R U Medically Curious?

SIMPLE ANSWERS TO COMMON MEDICAL QUESTIONS

A medical primer delivers basic information on common—and a few uncommon—ailments.

Romane (Simple as ABG, 2011), a retired emergency medicine specialist and author of a respiratory system textbook, presents a loose-limbed, haphazard tour of health care–related topics. (And for good measure, an extraneous bit on the global warming that comes from the carbon dioxide that humans exhale.) There are sections on, among other things, the common cold (it’s mainly caused by viruses, so antibiotics won’t help), various kinds of bone fractures readers suffer from, back pain (surgery helps only half the time), rabies (watch out for foxes, skunks, bats, and raccoons), and drug addiction (prescription pain meds are the main gateway). The heftiest section is a long disquisition on the causes, symptoms, dire outcomes, and treatment of diabetes. There’s a fair portion of doctorly nagging about lifestyles, including sections on obesity (forget carbs vs. fats; the only thing that counts in a diet is reducing total calories), smoking (here the author focuses not on lung cancer but on the frightening, frequent, and fatal scourges of emphysema and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), and bad driving (texting, he admonishes, impairs a motorist as much as being drunk). And there’s some soapboxing about health care policy: doctors are scolded for overprescribing antibiotics and breeding drug-resistant bacteria; big pharma gets dinged for making misleading ads and expensive copycat drugs; a graphic-illustrated section on the damage bullets can do is paired with a call for a ban on assault rifles. Romane translates medical issues into lucid, down-to-earth terms—“hemorrhoids are really just Varicose Veins of your butt”—while still conveying the basic scientific underpinnings of disease and treatment. (The many photos, drawings, and tables help with that.) This slender, easy-to-understand volume is not an encyclopedic examination of the topic or an adequate home diagnostic reference, but Romane’s prose is so engaging that readers can browse it for enjoyment while picking up useful lore along the way. A readable and diverting health care treatise for laypeople.

Pub Date: April 7, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4897-0716-1

Page Count: 148

Publisher: LifeRichPublishing

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2017

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A quirky wonder of a book.

WHY FISH DON'T EXIST

A STORY OF LOSS, LOVE, AND THE HIDDEN ORDER OF LIFE

A Peabody Award–winning NPR science reporter chronicles the life of a turn-of-the-century scientist and how her quest led to significant revelations about the meaning of order, chaos, and her own existence.

Miller began doing research on David Starr Jordan (1851-1931) to understand how he had managed to carry on after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake destroyed his work. A taxonomist who is credited with discovering “a full fifth of fish known to man in his day,” Jordan had amassed an unparalleled collection of ichthyological specimens. Gathering up all the fish he could save, Jordan sewed the nameplates that had been on the destroyed jars directly onto the fish. His perseverance intrigued the author, who also discusses the struggles she underwent after her affair with a woman ended a heterosexual relationship. Born into an upstate New York farm family, Jordan attended Cornell and then became an itinerant scholar and field researcher until he landed at Indiana University, where his first ichthyological collection was destroyed by lightning. In between this catastrophe and others involving family members’ deaths, he reconstructed his collection. Later, he was appointed as the founding president of Stanford, where he evolved into a Machiavellian figure who trampled on colleagues and sang the praises of eugenics. Miller concludes that Jordan displayed the characteristics of someone who relied on “positive illusions” to rebound from disaster and that his stand on eugenics came from a belief in “a divine hierarchy from bacteria to humans that point[ed]…toward better.” Considering recent research that negates biological hierarchies, the author then suggests that Jordan’s beloved taxonomic category—fish—does not exist. Part biography, part science report, and part meditation on how the chaos that caused Miller’s existential misery could also bring self-acceptance and a loving wife, this unique book is an ingenious celebration of diversity and the mysterious order that underlies all existence.

A quirky wonder of a book.

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5011-6027-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and...

THE IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS

A dense, absorbing investigation into the medical community's exploitation of a dying woman and her family's struggle to salvage truth and dignity decades later.

In a well-paced, vibrant narrative, Popular Science contributor and Culture Dish blogger Skloot (Creative Writing/Univ. of Memphis) demonstrates that for every human cell put under a microscope, a complex life story is inexorably attached, to which doctors, researchers and laboratories have often been woefully insensitive and unaccountable. In 1951, Henrietta Lacks, an African-American mother of five, was diagnosed with what proved to be a fatal form of cervical cancer. At Johns Hopkins, the doctors harvested cells from her cervix without her permission and distributed them to labs around the globe, where they were multiplied and used for a diverse array of treatments. Known as HeLa cells, they became one of the world's most ubiquitous sources for medical research of everything from hormones, steroids and vitamins to gene mapping, in vitro fertilization, even the polio vaccine—all without the knowledge, must less consent, of the Lacks family. Skloot spent a decade interviewing every relative of Lacks she could find, excavating difficult memories and long-simmering outrage that had lay dormant since their loved one's sorrowful demise. Equal parts intimate biography and brutal clinical reportage, Skloot's graceful narrative adeptly navigates the wrenching Lack family recollections and the sobering, overarching realities of poverty and pre–civil-rights racism. The author's style is matched by a methodical scientific rigor and manifest expertise in the field.

Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and Petri dish politics.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4000-5217-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2010

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