I'll be honest - I didn't expect to like this book at all. I half hate-read Fizzy McFizz's totally obnoxious blog: A Cartoon Guide to Being a Doctor,...moreI'll be honest - I didn't expect to like this book at all. I half hate-read Fizzy McFizz's totally obnoxious blog: A Cartoon Guide to Being a Doctor, because she is just so self-pitying, especially about residency. I went into this knowing that this was a semi-fictionalized account of Fizzy's intern year and expected the same over the top, self-pitying whining about a pretty normal internship. I've got to say, this was more enjoyable than I expected, and on the nose about many aspects of medical training: it had the intern who always seems to manage to do less work than everyone else (and yet still complains about it), the cruel senior resident who seems to be enjoy being mean and you wonder how she can possibly also be a mom (my equivalent senior resident made me cry when I was an intern...more than once), the way that there is a culture to how to do everything (in my program it's four-colored pens, rather than sticky notes), and how bad things happen only to the nicest patients. Overall, it was kind of fun and not nearly as obnoxious as expected.(less)
This was a truly fantastic -- spare, haunting, starkly illustrated, in turns innocent and worldly -- memoir, depicting the coming of age of a young, I...moreThis was a truly fantastic -- spare, haunting, starkly illustrated, in turns innocent and worldly -- memoir, depicting the coming of age of a young, Iranian girl. Like the best of such memoirs, the author spends equal time on the political and historical events in Iran, the day-to-day life in such a regime and normal childhood experiences.(less)
First off, unlike most of the other reviewers, I've actually never read Memoirs of a Geisha. I picked this up because I've always been curious about g...moreFirst off, unlike most of the other reviewers, I've actually never read Memoirs of a Geisha. I picked this up because I've always been curious about geishas and I have a love of memoirs.
I found Mineko's writing immediately engaging -- I think her skill as a geisha really comes out in the way she writes. Her words are precise, but captivating and she really captures the emotional tone of a scene.
Mineko's life is fascinating and otherworldly. She presents snippets of her life, leaving the reader to fill in details: a scene from her infancy, a scene from her toddlerhood, vignettes along the way to her being whisked into the secluded world of geisha-hood.
The book toes the line between a description of specifically Mineko's life and exposition of the life of a geisha. Unfortunately, by compromising in to the middle ground, it does an adequate job to both sides, but is stellar on neither. I learned a lot of the terminology, economy and practical matters that go into being a geisha; however, while Mineko states several times that she has a passion about the lack of education that geishas get, this passion is not demonstrated at all in the book and the emotions that the geishas have are obscured. Similarly, Mineko's decision to retire as a geisha and become an art dealer happens over the course of a mere handful of pages and seems to have no basis in the rest of the book.
Mineko also is very clearly a spoiled girl and woman, who is very used to being catered to. While she occasionally shows insight to that, there are also huge portions of the novel where she seems to have no insight, which left me wondering whether the injustices that she complains of were true, or figments of her unrealistic expectations.(less)
I was pretty invested in my desire to read this book - I told my husband, look she's just like me: married, recently moved to a new place, unable to m...moreI was pretty invested in my desire to read this book - I told my husband, look she's just like me: married, recently moved to a new place, unable to make any close friends there, relying on long distance friendships and then she makes friends! I want to be like her! And her self-description was so promising: we're both young professional bibliophiles, who like yoga and are Jewish with an affinity for people who share our curly hair. I wanted Rachel Bertsche to be my BFF and if not her, then I wanted her to share her secrets about how to make friends like her.
Unfortunately for me, the similarities between myself and Bertsche pretty much end in the one-liner. She's the sort of woman who only has female friends and uses terms like "Gay BFF" unironically and gets mani-pedis; I'm the sort of woman who uses terms like "heterosexism" and consider happy hours a sophisticated form of torture. Also, she gets a huge boost in her friend count from people she already knows in Chicago - friends of friends, coworkers, her husband's friends - and from people who read her newspaper article; not exactly strategies I can utilize.
So on that hand, a disappointment. On the other hand, her research on friendship is fascinating. I particularly was interested in the search for a definition of "best friend," the discussion of social role support and face-to-face versus side-to-side friendships.(less)
This was bland. Like "there was no there there." No substance.
