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Anatomy of a Kidnapping: A Doctor's Story

3.60  ·  Rating Details  ·  136 Ratings  ·  31 Reviews
Four hours. That was the amount of time between looking down the barrel of a gun and finding myself free along a silent highway lined by cotton fields. In the time period that seemed eternal, my unique experiences as a doctor created an indescribable bond between myself and my captor. I looked upon the situation just as I looked upon a medical emergency: I took a deep brea ...more
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published September 1st 2011 by Texas Tech University Press
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Community Reviews

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Alina Puig
Jul 18, 2011 Alina Puig rated it it was amazing
This is an excellent book. It recounts the life and journey of the author culminating with his kidnapping. I couldn’t put it down and I read it cover to cover in one sitting. I loved the intertwining of the early days of a physician’s career, the challenges and choices one faces during training, the wisdom of the “old master” William Osler and the unexpected twists and turns that follow this real life kidnapping. I loved this book and I think you will too.
Megan Franks
May 08, 2012 Megan Franks rated it it was ok
Strangely, I didn't love this book, but for some reason, I still wanted to keep reading it. Perhaps it was the fact that the event happened in my corner of the world or that the author included side trips down medical memory lane that kept me reading. Overall, I felt like the author needed to add a drop of humility to his stories. Even if he didn't mean to sound arrogant about his achievements, he sounded a bit too smug about all that he had done.
Nov 02, 2011 Kara rated it it was amazing
Shelves: first-reads, science
I really enjoyed reading this book. I couldn’t put it down! Dr. Berk worte about his abduction and other very interesting stories from practicing medicine. This book is a must read for anyone going into medicine and indiviuals who are practicing. I highly recommend this book to anyone! Also, I won this from the GoodReads giveaways and I am so glad that I did! Thanks!
Rock Angel
----- [after i quit]
A solid 1.5 stars.

I can't say i like his style. The intertwining threads of his kidnapping & medical nattering don't really mesh well, the latter constantly breaking up the momentum of the crime & wandering into aimless digressions. Some of those anecdotes are good (esp the last 2 in the "mistakes" chapter) but I wish he wud just stay focused.

By p.88, i was sure the doc had a narcissistic personality disorder (what with his showmanship & his abundant self delusion
Janet Jensen
Nov 06, 2012 Janet Jensen rated it it was amazing
Anatomy of a Kidnapping; A Doctor's Story is a perfect title for this book, as its author, Steven L. Berk is a physician who responded to the events of March 6, 2005, with the instincts and skills he had honed in his many years of practicing medicine. On that day, an armed man entered his home, took him captive, and forced him into a white van. For four hours, Dr. Berk dealt with a meth-addicted felon with a history of violence who was looking for money to score more drugs.

Although the defense
Mahala Church
Oct 20, 2015 Mahala Church rated it really liked it
A captivating read, Anatomy of a Kidnapping is principally the story of a man—his successes, failures, fears, joys, parenting, and marriage. Steven Berk endured the horrors of a violent crime and participated in the subsequent trial of his kidnapper. Without his background experiences, understanding the choices Berk makes over the course of the kidnapping would be impossible. Interspersed with stories from Berk’s life that move the book beyond the events of the kidnapping, Berk shares insights i ...more
Jun 20, 2015 Laura rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir, family, true-crime
Berk begins the fascinating account of his own kidnapping with the theory of why the agitated gun toting kidnapper did not kill him. He feels his medical history and time he spent with patients and in hospitals may have given him some tools to fall back on when he faced death at the hands of an unstable, drug addicted man. He mentions this in an almost casual way, not in arrogance, but more puzzlement. He is thankful for living through his ordeal, but doesn’t have any doubts that it could have g ...more
Nov 24, 2011 Cheri rated it it was amazing
Three cheers for a talented local(!) author. You have inspired me Dr. Berk, thank you for sharing.
Stu Mcintire
Jul 31, 2011 Stu Mcintire rated it it was amazing
Dr. Steven Berk, M.D., has written a fascinating account of the 2005 kidnapping from his home in Amarillo, by embedding the narrative of that incident in episodes from his medical training and career, his family life, and trial transcripts that inform and expand effectively on the events of that day as it unfolds. My entire career has been on the periphery of physicians at work, and if you find them to be an endlessly interesting subpopulation, as I do, I recommend this book. Like many physician ...more
Jul 21, 2011 Julia rated it it was amazing
Anatomy of a Kidnapping is a unique reflection on what it means to be a physician. Dr. Berk weaves together the suspenseful story of his abduction with other fascinating stories from a lifetime of practicing medicine.

