Unsettling but realistic medical histories.



How the medical advances we take for granted came to be—and it’s not a pretty picture.

Offit, a professor of pediatrics and vaccinology, specializes in denouncing bad doctors and popular health nonsense. In his latest, he switches gears and follows the history of medical innovation. Though we are “at the dawn of a wondrous age,” he writes, there’s a “catch…virtually every medical breakthrough has exacted a human price.” He illustrates with gripping, often gruesome stories of the early years of lifesaving treatments plus other medical stories that are merely horrific. In 1967, South African surgeon Christiaan Barnard became a worldwide celebrity by transplanting the first human heart. Surgeons around the world rushed to follow suit, with terrible results. In 1968, only 10% of recipients lived for two years, a number that worsened the following year; by 1971, most hospitals had closed their transplant units. The story ends happily as more judicious surgeons refined their techniques, and heart transplants are now as routine as bypass surgery. Offit then chronicles other medical success stories with rough beginnings—e.g., a 1920 professional gathering of radiologists 20 years after X-rays became an essential medical tool: “So many attendees were missing hands and fingers that when the chicken dinner was served no one could cut their meat.” Every child with acute lymphoblastic leukemia died before the first treatment appeared in 1947. Most improved with the first chemotherapy but “eventually relapsed and died.” Today, drugs cure 90% of those cases, but many tragedies happened along the way. Offit also tells the sad story of Ryan White, a hemophiliac who, in 1984, was infected with AIDS via a blood transfusion. Although doctors agreed that no one could catch his disease, ignorant neighbors and school officials treated him heartlessly. Certainly, the maxim that no one should know how sausages are made applies here, but Offit is a fluid storyteller armed with decades of knowledge, and he provides an educative, though often distressing, reading experience.

Unsettling but realistic medical histories.

Pub Date: Sept. 21, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5416-2039-1

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: July 18, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

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An oft-ignored but fully convincing argument that “we cannot prevent the next pandemic without creating a healthy world.”


The Covid-19 pandemic is not a one-off catastrophe. An epidemiologist presents a cogent argument for a fundamental refocusing of resources on “the foundational forces that shape health.”

In this passionate and instructive book, Galea, dean of the Boston University School of Public Health, writes that Covid emerged because we have long neglected basic preventative measures. “We invest vast amounts of money in healthcare,” he writes, “but comparatively little in health.” Readers looking to learn how governments (mainly the U.S.) mishandled the pandemic have a flood of books to choose from, but Galea has bigger issues to raise. Better medical care will not stop the next epidemic, he warns. We must structure a world “that is resilient to contagions.” He begins by describing the current state of world health, where progress has been spectacular. Global life expectancy has more than doubled since 1900. Malnutrition, poverty, and child mortality have dropped. However, as the author stresses repeatedly, medical progress contributed far less to the current situation than better food, clean water, hygiene, education, and prosperity. That’s the good news. More problematic is that money is a powerful determinant of health; those who have it live longer. Galea begins the bad news by pointing out the misleading statistic that Covid-19 kills less than 1% of those infected; that applies to young people in good health. For those over 60, it kills 6%, for diabetics, over 7%, and those with heart disease, over 10%. It also kills more Blacks than Whites, more poor than middle-class people, and more people without health insurance. The author is clearly not just interested in Covid. He attacks racism, sexism, and poverty in equal measure, making a plea for compassion toward stigmatized conditions such as obesity and addiction. He consistently urges the U.S. government, which has spared no expense and effort to defeat the pandemic, to do the same for social injustice.

An oft-ignored but fully convincing argument that “we cannot prevent the next pandemic without creating a healthy world.”

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-19-757642-7

Page Count: 280

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: Aug. 28, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2021

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A refreshingly candid, fearless look into a model’s body of work and its impact on her identity and politics.


The international model embarks on a nuanced investigation of her body and identity.

Ratajkowski’s exploration of fame, self-identity, and what it means to be a “beautiful” woman is surprisingly engaging. Originally thrust into the spotlight in 2013 due to her scantily clad appearance in the music video for Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines,” the author eventually became known for her stances about beauty and sexuality and how they are commodified. Now that she is a wife and mother, she writes, “I feel a tenderness toward my younger self. My defensiveness and defiance are palpable to me now. What I wrote and preached then reflected what I believed at the time, but it missed a much more complicated picture. In many ways, I have been undeniably rewarded by capitalizing on my sexuality….But in other, less overt ways, I’ve felt objectified and limited by my position in the world as a so-called sex symbol.” This short book includes the juicy tidbits that avid celebrity-memoir readers seek, and the author shares how she really felt about the video shoot and how the aftermath affected her. Beyond that, the book is a reflective coming-of-age-in-the-industry tale, a story that is never maudlin but contains a few thick, murky sections. Ratajkowski attempts to break down the construction of her identity and sexuality in relation to the ever present male gaze as well as her relationships with the women in her life. The charm of this book lies in the author’s largely relatable writing, which shows the complex emotions and confusion of a young woman experiencing her sexual development and maturation into a capable adult. Admitting that the “purpose of the book is not to arrive at answers, but honestly to explore ideas I can’t help but return to,” Ratajkowski grapples directly with a host of thorny issues.

A refreshingly candid, fearless look into a model’s body of work and its impact on her identity and politics.

Pub Date: Nov. 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-81786-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Metropolitan/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2021

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