I'm a little concerned that, as this was my feeling for every book I've read on my Droi...moreThis was bland. Like "there was no there there." No substance.
I'm a little concerned that, as this was my feeling for every book I've read on my Droid to date that it's my criticism of the medium, rather than the book. I like REAL books. I like the way pages feel. I like how cheap books are. I like the aesthetics of rows and rows of books in my library. I do NOT like ebooks. I don't like that I can click over without a second thought to something else. I don't like that they need electricity (I'm usually too absent minded to charge anything smaller than my laptop.) I don't like how they feel in my hand. And it's kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy. I'm almost NEVER without a real book, so if I'm reading an eBook it means either a) I finished my book and I still have time to kill, or more likely b) I found myself with time to read and I didn't bring a book, which is usually a result of having a ten or fifteen minute time bubble between activities. So most eBooks I read have to be dirt cheap, have to be short, and have to be frivolous enough that they're worth reading for only five minutes.
As a result, all three eBooks that I've finished have been self-published memoirs of emergency medicine physicians. And they've all read almost exactly the same. This is no exception. And honestly, I think if I'm seriously concerned that the delivery medium was a major factor in my opinion of the book that pretty much clenches the allegation that the book was without true substance.
This feels like someone strung together all of the posts in a mediocre blog. There's just...nothing. She's a perfectionist. Sometimes patients appreciate her. Sometimes they don't. Sometimes they're sick. Sometimes they're not so sick. Sometimes work-life balance is hard. Welcome to Being a Doctor 101. Also, 50% of the download is "samples" of Dr. Yuan-Innes' mystery novel starring a thinly-veiled self-insert character (who shares Dr. Yuan-Innes' hometown, training hospital, medical specialty and ethnicity) and her poetry, which reads like something I wrote in 9th grade. (less)
I'm not sure how I feel about finishing this. Dr. Martin and her friends really smart. From the gender essentialism (we learn women are more thorough...moreI'm not sure how I feel about finishing this. Dr. Martin and her friends really smart. From the gender essentialism (we learn women are more thorough and detail-oriented, which is why they shouldn't be in study groups with men) to the pity poker that Dr. Martin is sure she's winning against modern women doctors (because we have it so easy), everything in this book rankles me.
Maybe it's that I read Dr. Martin's "poor me" stories on the walk to and from my 30 hour shifts, because that's the only time during my 80 hour weeks that I have time to read and that makes it hard for me to feel bad for her 60 hour work weeks as a med student (I worked up to 120 one memorable week during my third year, and averaged over 90) and her "We only got summers off" (nowadays, medical school and residencies are competitive enough that the "summers off" end up being research time.) I scoff at her "dilemmas" such as whether to take her bra off when she sleeps on call (I have nights where taking my SHOES off seems like a bad idea.) But what really bothers me the most is the trivial work choices that she and her friends face. All of them work part time, most in private practice. Many have taken years off (a luxury the licensing boards in most states now frowns upon) and they complain about only having a month paid maternity leave plus 2 unpaid months. It's really hard to feel sorry for a women who states that she first learned "that I couldn't have it all," when she had to move to SoCal, to marry a rich dentist, and where she rapidly joined an affluent private practice. Poor thing.
Over and over again, I think that far from being exemplars of female physicians, these women would be eaten alive in today's training world. And don't even get me started on her chapters on what clothes to wear in the hospital, her trivialization of reproductive health debates, or the easy way that the "study group" abandons the "politically correct" movement(less)
Alex, if not Irene Pepperberg, is a household name. I vaguely remember in middle school watching the famous Alex videos and having all of my ideas abo...moreAlex, if not Irene Pepperberg, is a household name. I vaguely remember in middle school watching the famous Alex videos and having all of my ideas about animal intelligence challenged. My dad eagerly tells of his experience meeting Irene Pepperberg (I'm sure I'll get an e-mail from him reminding me that he knows her personally after I publish this review), so they're both definitely household names in my life. Therefore, there is little attempt to familiarize the reader with the story of Alex or why he is important and the attempt that is made (a painfully long intro/eulogy) is unnecessary.
