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The Anatomy of Hope: How People Prevail in the Face of Illness

3.97  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,191 Ratings  ·  117 Reviews
An inspiring and profoundly enlightening exploration of one doctor’s discovery of how hope can change
the course of illness

Since the time of the ancient Greeks, human beings have believed that hope is essential to life. Now, in this groundbreaking book, Harvard Medical School professor and New Yorker staff writer Jerome Groopman shows us why.

The search for hope is most urge
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published December 23rd 2003 by Random House (first published January 1st 2003)
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Community Reviews

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Feb 10, 2016 Jenny rated it really liked it
From a patient perspective... as someone who interfaces with multiple doctors on a very regular basis, I was pleased to hear, in this book, that Western medicine is heading in a different, better, direction. A direction that incorporates the mind-body connection and the psychology of illness. A more Eastern approach.

I'm a total fan of hope as a tool to "prevail in the face of illness." I'm entirely sold on the concept. What I felt was lacking in this book, however, was how, exactly, to obtain th
Mar 30, 2016 Emily rated it it was amazing
Shelves: md-to-be
"While attending physicians... instructed us about manifestations of diseases and showed us the operative techniques to remedy them, the subjects of hope and despair were not part of our curriculum. Conversations like the one between Dr. Foster and Esther occurred behind closed doors. Students and interns and residents were not privy to the words a doctor used to change a patient's mind and heart...I wish I had learned what Dr. Foster told her and how he was able to break through. He could have ...more
Bonnie Brody
Mar 07, 2012 Bonnie Brody rated it it was amazing
I've read all of Groopman's previous word and ordered this book from Amazon as soon as I heard it was being released. Groopman writes regularly for 'The New Yorker' about medical issues with the focus on his role as a physician and healer. What is remarkable about Dr. Groopman is that he respects every one of his patients and values their uniqueness.

This book explores the role of hope in fighting disease and healing. It discusses the biochemical changes related to hope and the physician's role i
Jul 26, 2007 Emma rated it it was amazing
This is the first Jerome Groopman book I read, and it made me realize that everyone approaches illness differently, and those differences can affect our relationship with doctors and with disease itself. The consideration Jerome Groopman has put into thinking about these relationships is what I think makes him such a compelling advocate for good health care on the individual level. His insight is healpful for anyone, no matter what side of the doctor-patient relationship you are on, but especial ...more
Sep 19, 2015 Kelly rated it really liked it
This book loses a star only because it was a very different sort of book than I expected. I expected it to have more concrete science (studies, etc.) about potential causes of resilience in severe illness. Such data are included in the last chapter, but they seem to be mostly an afterthought. Instead, this book contains mostly Groopman's reflections about patients he has treated in his years as a hemotologist-oncologist and how he learned the importance and nuanced nature of hope. It is philosop ...more
Oct 27, 2015 Heather rated it really liked it
This was a very quick and worthwhile read. Dr. Groopman shares several stories from his medical practice as he learned the role hope has in treating patients with terminal illness. He concludes the book sharing his own experience with chronic pain and explores briefly the medical basis for the placebo effect. Although the final chapters were slightly more technical, I thought they were important and the concepts introduced could have been elaborated through the book rather than just at the end. ...more
Mar 09, 2016 Michelle rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, africa
A doctor's look at anecdotal and scientific evidence for the power of hope. Groopman attempts to define hope and figure out how it works particularly in people struggling with severe illnesses. Applicable to those situations, to be sure, but also of interest to me as a way to consider the power of hope in non-medical but equally challenging circumstances. Groopman is respectful of spiritual dimensions, although he doesn't explore them deeply. I especially liked the ways he defined hope throughou ...more
May 01, 2009 Cynthia rated it did not like it
Having just chatted with the kind woman who rec this book for our club, I can't help but think about why I didn't like this book. There are 3 reasons. The first is the subject matter, the second is the lack of growth on the part of the protagonist, and the third is the deceptive title. The book's subject- people diagnosed with terminal cancer is presented from the doctor's perspective. Because I helped nurse my father through the end of his life, the subject was very close to my heart. It was te ...more
Jan 09, 2008 Mary rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who know illness, especially
The love I have for (most of) this book is largely irrational... (although I suppose I could get all philosophical and point out that love generally is.) Until the last few chapters, it reads almost like a memoir of the author's experiences with hope as a doctor, and (perhaps thanks to the schmaltz-patrol he thanks in the acknowledgments) manages to be genuine as opposed to simply cheesy. It's very grounded in reality - hope does not cure cancer, hope does not stop AIDS - which contributes great ...more
Bookmarks Magazine

