A cardiologist writes on his favorite organ.
No one takes their heart for granted, especially not Jauhar (Doctored: The Disillusionment of an American Physician, 2014, etc.), director of the Heart Failure Program at Long Island Jewish Hospital who found unwelcome inspiration in learning that, at age 45, his coronary arteries were partly blocked. Already a bestselling author, he delivers a page-turning mixture of personal experience, family lore, health advice, and history with a heavy emphasis on medical dramatics. Throughout history, philosophers and other deep thinkers have given the heart primary place in human spiritual as well as physical life. For centuries, almost all of them were wrong about nearly everything, but scientific investigation revealed the truth without diminishing its role. The body’s vital organs depend on a beating heart, but the heart operates independently. As the author notes, “the heart doesn’t just pump blood to other organs, it pumps blood to itself. We must struggle to use our minds to change our way of thinking. But the heart is different. In a sense and unlike any other organ, the heart is self-sustaining.” Jauhar’s family history and medical education make regular appearances along with health advice—he suggests that stress damages coronary arteries as much as a bad diet—but mostly he recounts cardiology fireworks since the 19th century when surgeons first dared cut into a living heart (formerly, even more than the brain, a forbidden organ). Readers’ jaws will drop and drop again at stories of daring researchers experimenting on themselves and pioneering surgeons leaving a trail of dead patients, many of them children, as they perfected machines, devices, and techniques that often work miracles, fixing fatally malformed hearts, correcting defects, and, when they succeed, extending lives.
Another in the everything-you-ever-wanted-to-know-about genre, but a superior example.