Friday, May 15, 2015

Summer reading

My diary and my reading list -- slightly more aesthetically pleasing than just a page ripped out of a steno pad.

I've had the last of my final exams and am one paper away from being free to have my life consumed by medical school apps. This means the beginning of a summer of recreational reading!

Recreational reading is a term that I've come to like a lot. I don't get to do it at all during the academic year, which is unfortunate. And when I do get a chance, it's often during breaks where I reread my favorites and never pick up something new.

This is the MD app summer, so it's only appropriate that I stuff my list with meducational things. Meducational in this context refers to my immersion in the ethical, practice-of-medicine-oriented side of medicine, the life behind the career that I hope to enter. Basically, I want the non-technical side.

Summer Reading 2015
  1. The Once and Future King -- T.H. White
  2. The House of God -- Samuel Shem
  3. The Emperor of all Maladies -- Siddhartha Mukherjee
  4. The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down -- Anne Fadiman
Going down the list, then. The Once and Future King is one of my favorite, moral compass-orienting novels that (grandiosely) helped define my personal sense of ethics and the human condition. High-faluting statement aside, I read TOaFK at a vulnerable, malleable time in my life. It was the beginning of the summer between my freshman and sophomore years of college, my first summer living in my apartment, my first summer at the clinic, my first summer in the lab. I had come out of a semester that academically beat me down and left me questioning who the hell I was and what the hell I wanted to make of my life. The Once and Future King is a whimsical, acutely self-aware novelization of the rise and fall of King Arthur and Camelot. It's difficult to read it as only a swords-and-sorcery fantasy novel alone or a handbook on the human condition, on 'might' and 'right' and the ethical challenge of leadership by fiat and leadership by example, and a whole lot of other things. Regardless of whether it has a place in the Arthurian canon or not (well...) it certainly forms an integral portion of my own ethical canon. I  read it summer 2013, summer 2014, and will do so for as long as I can.

The House of God is the infamous creature that apparently is required reading for all bright young things interested in becoming a physician. I haven't read it yet, but I do like gallows humor and have some measure of interest in the crass and abrasive golden age of medicine. Also, I liked Scrubs.

The Emperor of all Maladies won a Pulitzer prize, and I remember it being all over the public library in my hometown when it came out. Not terribly interested in oncology, but medical anthropology seems to be something I'm getting interested in.

The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: a Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures wears many hats. On one hand, it's a biography of the cultural clashes between Hmong immigrants and the relentlessly bureaucratic (but well-intentioned) healthcare system of the US. On the other, it's a handbook on the ethnography, anthropology, and history of the Hmong in southeast Asia and the Hmong in the US. It's a manifesto for cultural competency and humility in the medical systems of this country, and a cry for compassion and empathy and open-mindedness. It's required reading for anthropology students here and there, and the incoming class of the Yale School of Medicine.

I'll add to this list as I finish books. I'm probably going to limit myself on the meducating and gorge myself silly on A Song of Ice and Fire as I've done these past two summers (MCAT summer included).

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