Thursday, December 20, 2018

My favorite public health and health care books of 2018

For the fourth year running, here is a list of the top 10 health-related books I read, ordered alphabetically. Although most were published within the past year, a few older books made it in as well. If you have already read these, feel free to peruse my lists from 2017, 2016, and 2015 for other worthwhile health and medicine reads for the holidays.


1. Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup, by John Carreyrou

What amazed me about this sordid tale wasn't the degree of corporate malfeasance involved, but how a charismatic college dropout managed to dupe so many investors and reporters (except for the author, notably) for so long.

2. Called for Life: How Loving Our Neighbor Led Us Into the Heart of the Ebola Epidemic, by Kent Brantly

Although there have been many excellent profiles of Dr. Brantly, a Texas family physician who survived an infection with Ebola virus during the 2014 outbreak in Liberia, nothing compares to hearing the story in his own words.

3. The Comeback: Greg LeMond, the True King of American Cycling, and a Legendary Tour de France, by Daniel de Vise

Though you'll likely find this biography in the sports section of your local bookstore, it is as much about medicine as cycling: LeMond's remarkable recovery from a nearly fatal hunting accident, as well as the pharmaceutical doping practices that spread through the rest of the peloton in the early 1990s and led to his premature retirement from the sport.

4. The Fears of the Rich, The Needs of the Poor: My Years at the CDC, by William Foege

The compelling memoir of a public health legend who tacked infectious disease threats from Legionnaires disease to smallpox.

5. The Fever: How Malaria Has Ruled Humankind for 500,000 Years, by Sonia Shah

What is by far the deadliest creature in human history? The mosquito.

6. In Shock: My Journey From Death to Recovery and the Redemptive Power of Hope, by Rana Awdish

A critical care doctor became a critical care patient, and after multiple near-death experiences emerged on the other side a more compassionate and capable physician.

7. Next in Line: Lowered Care Expectations in the Era of Retail and Value-based Health, by Timothy Hoff

A management professor explores, through patient and physician interviews, how efforts to standardize and improve primary care quality have instead created an environment that is toxic to the therapeutic relationships that make family medicine effective in the first place.

8. The Public Health Crisis Survival Guide, by Joshua Sharfstein

Dr. Sharfstein, currently Vice Dean and director of the Bloomberg American Health Initiative at Johns Hopkins University (where I earned my Master of Public Health degree), relates war stories and lessons learned from his days as a city, state, and federal health official.

9. Surgeon General's Warning: How Politics Crippled the Nation's Doctor, by Mike Stobbe

As this book illustrates, past U.S. Surgeon Generals have struggled with the high-profile but low-authority nature of the position and the political considerations that shadowed their every public utterance. I'm a fan of the current SG, Dr. Jerome Adams, whose recent declaration that teenage vaping has now reached "epidemic" proportions reminded me of his predecessor, Dr. C. Everett Koop.

10. What the Eyes Don't See: A Story of Crisis, Resistance, and Hope in an American City, by Mona Hanna-Attisha

Dr. Hanna-Attisha's crusade to protect the children of Flint, Michigan from lead-poisoned drinking water represented a rare triumph of the disenfranchised over racial and social injustices. Her family's interweaved immigration story serves as a reminder of what America stands to lose from policies that seek to close our borders.