As I get older, I have begun reading more about health and wellness. So it’s no surprise that I felt it makes sense to add this category to my Bookshelf. I’m sure it’s going to grow as I pay more attention to these matters.
Bill Bryson. The Body: A Guide for Occupants. New York: Doubleday, 2019.
This is a highly intelligent, comprehensive tour of, well, us, our bodies. Bryson has gone far and wide to find experts on all aspects of our bodies, and in his entertaining yet informed fashion reviews almost everything. We are an extremely complicated physical entity, and I must say I’m impressed that it mostly works at all. He does cover the successes and failures of our body to adapt to the world we live in. And it’s very up-to-date, as many of the experts he consulted were interviewed in just the last few years. One constant theme is how many mysteries about us remain. We often don’t know why things are the way they are. And many of the things wrong with us — diseases, allergies, etc. — are still not understood. He’s also good about disabusing us of myths and other misunderstandings. It’s classic Bryson at his best.
Atul Gawande. Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End. New York: Metropolitan Books, 2014.
This book is all about the end of life, and how the usual medical approaches mismatch what is best for the patient. Doctors are trained to do everything they can to try to keep a patient alive. Therefore, patients who have a terminal illness often get relentless tests and other, often terrible treatments. Instead, they should work with their doctor to achieve what is most important to them in their final days. And, surprisingly, often when this is done, say, through hospice care, the patent actually lives longer, and in any case, is much happier. He illustrates this with numerous examples, probably the most telling is that of his own father. This is a book that all of us elderly should read, and work with our medical folks to achieve the kind of results he advocates.