From his time as a medical student on an Indian Reservation in Arizona, to his residency in inner city Boston, to his early career as a doctor and educator in East Tennessee, Berk shares stories that provide memorable insight into the humor, the tragedy, and the humanity that shapes
Stephen Fritz
Sep 02, 2011 Stephen Fritz rated it it was amazing
This is an exceptional read. An incredible story of how an ordinary day goes completely wrong when a violent criminal finds totally by chance an open garage door and his next victim. The editing and storytelling are exceptional, moving from moments of the crime scene, court room testimony, and the life of Dr. Berk. The reader will discover that the old expression (or some similar variation) that: "impending death tends to focus one's mind." Well, it is true. From Dr. Berk we learn that lifestyle ...more
Jul 09, 2012 McGinty rated it it was ok
Some reviewers of Anatomy of a Kidnapping: A Doctor's Story regard it as good "required reading" for incoming medical school classes. I will tolerate their suggestion, as each chapter successfully teaches discrete and important lessons for young doctors. However, when compared against more experienced writers, Dr. Berk comes across as a physician first, writer second (possibly third or fourth). He has a bad habit of telling instead of showing, a phenomenon inhibiting the reader from truly exper ...more
Jun 16, 2013 Lois rated it it was amazing
This heroic account of one man’s survival of a kidnapping due to his ability to draw on the power of aquanimitas, the ability to stay calm and rational even under conditions of extreme duress, should serve as a motivational text for all those who are at risk of such an event happening either to themselves or to someone whom they know. Dr. Steven L. Berk’s Anatomy of a Kidnapping: A Doctor’s Story gains both from a sense of immediacy, as he relates every step of the kidnapping from start to finis ...more
Mar 01, 2012 Patty rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Steven Berk, M.D., I believe, is the type of physician that you would like to consult with when you or a loved one needs the honesty, experience, respect and calmness that all doctors should strive for besides medical knowledge.

Looking back from the moment that he was threatened in his home by a man with a shotgun until he is finally back home with his family he realizes that it is his training as a physician that helped him make the many decisions and choices that he was forced to make. The re
Aug 30, 2012 Beth rated it liked it
This book was loaned to me by a friend whose daughter is entering medical school. Dr Steven Berk, the author, spoke to their class at their white coat ceremony. He tells the story of being kidnapped from his home at gunpoint and held for several hours by a drug-addicted felon. Dr Berk credits his survival to the principle of aequanimitas: the ability to maintain calmness and coolness during difficult circumstances. Aequanimitas is the focus of a famous essay by Sir William Osler, known as one of ...more
May 09, 2014 Cathy rated it really liked it
This was a really good book. Non fiction. "True Crime" but I hate that category. Makes it sound like a dimestore read. This book is written by a doctor who was kidnapped in Amarillo in 2005. It is about how his training helped him manage his fear and his captor to a certain degree. All of that is very interesting. This event literally changed his life in many ways, some deeply profound.
Parke Troutman
Jun 20, 2014 Parke Troutman rated it it was ok
I wanted to read this because it was a runner-up in a book design competition and the subject seemed interesting in a random way. It is a neatly designed book. Very smart. The actual story of a kidnapping is in fact fairly short but is considerably padded with the author's reminiscences about becoming a doctor, which doesn't seem to fit in that well.
Aug 02, 2011 Sameer rated it it was amazing
This is an amazing book. I could not put it down, reading it the night I was on call. I stayed up most of the night and I had no regrets the next day. Dr. Berk’s story and insight into medicine and what it means to have “AEQUANIMITAS” had me spellbound and wishing I could embody that persona. As a resident I found his book to be inspiring and Dr. Berk to be a role model for what a true doctor should be. His lessons on keeping his cool under pressure will serve me well in my medical career. I adm ...more
Tom Tenner,jr.
Aug 13, 2011 Tom Tenner,jr. rated it really liked it
I thoroughly enjoyed reading “Anatomy of a Kidnapping” – the recounting of the harrowing hours during which a physician had to use his intellect and understanding of the human psyche to preserve his own life and protect his family from a gun-wielding parolee on the run. The book parallels the event of a kidnapping with a wonderful introspection of a life-time of medical experiences and lessons learned. It reminds all of the unique life a physician is privileged to lead - one that so intimately e ...more
John Jennings
Aug 29, 2011 John Jennings rated it it was amazing
This is an interesting and true account of the random abduction of a physician. The event is discussed in such a way that the reader can understand both the motivation of fear and the thoughtful response under pressure that allowed the physican to interact with his captor and eventually gain his freedom. The book is accentuated by the clever interweaving of recalls of the physician's own past experiences, the history of the abductor, and the facts of legal testimony that provides the reader with ...more
Jan 10, 2012 Lyndsey rated it liked it
A good book, easy to read whether you have any medical background or not. I was slightly annoyed during the first part of the book feeling like I was reading a doctor's brag book. I had been expecting more of an analysis of what went on and a more in depth look of Dr. Berk's thoughts on why crimes like these happen; what makes a person make bad choices vs good choices. However, after the book started getting more focused on the crime, and the doctor's feelings and the impact on him I started to ...more
Jan 17, 2012 Christen rated it liked it
Recommended to Christen by: People Magazine
Shelves: non-fiction
Overall, I enjoyed this book. But I am still having a hard time deciding what to think of it. The author comes across as a very nice, humble, sincere person. But in parts of the story it's hard not to think of him as bragging. The actually story of his kidnapping is interspersed with stories of his life, mainly as a doctor, and he seems to think very highly of himself as a doctor (well-deserved). But it's weird to hear someone talk themselves up so much. But then he tells stories where he failed ...more
Rae M.
I got this through goodread's giveaways! Thanks.

