This new book explores her personal experience with addiction and recovery as well as the history of the recovery movement. Along the way she profiles writers and artists “whose lives and works were shaped by alcoholism and substance dependence” including Raymond Carver, Billie Holiday, and David Foster Wallace. This book was an instant New York Times bestseller.
Cover of SickSick: A Memoir by Porochista Khakpour
“For as long as author Porochista Khakpour can remember, she has been sick. For most of that time, she didn’t know why. Several drug addictions, some major hospitalizations, and over $100,000 later, she finally had a diagnosis: late-stage Lyme disease. A story of survival, pain, and transformation, Sick candidly examines the colossal impact of illness on one woman’s life by not just highlighting the failures of a broken medical system but by also boldly challenging our concept of illness narratives.” Named to Buzzfeed’s list of 33 Most Exciting New Books of 2018.
Cover of You Can Stop Humming NowYou Can Stop Humming Now: A Doctor’s Stories of Life, Death, and in Between by Daniela Lamas
Daniela Lamas, a critical care doctor, offers narratives about her patients whose lives have been extended as a result of modern treatment and technologies.  In Atul Gawande’s review, he wrote of Dr. Lamas:  “Her voice is wry, compassionate, sometimes doctorly, and sometimes not. And she’s written a gripping, soaring, inspiring book about the sickest people on the planet. It’s an important story too — about not only death, but also survival. Read it. You’ll see things you’ve never seen. You’ll be moved. And you’ll discover a voice you want to hear more from.”
Cover of What The Eyes Dont SeeWhat the Eyes Don’t See: A Story of Crisis, Resistance, and Hope in an American City by Mona Hanna-Attisha
Gold Humanism Honor Society member Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha lead the charge to prove that the water in Flint, Michigan was making children sick. This true story reads like a scientific and political thriller as you follow this brave warrior in her pursuit of justice. A starred review in Library Journal proclaims “This should be required reading for…pediatricians and youth advocates as a story of heroism in the ranks of people who have the capacity to make a difference.”
Cover of Why We RevoltWhy We Revolt: A Patient Revolution for Careful and Kind Care by Victor Montori
In this book, Victor Montori, a Gold Foundation grantee and one of the most cited clinical researchers in the world, writes with urgency and compassion about his patients and the state of the healthcare industry.  Don Berwick of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement reviewed the book, saying “Why We Revolt is a triumph. It speaks honestly and knowledgeably about the faults of ‘industrial medicine,’ but with a deep understanding of caring and of the clinic. Montori, a doctor, citizen, and poet, has produced a wonderful and meaningful book that deserves widespread attention.”
Cover of Ask Me About My UterusAsk Me About My Uterus: A Quest to Make Doctors Believe in Women’s Pain by Abby Norman
After a dramatic weight loss and repeated hospitalizations with no answers, Abby Norman dropped out of college and took it upon herself to figure out what was wrong with her. By taking a job in a hospital and educating herself in the medical library, she finally diagnosed herself with endometriosis.  In this memoir, Norman (now a well-known science writer) describes what it was like to have her pain dismissed by doctors and examines the broader sociocultural context of her personal experience. Named to Publisher’s Weekly Top Ten Lifestyle Titles for Spring 2018.
Cover of The Compassionate ConnectionThe Compassionate Connection: The Healing Power of Empathy and Mindful Listening by David Rakel
“As founder and director of the University of Wisconsin Integrative Medicine program, Dr. Rakel discovered that we become the most effective helpers when we use the tool of human connection.” Drawing on 30 years of research as well as his own experience, Dr. Rakel demonstrates that “our capacity to feel beauty, awe, and compassion enhances our health and well-being.” Gold Professor Dan Shapiro, PhD reviewed the book, saying “Rakel is the doctor-guide we all want: truly holistic, a keen observer of human behavior and medicine, and a voracious harvester of science across fields.”
Cover of Slow MedicineSlow Medicine: The Way to Healing by Victoria Sweet
In the latest book from Victoria Sweet, award-winning author of God’s Hotel, she tells about experiences that taught her “Good medicine takes more than amazing technology; it takes time—time to respond to bodies as well as data, time to arrive at the right diagnosis and the right treatment.” Booklist’s review called it “Profoundly intimate…Sweet provides a strong and necessary tonic as health care, in all its complexities, remains at the center of the national conversation.”
Cover of UnthinkableUnthinkable: What the World’s Most Extraordinary Brains Can Teach Us About Our Own by Helen Thompson
Award-winning science writer Helen Thomson tells the stories of nine extraordinary people with rare brain disorders. “From the man who thinks he’s a tiger, to the doctor who feels the pain of others just by looking at them, to a woman who hears music that’s not there, their experiences illustrate how the brain can shape our lives in unexpected and, in some cases, brilliant and alarming ways.” This book received a starred review in Library Journal, which shared that “Oliver Sacks is noted as an inspiration and, indeed, this book will appeal to his many fans.”
Cover of The Language of KindnessThe Language of Kindness: A Nurse’s Story by Christie Watson
Christie Watson shares stories from the most unforgettable patients she helped care for during her 20 years in nursing.  The New York Times commented, “Many doctors have been distinguished writers…But we haven’t heard enough from nurses, whose world is just as arcane and important. The Language of Kindness could not be more compelling or more welcome: It’s about how we survive, and about the people who help us do so.”

See 2017 Summer Reading

See 2016 Summer Reading

See 2015 Summer Reading

Brandy King, MLIS

Head of Information Services

Provides research services for staff, maintains resources on humanism and healthcare and works closely with Research Institute grantees.