Groopman writes with the authority earned from his long career as a hematologist and oncologist, professor at Harvard Medical School, and medical staff writer for The New Yorker. Reviewers contend that this slim volume is useful for people suffering serious illness--and just about everyone else. While at times the case histories seem one-dimensional, they aptly illustrate Groopman's points with sensitivity and insight. Interestingly, Groopman never defines hope in his work. Instead, he shows how

May 22, 2012 Ann rated it really liked it
Groopman tells some amazing stories in this book--about people surviving against tremendous odds--and then considers the physical changes that are possible when people are hopeful. Hope, it seems, both improves the overall, physical outcome (in difficult to quantify ways) and, when the physical outcome isn't improved, improves the overall quality of life. Using his 19 years of back pain as an example of hopelessness, Groopman explores how you can learn to hope, and explains how, over the years, ...more
Jan 23, 2012 Raquel rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction, january
I suppose I started reading this because I've become interested in the connection between our emotional and mental well-being and our physical well-being. I was hoping for some heavy-hitting insights here. But I felt it was mostly profiles of cancer patients and then some very technical scientific research. There was really no elegant tie-together of the two parts of the book.

As someone who recently underwent her own (comparatively minor) health crisis, I can clearly see how crucial hope is to
Apr 19, 2011 Emily rated it liked it
I liked this book pretty well - the things I wanted to hear/learn more about (HOW people prevail in the face of illness) were somewhat limited in scope.

