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Atul Gawande
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4.19  ·  Rating Details ·  18,101 Ratings  ·  1,529 Reviews
The New York Times bestselling author of Complications examines, in riveting accounts of medical failure and triumph, how success is achieved in a complex and risk-filled profession

The struggle to perform well is universal: each one of us faces fatigue, limited resources, and imperfect abilities in whatever we do. But nowhere is this drive to do better more important than

Paperback, 0 pages
Published December 10th 2010 by Daedalus (first published 2007)
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I have had a lot of doctors in my life. The best one I ever had was the surgeon who failed. Before I went under, he told me it would take about 2 hours and had an 85% success rate. When I woke up, nearly five hours had passed, I was in far more pain than I had been led to expect, and he was waiting to tell me that I was in the 15%, that he hadn’t saved my eye, and that he would be ready to talk to me as soon as I was back on my feet.

When he retired several years later, I wrote him a thank you no
David Singerman
Not nearly as good as his first, in a number of ways.

What made Complications so exhilarating was that we were learning about being a doctor just as Gawande was learning about being a doctor. Literally: he wrote most of those essays while still a resident. The humility this brought to Gawande's essays makes all the difference. We were forced to consider the ethical implications of a healthcare system that has to deploy inexperienced doctors so that they can be trained and become better doctors.
Jun 12, 2016 Jim rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is my 4th book by Gawande. It's good, very similar to most of the rest. His best so far has been Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End, but the rest are well worth listening to. I'm listing the TOC below & will try to note anything of significant interest. It's all interesting, though.

Introduction Doctors are human, but are held to very high standards & often fail to meet them. No surprises.

-- pt. 1.
Diligence - Keep on trying to do everything exactly right.
On washing
The science of performance - doing things better and smarter. Gawande applies this directly to medicine and public health as he shares stories of health care around the globe - I particular liked his history of cystic fibrosis treatment, and the continued work on eradicating polio in southeast Asia and the subcontinent.

The afterword on 'postitive deviance' was quite good and can be applied widely.

While not the same gravitas as 'Being Mortal', this book solidifies Gawande's place as an importan
Nov 07, 2008 Robert rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"Better" collects surgeon Atul Gawande's recent essays on medicine in three categories--Diligence, Doing Right, and Ingenuity. Each essay, on topics as diverse as washing hands to minimize infections in hospitals and doctors participating in executions, is a marvel of case study and comparative assessment, shifting back and forth between the particular and the general.

The simplicity and directness of Gawande's prose mirrors his mode of thought: always looking for the basic truth, the underlying
Jan 12, 2017 Jeanette rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Excellent. He writes well.

This covers several subjects that are core to current medicine as it is presently practiced. Ones which are RARELY discussed. Like when are 3rd parties as witness in the room during exams deemed mandatory. This varies with extreme difference for culture nuance or governmental law. England has different practice for this as common, for instance. And the paper drape issue!!

There are several subjects of doctor experience now/ then and how change in medical practices occur.
Dec 02, 2008 Gail rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
If I had to pick just one of Gawande's books to read, it would be Complications. But this is still a great collection of stories on fascinating fields of and issues related to medicine.

What I admire so much about Gawande is his ability to wrap his analytical mind so effortlessly around storytelling. His writing is conversational, straightforward and thoughtful. Medicine isn't a topic that would necessarily appeal to me, but with Gawande at the helm, it's fascinating.

In this book, his stories inc
Petra Eggs
The first chapter of this book was on the effect that hand-washing has on infection rates of MRSA and VRE in hospitals. It was fascinating! I never thought I would find twenty pages on hand-washing so engrossing - I have high hopes for this book!

The book got better and better. Proper review will be forthcoming, definitely. But when?
Feb 06, 2017 sanny rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to sanny by: Petra's review
Motivational and practical, sans self-help spiel.

Dr Gawande writes with a measured voice, but his curiosity and enthusiasm to basically be the best you can be at what you do is infectious.

Regardless of your vocation or even during your vacations, his tips should be applicable for a more positive and fulfilling experience, and hopefully, results. Not every section interested me equally (I was most drawn in by the Ingenuity section). But then I came to realise that the section which didn't fascina
Sep 23, 2007 Cassie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: doctors, patients, politicians
I really like Gawande's writing style, and for the most part feel like he gives a very rational, nuanced look at medical care in the US. The only exception to this is the essay "The Score." Although his main point in this essay, that a concrete, replicable measurement of baby health led to great improvements in infant mortality in the US, is well-taken, his description of the history of obstetric care and the near inevitability of an increasing c-section rate in the US is shockingly uninformed. ...more
Oh, I wanted this to be great! Alas, only part of it is. To wit: Gawande’s umbrella themes dominate the book, but they are a distraction from his best conclusions, which are tucked quietly in the afterword.