I really, really enjoyed this book, as an aspiring doctor it provides very good insight into the life of Dr. Berk. The kidnapping story itself was also very interesting, a rather strange case if you ask me, so much so it's hard to think that it really happened, though it did.

But I'll still have to say the most interesting part of the whole book was Berk's history and experiences as a doctor a medical student. Highly recommended if you're intereste
Jan 08, 2012 Connie rated it really liked it
Really I think I would give this a 3.5....While I accept Dr. Berk's premise that his training and experience as a doctor definitely enabled him to survive his kidnapping, somehow, in the telling of the story, he himself often seemed not to be totally accepting of some of his responses and actions during this harrowing ordeal. This made me come away from the story feeling that at times he was trying to convince himself more than me as a reader.
Veronica Difranco
May 30, 2013 Veronica Difranco rated it it was amazing
This book was recommended by a friend. It is a great read even for uninitiated. Not a doctor myself I was fascinated by the "victims" ability to think clearly through a terrifying ordeal. The medical stories are impressive giving insight into the training and work of those in the medical profession. I am struck by Dr. Berk's work in communities in dire need of medical care. I am recommending this book to my friends and colleagues.
Dec 11, 2011 Sue rated it liked it
This was a solid memoir of Dr. Berk & his experience. I read it straight through, so it kept me engaged - but I don't think I liked it as much as other reviewers are liking it. The biggest thing I took away from it was what a really kind, gentle, genuine, honest and good human that Dr. Berk is. Those who's lives he's touched are likely better because of it.
Apr 14, 2012 Micaela rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2012, memoir
I actually thought this book was so poorly organized and told that I barely finished it. I didn't care about his sons and what they were doing with their lives; I cared about the kidnapping, which is why I got the book int he first place! Nor did I care much about his long-winded memories of his medical career.
Thomas Bruckman
May 25, 2013 Thomas Bruckman rated it it was amazing
Compelling read. Even more fascinating than the story of Berk's kidnapping are the anecdotes about Berk's experiences as a doctor. A must read for anybody in the medical profession. Raises question on how to react to violent crime. Also documents the compassion and character needed to be a good doctor.
Diane Kelly
Sep 23, 2012 Diane Kelly rated it it was amazing
Incredibly intriguing true tale of a doctor who was kidnapped by a drug addict. The pyschology of how Dr. Berk dealt with his kidnapper and how Berk's medical training helped him through this ordeal makes it a fascinating and unique read.
Apr 16, 2012 Jennifer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I truly believe that all life experience has purpose. this book confirms that for me.
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Steven L. Berk, M.D., is dean of the Texas Tech School of Medicine and provost of Texas Tech Health Sciences Center. As a physician certified in infectious disease and geriatrics, Berk has treated an outstanding diversity of patients in his forty-year medical career.

His upcoming book, Anatomy of a Kidnapping: A Doctor's Story, details how a career as a physician prepared him for the most dangerous
More about Steven L. Berk...

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