Dr. Groopman is a hematologist/oncologist. So he deals mostly with cancer and HIV, that kind of thing. He discusses the differences he saw in outcomes and experiences according to the different degrees of hope each patient had. He also shared how some patients went from having little hope, to having more hope for a positive outcome. I enjoyed th
May 13, 2016 Andrea rated it really liked it
I picked this book up the morning of the day that would change my life. What I got from it? Hope has two inputs, one from the body and one from the mind. The mind-body connection. We've heard about this many times before, but this time around in order to redefine hope we need to see the connection not as something uncompromisable or impregnable, but quite the opposite. Hope is accepting that things may falter and efforts may not succeed but still persevering without being naive.
Tracie Stokka
Jul 21, 2013 Tracie Stokka rated it really liked it
I read this book years ago, and it still sticks with me. Drawing upon both his experiences as a doctor and as a patient, Groopman makes a convincing argument that the way we think about illness influences our recovery. That said, this book is very different from many of the books in the power-of-positive-thinking genre. What I remember as most poignant was Groopman's own experiences. After suffering the aftermath of an unsuccessful back surgery that greatly incapacitated him, the depth and bread ...more
Feb 19, 2015 Shelli rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone with severe, chronic, or terminal illness (or a loved one with the same)
Shelves: non-fiction
Definitely *not* one of those rah rah, mind over matter self help pseudoscience books, The Anatomy of Hope is a serious scientific survey of research into how expectations affect our ability to overcome injury and illness. Peppered throughout with intimate tales of patients' personal journeys – including the author's own struggle with debilitating back pain – it's an eminently readable and quite touching book.
Mar 13, 2009 Amanda rated it it was amazing
This book was truly inspiring. It was great to read about how people even in the most bleak circumstances somehow keep hope alive. It is written from a doctor's viewpoint... one of the few doctors without an ego. One of the things I remember the most from this book is that a patient told the doctor (Jerome Groopman, the author) a little story about God and Doctors. It goes something like this... "There are all these saints waiting at the pearly gates to get into Heaven. Since thier saints, they ...more
May 30, 2015 Lesley rated it it was amazing
Doctor Groopman chronicles his development as an oncologist and a spiritualist from college years to the present. He cites cases of "terminal" patients, his own medical challenes and the resulting insights that came to define his personal and professional journey. A magnificent and very honest account of the power go hope...
Sep 26, 2008 Barbara rated it really liked it
Because I cannot easily "buy" the feel good, think and be well philosophies which seem so prevalent today, I wanted to see what a doctor had to say. (As a doctor-wannabe, I was also interested.) The author is an oncologist/hematologist who started out, like me, being skeptical of such exhortations and follows his career and understanding through years and fascinating patient stories. I have a much better understanding of the real value of placebos, how morphine works as well as the actual value ...more
Apr 20, 2016 Maria rated it liked it
Enjoyed the stories described in this book about how various people face illness. The book raises some interesting perspectives on how to give hope and maintain hope. However, I found I didn't always agree with the opinions of the writer. Overall, I would recommend it.
Melissa Whittinghill
Dr recounts his experiences of patients' responses to significant diagnosis and the power of hope (or the lack there of). The power of emotions and brain are amazing. I anticipate I will be reflecting for awhile about the cognitive and affective element of hope.
Ann Michael
Feb 20, 2015 Ann Michael rated it really liked it
Less scientific than I expected, this is a thoughtful book that leads the reader wondering about possibilities. Groopman is a good writer, so it's a pleasant read and well-composed. If you want more specific, experimentally-based information, Ledoux or Damasio might be more helpful.
Blake Charlton
Apr 23, 2010 Blake Charlton rated it liked it
the onc cases are described with great detail and sympathy. groopman deserves kudos for examining such nebulous but important subjects has hope and the soul. the prose is precisely written and researched, but at times a bit overly analytic and detached. this same quality of prose in HOW DOCTORS THINK provided excellent analysis of physician error; however, here it made patients and physicians portrayed come off as distant, dry. the pathophysiology is described a very simple level, which may frus ...more
Devin Partlow
Feb 11, 2014 Devin Partlow rated it liked it
Less anecdotes and more evidence! He spends a large majority of the book the story of various patients and at the very end he delves into a possible Biology of Hope. That's the book I wanna read, "The Biology of Hope". lets hear some scientific findings!
Groopman, an experienced physician, explores how patients cope in the face of serious illness and what effect hope has upon such occurrences. His analysis is careful and compassionate, as he draws on real life case studies, which are both fascinating and insightful. The chapter entitled, "The Biology of Hope" was extremely helpful in explaining the science behind the mind and body connection, particularly in the description of the autonomic nervous system and placebo response in clinical trials. ...more
Apr 24, 2016 Grace rated it liked it
3 out of 5 stars. A bit on the despairing side with a few glints of hope. I lost interest about halfway as the book became too emotionally-heavy. This, of course, was expected.
Jul 28, 2015 Manasa rated it really liked it
Well written! Dr. Groopman's experiences touched my heart, and I also learned a bit of the nueroscience behind emotions and how they effect us in our own journeys. Great book.
Sofia Mostardeiro
Oct 08, 2015 Sofia Mostardeiro rated it liked it
Shelves: medicine
I enjoyed very much the first half of the book. The words were fluid, light (even though it talked about serious and sad situations) and the language is slightly different from the second part. I'm not saying I didn't like it, but I didn't feel the same way about it. I found the researches very interesting and I liked the perspective about placebo effect, but this part didn't really catch me.
But one thing a adore about this book is how the author looks to his past actions and says "oh, I should
Jan 25, 2009 Susan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Facing a life-threatening illness can evoke many things, among them fear, courage, and a desire to be as close to friends and family as possible in the challenging times surrounding it. This book gave a perspective of hope that sustained many patients--for living as long as possible with a good quality of life. Messages abound, including that death is a part of life, we are all mortal beings, and that it is so important to find comfort in our last days knowing that God awaits us. Of course, we d ...more
Richard (Rick)
Apr 06, 2012 Richard (Rick) rated it really liked it
This is an interesting book written by a doctor about how the social/emotional aspects of being human affect healing, particularly the positive emotion of hope. The first 3/4 of the book are case studies and narratives about former patients, and then he provides some conclusions. I thought the book was engaging and interesting, but I was left wishing he had gone further in his analysis and discussion. It felt a little bit like the conclusions were too superficial, and not as meaningful as I was ...more
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“... omniscience about life and death is not within a physician's purview. A doctor should never write off a person a priori.” 2 likes
“The cerebral processing of that visceral input as a signal of death was accurate. Without the kinds of therapy that had been developed over the decades, this cancer would have been fatal. Hope, then, is constructed not just from rational deliberation, from the conscious weighing of information; it arises as an amalgam of thought and feeling, the feelings created in part by neural input from the organs and tissues.” 2 likes
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