I was expecting the book to largely focus on the science of working with Alex and how Dr. Pepperberg formulated the work as she had and what she has concluded. Instead, Dr. Pepperberg makes the decision to really write a memoir, which turns out to be a fascinating look at how much being a scientist requires overcoming opposition and how favored one is by lucky coincidences. Most interesting, to me, at least, is Pepperberg's explorations of the setbacks she faces, especially as a female scientist, and the unconventional methods she turns to to get funding and faculty support. It is really very telling about the state of American science that as famous of a scientist as Pepperberg is, she still reverts to private funding and adjunct faculty positions. (less)
Medical memoirs are my version of brain candy and being weeks away from earning my own M.D. from Dr. Firlik's alma mater, I thought this would be an a...moreMedical memoirs are my version of brain candy and being weeks away from earning my own M.D. from Dr. Firlik's alma mater, I thought this would be an apropos read. Unfortunately, I don't think I'm part of Dr. Firlik's intended audience. Granted most medical memoirs are written for the layperson, but being some what of a connoisseur of the genre, I can tell you that some are more interesting to those of us who have done are own time in the neurosurgical OR and some of them are less so.
All of this is not to say that I didn't find Dr. Firlik's book entertaining. It certainly was, and in particular Dr. Firlik has inherited a gift of storytelling -- her patient encounters are touching, detailed and never judgmental. This is clearly the strong point of the book.
The weaker parts of the book are that, while she is clearly trying to be, Dr. Firlik herself admits that she is no Dr. Sacks. She alludes to him frequently, but just as frequently apologizes for the lack of deep thought on the brain/mind dichotomy that she is interested in, explaining that as a neurosurgeon, her first commitment is to the operating room. Her honesty is appreciated, and at points it seems that she is doing herself a disservice, for she is a very introspective person. But at the end of the day, she's correct -- she sees interesting questions that arise from her profession, but has not explored them in depth. At no point is this more clear than the very weak closing two chapters, particularly the last chapter regarding the future of neurosurgery.
This chapter is rushed and wandering. It contains too many ideas for one chapter, ranging from neuro-enhancements to minimally invasive surgeries to a discussion of turf-wars that may, in fact, be too entrenched in medical politics to be comprehensible to the lay audience. Dr. Firlik should play to her strengths -- the ability to recount the daily life of a neurosurgeon and leave further exploration of the questions she raises on consciousness, the mind and neurological enhancements to the reader.(less)
This memoir of one of the most famous medical examiners is a decent showing. It is immediately clear that Dr. Baden's strength is science, rather than...moreThis memoir of one of the most famous medical examiners is a decent showing. It is immediately clear that Dr. Baden's strength is science, rather than writing -- many of his cases lack a proper setup, climax and/or conclusion and he could stand to add some excitement to his descriptions of his findings.
The two major flaws of this book are length and audience. At approximately 250 pages for a narrative that covers Kennedy, Belushi, Marilyn Monroe, three serial killers, a prison riot, Baden's sundry employment history and several other chapters, each section can only be granted 2-3 pages, which really undermines the richness of the narrative. In terms of Dr. Baden's intended audience, it is simply unclear. He states in his conclusions that one of his intentions is to encourage more medical students to enter the field; however, as a senior medical student, I was untouched by his accounts. The clinical discussion did not occur at a high enough scientific level to intrigue me. At the other extreme, I am doubtful of how interesting this book would be to a purely lay audience -- there are several pages dedicated to the politics of the office of medical examiner, untold descriptions of hyoid bone fractures and petechiae and vitreous fluid, much of which with little explanation. A third drawback is that Unnatural Death is beginning to show its age -- Baden's discussion of the pathophysiology of cirrhosis is outdated and his account of how to prevent SIDS makes no mention of sleeping position, which is now the standard of care.
Nevertheless, Unnatural Death is a quick read and a rare first hand account of the myriad of roles taken on by a medical examiner, from autopsy to crime scene investigation to courtroom. If you can overcome the awkward pacing and uncanny valley between medical text and popular science book, it is certainly worth a read.(less)
The most positive thing I have to say was that this was an easy read, which was vaguely enlightening on what it's like to work minimum wage. And it's...moreThe most positive thing I have to say was that this was an easy read, which was vaguely enlightening on what it's like to work minimum wage. And it's well annotated with multiple scholarly citations.
