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

3.99  ·  Rating details ·  1,344 Ratings  ·  128 Reviews
Why do some people find and sustain hope during difficult circumstances, while others do not? What can we learn from those who do, and how is their example applicable to our own lives? The Anatomy of Hope is a journey of inspiring discovery, spanning some thirty years of Dr. Jerome Groopman's practice, during which he encountered many extraordinary people and sought to ans ...more
Paperback, 272 pages
Published January 11th 2005 by Random House Trade Paperbacks (first published January 1st 2003)
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Feb 10, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 19, 2015 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone with severe, chronic, or terminal illness (or a loved one with the same)
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.
Bonnie Brody
Mar 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 17, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Mary Karam
Jun 27, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I remember I ended up with this book while I was looking for a chemical breakdown of "hope", to understand how the human body generate hope or maybe the other way around; how it responds to it, But what I found was far more appreciable.
This book is mainly composed of Dr. Groopman's experiences as a physician, and partly of his quest for the biology of hope from a scientific presepctive. His field, being an oncologist-hematologist, had invited him to tackle perhaps the most essential emotion to s
Bekah Warren
Jul 20, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Thoughtful and thought-provoking. Much of the book is composed of stories about the author and patients, with a few chapters toward the end exploring scientific theories about hope and healing. An interesting and helpful read for someone who is healing or is friends with a healing person.
Oct 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating, illuminating. I just wish he wouldn't invoke God so much. What about us atheists?
Also, I would've liked to see a discussion of post-traumatic growth which he did not really discuss.
Jan 16, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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 10, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 01, 2009 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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 rated it really liked it
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
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 20, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 01, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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

Tracie Stokka
Jul 21, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 13, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Blake Charlton
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
Sep 26, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 30, 2008 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
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
Katie Fellows
Dec 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: medicine
I had seen this book recommended by individuals in the medical field and as I'm starting med school soon, I thought it would be a good read. That expectation was absolutely met. This book is so inspiring. It's about an oncologist as he progresses from his time as a novice intern to that of an experienced physician and how his perception and treatment of hope changed over the years. He learns that you can't squash a patient's hope nor can you give them false hope. The lessons are taught through a ...more
Richard (Rick)
Apr 06, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Sofia Mostardeiro
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
Steve Miller
The anecdotes in this book are outstanding. Each one shows a different aspect of giving and living in hope in the face of most difficult circumstances. These stories are worth the price of the book.

Dr. Groopman expressed frustration in not being able to find a clear definition of hope, but I still found the lack of definition disappointing. Similarly, the chapters at the end of the book describing the medical aspects of hope might appeal to another physician, but they left me rather cold. We are
Leslie Nelson
Jul 16, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Inspiring. Dr. Groopman has a friendly, easy to read style of writing and he writes about my favorite subject: people. He tells stories about patients he has known and the different ways they deal with illness. One woman, in particular, stays with me and inspires me with her courage even though I read this book months ago.

Dr. Groopman also shares some fascinating stories and ideas about hope, the role it plays in illness and the placebo effect, it's not what you think.

Highly recommended!
Aug 30, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good non-fiction from MD perspective-I was in nursing school from 1984-87 at the New England Deaconess Hospital when the author, Dr Groopman, was a hematologist/oncologist there. I remember his expertise on the Aids epidemic - our 11th floor had an Aids cluster unit and Aids was devastating many young people. Dr Groopman also writes for the New Yorker re: health issues. He is a good story teller and he shares his perspective on the frustrations and compassion and humility of his journey as a phy ...more
Jun 26, 2007 rated it liked it
This book gives some much needed insight into this unexplained world, especially for physicians who are often caught up in the black and white of reality. Dr Groopman explains in a way that even physicians who believe only in statistics can grasp.

I will take a way a sense that we in the medical community do not know everything. We never said we do, in fact, we constantly say we do not – but we feel as if we do. I will take away that if there is a 99% chance of certain death than 1% will not – an
Patient stories were great, but there seemed to be a mixed message about whether it is helpful to have hope or whether it is folly. The section on research at the end was rather dry, and I do not agree with the 'less is more' approach when it comes to giving patients information about their prognosis. This is what happened when my mum was ill (although part of the witholding of information was due to incompetence) and in my experience it only makes things harder, not easier, to deal with. Inform ...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.” 3 likes
“Hope is one of our central emotions, but we are often at a loss when asked to define it. Many of us confuse hope with optimism, a prevailing attitude that "things turn out for the best." But hope differs from optimism. Hope does not arise from being told to "Think Positively," or from hearing an overly rosy forecast. Hope, unlike optimism, is rooted in unalloyed reality. Although there is no uniform definition of hope, I found on that seemed to capture what my patients had taught me. Hope is the elevating feeling we experience when we see - in the mind's eye- a path to a better future. Hope acknowledges the significant obstacles and deep pitfalls along that path. True hope has no room for delusion.” 2 likes
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