In his introduction, Gawande asks, “What does it take to be good at something in which failure can be so easy, so effortless?”—and even though he says, “This is a book about performance in medicine,” the question applies not just to medical practitioners. All of us can ask the same question ab
Jul 30, 2012 Michael rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Takes the reader comfortably into the world of medicine's challenges under the theme of how efforts to improve performance can save a lot of lives. Like the good chef he proved to be in his earlier set of essays on his experience as a surgical resident, , "Complications", he again makes tasty and nutritious dishes out of a wide variety of ingredients. How has public health gotten so close to eradicating smallpox? How has the casualty death rate for American military medicine gone from about 20% ...more
Oct 25, 2008 Patricia rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Atul Gwande's Better: A Surgeon's Notes on Performance is a collection of essays that probe skillfully and poignantly into the depths of medical ethics and the performance of doctors. He is a fine researcher and an astute observer who carefully delineates many facets of each issue that he explores, be it washing hands, malpractice concerns, or the Apgar score.

As a non-fiction writer, I was acutely aware of how adept Gawande is at using narrative to illustrate and discuss complex moral and ethica
Jun 14, 2008 Rebecca rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone interested in the medical profession, people who like the New Yorker
Shelves: essays, non-fiction
This is a great book. From it's title, I thought it was about how doctors figure out how to make their patients better. But instead, it is about how the medical profession makes itself and its performance better. Gawande classifies the methods he sees in several ways. First, there is diligence, doing right, and ingenuity. He explores these ideals while discussing the campaign to get doctors and nurses to wash their hands in hospitals, improving the field of obstetrics, saving the lives of more a ...more
Daria Marshall
This is the first book I've read from Dr. Gawande and it made me so excited to read the rest of them. The fact that he kept me engaged in an essay about hand-washing says a lot about his power as a writer. Despite the fact that he is writing about the medical world, Dr. Gawande manages to keep an almost conversational tone and manages to explain conditions in such ways that those who are not in the medical field can understand. I hope that one day I am able to do the same in my practice as a nur ...more
Dec 28, 2016 Asmara rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As a student of medicine, your appreciation of the years of research and clinical diligence that go into making those bulky textbooks is infinitesimal-- those books are meant to be rote memorized in time for a plethora of examinations, damn it! Dawdling to appreciate them means losing time to do assignments on them! Gotta study, gotta study, gotta study!

It is exactly this mind-set as a student which makes us we miss actual gems like Atul Gawande's 'Better: A Surgeon's Notes on Performance'-- may
Kara Larson
Aug 19, 2012 Kara Larson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: medical
I thoroughly enjoyed this book on performance in the medical field. Dr Gawande writes in 3 sections: Diligence, Doing Right, and Ingenuity, covering performance improvements and their history all the way from irradiation of Polio in India to war-time strategies for combat medicine in Afghanistan to CF clinics in the USA. In each chapter he looks at the history of medicine and how the process and the people improve. Dr. Gawande writes, "Arriving at meaningful solutions is an inevitably slow and d ...more
Giancarlo Buonomo
I had previously read Atul Gawandes first book, "Complications", and I must say that "Better" was at least its equal, if not superior. The two books have slightly different focuses. Complications is more about the "gray" areas of medicine, fields and procedures where things sometimes go mysteriously wrong and doctors are forced to improvise. "Better" feels like an obvious sequel, because Gawande seems intent on making some of the errors he talked about in his first book nonexistent.Many of the c ...more
Stefan Kanev
Nov 06, 2011 Stefan Kanev rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was great!

It's hard to pinpoint what exactly Gawande is writing about. He is telling stories in medicine, he is exploring ways to improve performance and he is tackling hairy issues like malpractice lawsuits, doctors participating in executions, the state of care in idea and various other things. It was insightful to compare his view of the contemporary world of medicine and my view of the contemporary world of software development. There are some interesting similarities and many inte
Mar 08, 2013 Ahmed rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Although I enjoyed "Complications" more, because it reached out to me on a personal level, "Better" isn't any less of a masterpiece. In dire times-during my final year of med school, when the need to do better is of paramount importance, I found this book very useful and extremely inspiring. The tales in this book were thought provoking and motivating to say the least. Even though I think it is aimed more at bettering the healthcare system and is addressed to practicing physicians, I found it fu ...more
Jun 26, 2007 Sanjay rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
With 'Complications', Boston-based surgeon and New Yorker writer Atul Gawande joined the ranks of Doctors Who Can Write. (Speaking of which, whatever happened to Abraham Verghese?)

In his next work, 'Better', Gawande continues his Montaigne-like ruminations on his profession. The essays here are centred on the theme of improving medical performance, and the book is structured around the three ways to do this: diligence, doing right and ingenuity.

