Thursday, October 08, 2009

More Narrative Medicine and Organized Chaos

I figured if I am going to write about the state of “organized chaos” in which I’m trying to just make things work, I should provide some details.


See that line of writing at the top of the wipe board? It really does say “There is nothing as clarifying as a deadline,” and I really do find myself looking up at it, particularly during those very late nights or absurdly early mornings when the clock and my physical capacity to finish the job are engaged in head to head combat.

The Stickies application on Macs? I would be lost without their color-coded power to organize my day, my thoughts, my lesson plans, and my research questions.

And yes, we have bookshelves. Bedrooms and home offices and even whole closets full of bookshelves, but after my marathon summer of research, we need more. Plus, I like to have my files and sources close at hand when I’m writing.

Anyway, looking at my slightly embarrassing stack of books reminded me of a post I wrote on narrative medicine. Plus, we just happened to talk about Jerome Groopman and Atul Gawande in one my classes today, and it occurred to me I haven’t updated my list of recommended titles in a long time.

Not all of these neatly fit the narrative medicine bill, but they are all about the human experience of illness in some way or another, and all are fascinating:

Carl Elliott’s Better Than Well: American Medicine Meets the American Dream: a really interesting philosophical look at not just cosmetic surgery but the whole idea of the self we present to society and the society that passes judgment on the physical self.

Roy Porter’s Blood and Guts: A Short History of Medicine: I love everything I’ve read by Roy Porter, including his 800-page The Greatest Benefit to Mankind: A Medical History of Humanity. This slim volume packs a ton of information on medicine throughout the ages in a compelling, easily digested way.

David Rothman’s Strangers at the Bedside: A History of How Law and Bioethics Transformed Medical Decision Making: So this one is a bit more dense and scholarly than others, but it is a great read. For me, it helped me contextualize post-World War II medicine and the development of modern clinical trials, research, and patient rights. I have a much better grasp of current ethical situations and challenges now that I have historical context.

Dorothy Wall’s Encounters With the Invisible: Unseen Illness, Controversy, and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: Wall does a skillful job blending personal experience and anecdotal reflection on living with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome with extensive research and interviews on the political and scientific controversies around naming, diagnosing, and managing the condition.

I’m always interested in new titles, so feel free to add your own suggestions to this list.


RA Guy said...

Thanks for sharing this list of books.

I took a class on The History of Disease while in college (way back before I knew how personal this issue would become.) I am still bummed that I tossed the syllabus, but as I organized my home library recently I was able to piece some parts together.

This was just part of our reading list:
Illness as Metaphor, Susan Sontag
The Female Malady, Elaine Showalter
Strangers at the Bedside, David J. Rothman
Bad Blood: The Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment, James H. Jones

Helen said...

Roy Porter's work is so fascinating. I worked on an archival/museum exhibit on the Dr.-Patient relationship throughout history and found him an invaluable source.

Thanks for this list; the others look really interesting.

Anonymous said...

These are great suggestions. I hope it's okay to suggest a shameless plug for my own, self-published book, Nickie's Nook: Sharing the Journey. It's not academic in nature, it's more my personal story with reflections on society, literature and other college-related topics.

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