On the other hand, I'm a resident. It's like the trump card in all pity poker games forever. Which makes pity poker no fun at all. Oh, normal people whine about not getting paid time and a half to work 11 hours in a row? I've worked 34 hours in a row for less than $10.00/hour. You stand for four hours in a row? I've stood for 30 hours in a row, in an operating room. You had to clean up peoples pubic hairs? I've had to put my hands in people's orifices, including orifices that someone just created with a scalpel and hold their spleen in the air so that the stool that accidentally just entered the peritoneal cavity doesn't get on it. And I've had almost every bodily fluid imaginable on my hands, feet, and occasionally face. When I was a med student, I paid for such privileges. Cry me a freaking river. I just can't be bothered to feel sorry for someone working 60 hours/week or 7 days/week with some of them being part time.
Also, while I agree that the amount of money spent on the criminalization and prosecution of marijuana (in this case, evidenced by drug testing) is nothing short of inane, you lose your moral high-ground if you actually were using marijuana just proximal to the time you knew you were applying for a job. Like seriously, ideals are all well and good if you serve them with a side of common sense.
And there's just no answers offered here, either. You think the minimum wage isn't a living wage? You do realize that if you pay everyone more, prices will just go up, right? And as much as I'd love to live in the socialist wonderland that she proposes in her afterword - with government-subsidised school and healthcare and housing, I'd rather read a book about how she's trying to get there or stop-gap measures we can employ, rather than "I worked at Walmart and it was awful, but the people who worked there full time didn't seem to mind so much." (less)
I came into this book with high expectations. Let's face it - it has probably the best title of any memoir in approximately the history of the univers...moreI came into this book with high expectations. Let's face it - it has probably the best title of any memoir in approximately the history of the universe.
Unfortunately, the rest of the book does not live up, particularly. Raskin's epistolary memoir mostly focuses on his scummy, womanizing ways and his desire to make up for them. Somehow, he finds the motivation to make reparations for past misdeeds by writing a series of monologues addressed to Momofuku Ando, the inventor of instant ramen. Why Ando is a question frequently asked but never answered. Similarly, the "fixed my love life" subtitle may be a little oversold: the book seems to be more "How My Imagined Version of the Inventor of Instant Noodles Set Me on the Path to Fixing My Love Life, But I'm Certainly Nowhere Close to Fixed Yet, Because as an Adult Closer to a Midlife Crisis than a Quarterlife One, I'm Counting a Six Month Relationship as a Success." I mean, I'm just saying...
Interspersed with that is a series of anecdotes about Momofuku Ando's life, which are fascinating, but conveyed in a rather dry tone.
The best part of the book are Raskin's frequent trips to Japan and his perception and description of the Japanese culture. But honestly, Japan as a comedy of manners has been done before in both fiction and nonfiction before. (e.g. If You Follow Me)(less)
I wanted to love this, but at the end of the day, Vincent's characterization of men was so unbelievable -- I read passages about how men acted towards...moreI wanted to love this, but at the end of the day, Vincent's characterization of men was so unbelievable -- I read passages about how men acted towards each other aloud to my husband, who found them a trite over-simplification. It reveals more of Vincent's misandry than any profound truths about sex and gender.(less)
I have developed an obsession with Lucy Grealy. Two years ago, I found Autobiography of a Face in a Goodwill, and picked it up simply because of how c...moreI have developed an obsession with Lucy Grealy. Two years ago, I found Autobiography of a Face in a Goodwill, and picked it up simply because of how cool the title was. And then I got hooked. I think of Lucy almost as someone I know and am friends with. I feel like I know her, and her foibles are therefore half exasperating, but half endearing. Like, there she is, Lucy, being a little self-involved again. So Lucy.