In prose that’s limpid and affecting, Gawande walks
Sep 06, 2012 Heather rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I pretty much adore this author. He writes so clearly and about things really worth thinking about. In this book he examines how we go about trying to improve what we do. He writes about it from a medical perspective, but it relates to so many things we do in our lives. My favorite part was actually the afterword, in which he writes 5 suggestions for "becoming a positive deviant" (a phrase I loved). For your convenience, and because I want to remember them, I'll summarize those ideas very quickl ...more
Aug 07, 2016 Kristin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The ending saved this book from three stars and pushed it into the four star range. Dr. Atul Gawande writes beautifully, and I have thoroughly enjoyed two of his other books. The topics in this book were not as interesting to me as his other books, or hard to stomach (I'll be honest, I skimmed over the details of childbirth- my stomach couldn't quite handle it). But his 5 suggestions for improving your performance to be one of the top in your field are valuable for anyone, and his reasoning behi ...more
Oct 25, 2008 Jan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If Atul Gawande were a cobbler, he'd be writing for the New Yorker about how to make a better shoe. That's because Gawande is a storyteller and a craftsman. His essays appear deceptively simple and ingenuous, but it takes a great deal of art and craft to make them that way. No matter how earnest and idealistic a physician he may seem, he is actually a writer's writer.

That said, as a physician who left the profession, I am buoyed and reassured by Gawande's insights and exhortations. He gives me h
Abdulaziz Albabtain
Jul 29, 2013 Abdulaziz Albabtain rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
If I had any say in the matter, I'd add this book to every single medical school curriculum in the world.
There is no book with a title that truly reflects it's content like "Better". If answers some very simple yet fundamental questions every physician needs to ask himself.
How can I be the best physician I can become? What are the best ways to get the best out of everybody in a healthcare team? How to turn my patient into an ally fighting on the same enemy instead of simply being someone I am t
Aug 16, 2011 Harriet rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A thoughtful, unshowy, effective look at some of the conundrums at the heart of modern medicine, from a surgeon's point of view. Gawande uses stories to highlight some of the issues he considers, and leaves the reader to make up her or his own mind. I love Gawande's clear, simple writing, which belies a powerful voice at work.
Lisa Bacque
Feb 05, 2017 Lisa Bacque rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Atul Gawande is a spectacular author with incredible insight. I would definitely recommend this book (and his others!) to everyone - medical and non-medical backgrounds alike!
Indah Threez Lestari
922nd - 2011

Aug 03, 2016 Sophie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2016
3.5/5 stars
Mar 05, 2017 Kristen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, medicine
Four stars only because this is the last of Dr Gawande's currently published works I've read, and I think his others are stronger. The first and last sections, on diligence and ingenuity respectively, struck me most. It may seem mundane that by asking questions, trying something new, or counting things we could have any impact at all. But what if the banality of these tactics is exactly what makes them exhilarating? What if I don't need to rework the US insurance system, develops way to restore ...more
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December 2016 Book 1 2 Nov 18, 2016 12:27PM  
  • How Doctors Think
  • Final Exam: A Surgeon's Reflections on Mortality
  • Hot Lights, Cold Steel: Life, Death and Sleepless Nights in a Surgeon's First Years
  • Intern: A Doctor's Initiation
  • The Intern Blues: The Timeless Classic About the Making of a Doctor
  • When the Air Hits Your Brain: Tales of Neurosurgery
  • Every Patient Tells a Story: Medical Mysteries and the Art of Diagnosis
  • On Call: A Doctor's Days and Nights in Residency
  • Singular Intimacies: Becoming a Doctor at Bellevue
  • Another Day in the Frontal Lobe: A Brain Surgeon Exposes Life on the Inside
  • Something for the Pain: Compassion and Burnout in the ER
  • White Coat: Becoming A Doctor At Harvard Medical School
  • Walk on Water: The Miracle of Saving Children's Lives
  • Becoming a Doctor: A Journey of Initiation in Medical School
  • This Won't Hurt a Bit: (And Other White Lies): My Education in Medicine and Motherhood
  • Bedside Manners: One Doctor's Reflections on the Oddly Intimate Encounters Between Patient and Healer
  • Overtreated: Why Too Much Medicine Is Making Us Sicker and Poorer
  • What I Learned in Medical School: Personal Stories of Young Doctors
Atul Gawande is author of three bestselling books: Complications, a finalist for the National Book Award; Better, selected by as one of the ten best books of 2007; and The Checklist Manifesto. His latest book is Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End.

He is also a surgeon at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, a staff writer for The New Yorker, and a professor at Harvard
More about Atul Gawande...

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“Better is possible. It does not take genius. It takes diligence. It takes moral clarity. It takes ingenuity. And above all, it takes a willingness to try.” 120 likes
“We always hope for the easy fix: the one simple change that will erase a problem in a stroke. But few things in life work this way. Instead, success requires making a hundred small steps go right - one after the other, no slipups, no goofs, everyone pitching in.” 71 likes
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