An intimate, insightful meditation on the science, art, and business of healing.

SOMETHING AWESOME

A LIFE IN NEUROSURGERY

A doctor reflects on medicine and the human drama underlying it in this heartfelt memoir.

Friedman recaps his 44-year career as a neurosurgeon, including a long tenure as the chairman of the department of neurosurgery at the University of Florida, in loose, episodic chapters full of reminiscences, medical lore, case studies, policy briefs, and philosophical musings. Among the grab bag are his recollections of confusion, anxiety, and sleep deprivation as a resident; detailed descriptions of surgical procedures; a poignant elegy on his mother’s decline and death from a brain tumor; explanations of his groundbreaking research into using electrical monitoring of neural activity to guide neurosurgeons; a sharp critique of American health care, which he calls a “disgrace” for its high cost, poor quality, and lack of universal coverage; a look at his own efforts to improve quality in his neurosurgery department with checklists and meticulous teamwork; a lengthy account of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, complete with the autopsy report; and a plangent chapter authored by his colleague Jobyna Whiting recounting an incident in which she treated a doomed victim of an auto accident and the shame-ridden man who killed her. Friedman’s narrative is a bit of a ramble, but his workmanlike prose and lucid discussions of complex medical issues make the many digressions a pleasure to follow. Personal relationships are central to his portrait of doctoring: He’s warmly appreciative of supportive teachers and mentors—and critical of the “impatience” and “cruelty” of others—and conveys both the camaraderie of medical practice and the occasional eruptions of poisonous office politics, including bogus allegations of financial misconduct leveled at him by an underperforming surgeon he tried to fire. He’s at his best in describing the emotional turmoil that besets every doctor amid the vagaries of life and death. (“A woman with everything to live for had come to me for help and, instead, had died….And thus began the process that occurs every time I have a bad result: relentless self-doubt and self-loathing. You veer into imposter syndrome where, for a time, you believe that you’re not really a good neurosurgeon, that you are entirely unworthy.”) The result is a frank, revealing view of a doctor’s experience.

An intimate, insightful meditation on the science, art, and business of healing.

Pub Date: Jan. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-63576-754-4

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Radius Book Group

Review Posted Online: Dec. 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2021

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

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GREENLIGHTS

All right, all right, all right: The affable, laconic actor delivers a combination of memoir and self-help book.

“This is an approach book,” writes McConaughey, adding that it contains “philosophies that can be objectively understood, and if you choose, subjectively adopted, by either changing your reality, or changing how you see it. This is a playbook, based on adventures in my life.” Some of those philosophies come in the form of apothegms: “When you can design your own weather, blow in the breeze”; “Simplify, focus, conserve to liberate.” Others come in the form of sometimes rambling stories that never take the shortest route from point A to point B, as when he recounts a dream-spurred, challenging visit to the Malian musician Ali Farka Touré, who offered a significant lesson in how disagreement can be expressed politely and without rancor. Fans of McConaughey will enjoy his memories—which line up squarely with other accounts in Melissa Maerz’s recent oral history, Alright, Alright, Alright—of his debut in Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused, to which he contributed not just that signature phrase, but also a kind of too-cool-for-school hipness that dissolves a bit upon realizing that he’s an older guy on the prowl for teenage girls. McConaughey’s prep to settle into the role of Wooderson involved inhabiting the mind of a dude who digs cars, rock ’n’ roll, and “chicks,” and he ran with it, reminding readers that the film originally had only three scripted scenes for his character. The lesson: “Do one thing well, then another. Once, then once more.” It’s clear that the author is a thoughtful man, even an intellectual of sorts, though without the earnestness of Ethan Hawke or James Franco. Though some of the sentiments are greeting card–ish, this book is entertaining and full of good lessons.

A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-13913-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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