So from that context, As Seen on TV is everything I expected. She goes on stream of consciousness asides that wander maybe a little too much, but similarly, that's endearing. Her personality spills out everywhere in the book and that's probably its greatest strength. The essays absolutely feel raw, and in a lot of ways, that makes them more readable. However, I'm less able to gloss over the uneveness of the collection. There are some stellar pieces about a lost brother, about being on TV, about horseback riding, but some completely useless pieces. I felt that way especially about the last few essays, which are completely dry and use a lot of pseudointellectual jargon without saying much of anything. Lucy is lovable for her lack of editing and her closeness to her subject. Anything beyond her creative autobiographical nonfiction just falls flat for me.(less)
This book was fascinating read. Gregory in very plain language explains her childhood, from the point of view of a child. Others have criticized that...moreThis book was fascinating read. Gregory in very plain language explains her childhood, from the point of view of a child. Others have criticized that the ways in which Gregory's parents have abused her are not made explicitly clear by the book, but what makes Sickened such a powerful memoir is that it is written from Gregory's point of view, and therefore all along the reader is left equally in the dark as Gregory herself as to what is actually wrong with her, versus what is inflicted upon her by her parents. Gregory's slow realization that she is, indeed being abused is both the turning point and the most poignant part of the book.(less)
So I read this while in labor. That's pretty much an adequate summary of what I really remember about this book.
Okay, to be fair, I also found the vi...moreSo I read this while in labor. That's pretty much an adequate summary of what I really remember about this book.
Okay, to be fair, I also found the view of the inside of the kitchen a lot less interesting than billed, probably because after Bourdain wrote Kitchen Confidential, there was much in the way of copy-catting, culminating in a plethora of TV shows providing the same inside scoop. On the other hand, the view of Bourdain trying to move from being a lay-about to actually making something of a life for himself was fascinating(less)
Miller writes at times extremely movingly about the impact that reading has especially on the juvenile mind. I particularly liked her exploration of t...moreMiller writes at times extremely movingly about the impact that reading has especially on the juvenile mind. I particularly liked her exploration of the differences between reading as a child and reading as an adult and the way in which children inhabit a fantasy world of a novel with a passion and without any degree of removal or eye towards literary criticism.
Her description of her relationship with religion and how it impacted her to realize that Narnia was about religion (and more to the point that it was rife with symbolism and additional meanings) and overall her maturation in her reading style was poignant.
Also interesting was the exploration of the relationship between Lewis and Tolkien - Miller really uses the men as foils to each other to explore their distinct religiosities and views on their manifest to write. In addition, she talks about the different approaches to writing and the relative importance of different components of a story's structure. It made clear to me that the reason I've always liked Lewis and never liked Tolkien is that Lewis is committed to a narrative, whereas Tolkien was truly a setting simulationist.
On the other hand, once she had dispensed with her central thesis, the remainder of the book really lagged and seemed to be the same key points in repetition. (less)
Final Exam is a beautiful, moving piece of non-fiction. Both scholarly and intensely personal, Dr. Chen's first book is a concise but thorough descrip...moreFinal Exam is a beautiful, moving piece of non-fiction. Both scholarly and intensely personal, Dr. Chen's first book is a concise but thorough description of her own experiences with death and dying throughout her medical training and the effect it has had on her professional and personal relationships with the dying. Her experiences are largely universal -- her descriptions of her first patient whose death she felt responsible for echoed -- and she backs them up with citations from the medial literature about the exposures trainees have to death and their reactions.
Despite the fact that I am well-versed in the palliative literature and had read many of the articles Dr. Chen cited her personal experiences lend a depth and character to the discussion that is priceless. Dr. Chen's strength is that she is brutally honest. She describes unflinchingly her avoidance of patients that were dying and her regret of being too terse at times. She discusses events that other medical non-fiction would gloss over.
My only grievances with the book is the end-notes. The book is rife with them (at one point there are three end notes corresponding to a single sentence) and they are not marked at all in the main text, although they are designed to refer to particular sentences in the main text. The end notes are written in a different style than the main narrative, and detract from the flow. By and large they fall into three categories: those that are essential to the text and directly related to the main text; those that are essential to the text, but not directly related to the main text and those that are not essential. The first two categories should have been integrated into the narrative and the third should have been eliminated.(less)