Thursday, August 19, 2010

My Favorite Reads: Complications by Atul Gawande

In My Favorite Reads each week I feature one of my favorite reads from the past. August is Audio Book Appreciation Month so all my books this month are ones I listened to on audio.

Complications: A Surgeon's Notes on an Imperfect Science by Atul Gawande

Summary (from the publisher):
A brilliant and courageous doctor reveals, in gripping accounts of true cases, the power and limits of modern medicine.

Sometimes in medicine the only way to know what is truly going on in a patient is to operate, to look inside with one's own eyes. This book is exploratory surgery on medicine itself, laying bare a science not in its idealized form but as it actually is -- complicated, perplexing, and profoundly human.

Atul Gawande offers an unflinching view from the scalpel's edge, where science is ambiguous, information is limited, the stakes are high, yet decisions must be made. In dramatic and revealing stories of patients and doctors, he explores how deadly mistakes occur and why good surgeons go bad. He also shows us what happens when medicine comes up against the inexplicable: an architect with incapacitating back pain for which there is no physical cause; a young woman with nausea that won't go away; a television newscaster whose blushing is so severe that she cannot do her job. Gawande offers a richly detailed portrait of the people and the science, even as he tackles the paradoxes and imperfections inherent in caring for human lives.

At once tough-minded and humane, Complications is a new kind of medical writing, nuanced and lucid, unafraid to confront the conflicts and uncertainties that lie at the heart of modern medicine, yet always alive to the possibilities of wisdom in this extraordinary endeavor.

Why I chose this book:
I listened to this on audio and had many driveway moments, when I wanted to finish hearing the essay and so just sat in my car until it was done. With individual essays, it was perfect for getting in and out of the car periodically. The essays on the flesh-eating disease, and also on the incompetent doctors were the ones that I found the most powerful and which have stayed with me, even now 4+ years later. Dr. Gawande is a terrific writer, and really manages to explain medicine to a lay person in a very clear manner but that isn't dumbed down.


Alyce said...

You know, I was sure I had added this one to my wish list a while back, but I don't see it anywhere. I'm so glad you reminded me of this one because I have been wanting to read it and it fell off my radar.

Jenners said...

I have this on my shelves waiting to be read. I think I might have to bump it up on the list!

Carin said...

I wasn't looking forward to reading this book, but when it was chosen for our book club, I reluctantly went along. I was surprised at just how good it was! I would definitely read another book by Gawande! I'm glad it's one of your favorites! :)

christa @ mental foodie said...

I enjoyed this also, especially since I work in health care (not a doctor though!)