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Medic's 2017 summer reading list

Summer Reading 2017 Blog

August 30, 2017

Posted by: Alix Emden

As a continuation of a blog series started last summer, here’s what the Medic team is reading. If you're looking for one last summer read, pick up one of these and let us know what you think!

Sapiens, A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari

"The book spans all of human history from how our species, Homo Sapiens, survived while other human species didn't, to how our species thrived during the Cognitive, Agricultural and Scientific Revolutions and how money, empire and religion have shaped our societies and cultures down to the present day. Harari synthesizes extensive amounts of research and delivers it masterfully through his rich storytelling. An exciting read that challenges some of our most basic beliefs about ourselves and the world we live in!"

- Shreya Bhatt

Doctors at War: Life and Death in a Field Hospital by Mark de Rond 

“I pursued PhD studies under Mark de Rond while he was writing Doctors at War, a vivid ethnography of the world's bloodiest hospital: Camp Bastion in Afghanistan. Camp Bastion also has a reputation for being the world's most stressful trauma unit, making it a fascinating case for Mark's series of studies with high performance teams. While his scholarly article based on this fieldwork won the highest international award for management research in 2016, the book is an impressionistic account of war that will interest a wider audience. Just short of 20,000 casualties were admitted to Camp Bastion between April 2006 and July 2013 and 96% survived their stay. As I read of stitching up children, amputating legs and mopping up gummy puddles with almost hum drum regularity, not to mention the grimly unequal treatment of soldiers and local bystanders, I wanted to call this an unflinching account. Yet de Rond clearly does flinch, grimace and confess a great deal of soul searching as he observes the horrors of war in the ethnographic way--by participating in them. He reflects on the surreality of staying sane through familiar rituals like pancake breakfast, cynical humor, bureaucratic irony, the creeping power of boredom and the reach of ego in a place of suffering. In the process we learn about the production of post traumatic stress disorder and the underbelly of modern medicine's greatest miracles.”

- Isaac Holeman

Ghachar Ghochar by Vivek Shanbhag

"A slim novel about a family in Bangalore (in southern India), originally written in Kannada and translated to English recently. Shanbhag has been called India's Chekhov, and the comparison is apt in content as well as style. The book does a remarkable job at depicting the Indian family, its inner dynamics, and how those are upended when someone new enters the fold. Scenes and sentences are incredibly rendered, at once precise and managing to hold entire worlds of meaning and suggestion. I can't do a better job of describing it than Parul Seghal at the NYT book review, who said, "This spiny, scary story of moral decline, crisply plotted and no thicker than my thumb, has been heralded as the finest Indian novel in a decade, notable for a book in bhasha, one of India’s vernacular languages... Folded into the compressed, densely psychological portrait of this family is a whole universe: a parable of rising India, an indictment of domestic violence, a taxonomy of ants and a sly commentary on translation itself."

- Jill Shah

The Concubine by Elechi Amadi

“You will fall in love with Ihuoma and then cry for her in this tale based in Igbo land, before colonial times, and weaves spirit world woes, love, hope and curses all in one. Published in 1966, it is a classic.”

- Mercy Simiyu

Clair de Femme by Romain Gary

"A story of love and broken people, refusing to bow down to the senseless cruelty of life and pain. It sometimes reads like a long poem or dream-rant, trying to express in words what it's like to be a human in suffering. For Romain Gary, the answer and meaning is in loving furiously, and celebrating the couple as the only construction that makes sense for an individual."

- Estelle Comment  

Dress your Family in Corduroy and Denim by David Sedaris

“It's a humorous account of his time growing up and his hilarious relationship with the rest of his family. It's an entertaining read, though I've been taking it quite slow.”

- Samuel Mbuthia

Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah

“This book is essentially stories from Trevor's upbringing under apartheid in South Africa. It goes through his coming of age in an era when the union between his black mother and white father was illegal. He also celebrates his mother's strength and fearlessness throughout the book. I would recommend this book especially in today's controversial political environment. This book helps us understand growing up in the apartheid era using funny stories without losing the gravity of hardship.”

- Joyanne Muthee

Being Mortal : Illness, Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande

"Had you noticed that in developed countries, people almost always die in the medical world? Atul Gawande looks at how we die, and how both patients and doctors deal with it (or more often, are unable to deal with it). Whether it's a slow decline in a nursing home or a surprise cancer attack, we mostly haven't planned the way we're doing things, as a society and as individuals. My conclusion is that we're doing dying all wrong! But Gawande also shares that concepts of what a good death is are changing. It's fascinating and encouraging."

- Estelle Comment

Find Me Unafraid: Love, Loss and Hope in an African Slum by Jessica Posner and Kennedy Odede

"When people ask why I see global health as a social movement, in addition to being a scientific topic and a field of technical practice, I often share the story of Jess and Kennedy. I met this dynamic couple through the Echoing Green Fellowship in 2010 and they introduced themselves as business partners, co-founders of a school for girls in Africa's largest slum. I was among the last in our fellowship to catch wind of their romance, but gladly I came to know them better in the following years because the Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO) office in the Kibera slum is nearby Medic Mobile's Nairobi office. Their gripping autobiography reveals that SHOFCO is far more than an organization. It's a love story that interweaves two remarkable human beings, the movement they sparked and the institution borne of this movement. Technical experts will discover subtle yet insightful commentary on the gendered dynamics of poverty, the entanglement of economic development, poor health and violence and the relevance of holistic community-led development (in contrast with narrow technical fixes). But ultimately this frank and disarming account is about the lived experience of people who face harrowing ordeals with imagination, humanity and courage."

- Isaac Holeman

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