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Book/Literature Review (August 18, 2015)

I was going to wait until I’ve read five new books that I liked enough to recommend before making this post- but the school term has just started so I might as well just start it off with three recs that I wrote before. It’s been a while anyways.
I wrote each of these immediately after I finished reading the book, so I wouldn’t forget things I thought about them.

Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande
Sometimes a book changes my entire perspective on something, that shifts my worldview of a certain issue to something else entirely. This book did just that. Now I’m not planning to study medicine, or become a doctor. No one in my family is in the medical field, and the most contact I have with healthcare directly is when I or a loved one gets deathly ill, which fortunately (at the moment) isn’t too common. All that taken into consideration, this book was still one of the most insightful ones I’ve ever read.
It’s written by a surgeon and his view and experience with the medical world. As it turns out, the health care system’s problems don’t just fall under waiting times and expensive financial expenditures (though okay, those too). It’s also contained within the attitude of medicine itself.
Speaking for myself, when I used to think of medical care I thought of doctors saving lives, patients on the brink of painful death yanked from it with miracle drugs and intense shows of surgical mastery. I also thought it was pretty depressing, what with all the illness, the suffering, the death. I’d never even really thought of other parts of the field like genealogy and elderly care, which is something explored in the first half of the book. Hint- it’s more relevant than you think.
You’d think that life in medical care is a simple question of live or not live. Be cured or not be cured. You survive or you don’t. Often it becomes stanched and quantitative; you think of saving lives, not preserving well being. And by well being it isn’t just being physically cured from disease- it’s emotional and mental well being, fulfillment, personal agency and independence- matters that don’t seem that much of a priority (as long as the doctors are keeping you alive for as long as possible, right?), until they do become priority. A priority that people, and doctors, neglect to consider under the fear and pressure of serious illness and death.
Do you take the chemotherapy that may or may not extend your life by a few years, but will definitely confine you mostly to hospital beds, check ups, and side effects, or do you not take what the doctors tell you is the most aggressive treatment, and spend your last few months at home with your family fulfilling the quality that some people at death lack so much? Why are seniors in senior homes generally so unhappy even though they have everything to sustain them healthily? What is that element of life we so much required and need for our well being but so missing from the medical field the majority of the time? It’s not so much how we fight for our lives sometimes. It’s why we do so.
I can’t even begin to touch upon the issues in this book. All I can say is that it will, if not change, open your perspectives, make you rethink everything about life, death, medical care, well being and humanity, and is an absolute incredible read for anyone- whether you’re involved in healthcare or not. Some things I learned from this book may and probably will help me make the right decisions medically when I’m inevitably faced with medical difficulty- personally, or of a family member or friend.
Keeping You A Secret by Julie Anne Peters
This was an incredibly moving and emotional novel to me. It’s pretty rare that I find something I literally cannot put down (many books I don’t even end up finishing, others take a lot of time), but this book really did it for me. I’m super grateful for stories that honestly explore the issues but also the day to day life of young people of the community (in this case two gay girls who end up falling in love). It’s also not that common to find a story like that that isn’t incredibly tragic or superficial, but this story is far, far from that. Accessible and intelligent and very real (anyone can and should read it), novels like these are a real treasure.
To put it simply, it’s about a girl named Holland’s coming out (to herself and eventually to others), and the process and consequences. It isn’t a breeze for her or Cece (the girl she likes), and she faces numerous problems that definitely aren’t uncommon for gay teenagers. But the story is tinged with hope too, and an emotional honesty that will keep me coming back to read and recommend this novel again and again.
Like the Flowing River by Paulo Coelho
Once in a while I come across a book and because of little more than curiosity, knowing little or nothing of the author or the content, I open and read and see what happens. Most of the time this leap of faith doesn’t yield too remarkable results- not that a book isn’t good, but sometimes it just doesn’t suit me. But occasionally I come across a real gem, one that really opens my mind and perspective and enlightens me in some way or another, even if that enlightenment is little more than learning something new about an aspect of life I rarely even think about. The best way to sum up this book is this- it’s a collection of philosophical, spiritual, and introspective essays and stories by writer Paulo Coelho. In them you’ll find tidbits of wisdom on life, on living with hope and an open mind, of facing challenges with an honest heart, of the morality and spirituality of being human, and many philosophical ideas on that tangent.
Now I’m not a religious person, I don’t practice any faith, and I am not the most spiritual person either, unless you count my own set of morals and experiences, but probably not. However I didn’t have to be religious in any way shape or form to connect with even the most deeply spiritual elements in this collection (although I’m sure you’ll find that some of the writing here can be quite easily generalized to anyone, and not all of them focus on religion anyways). It’s interesting anyhow to be open to considering the lifestyles and beliefs of others- someway or another it will eventually connect with your own anyways. I didn’t agree with everything I read in this book- there were some parts I went, well, that’s just not quite true in my case, or, I guess I’ll just have to agree to disagree- but that’s good and very necessary sometimes. This was still very eye opening and a wise read, and I certainly learned a lot that has influenced, even just a little, myself and how I see my life. I’d recommend this book to pretty much anyone- I can almost guarantee that even the most atheist atheist can find something here to connect to and appreciate. Such a beautiful collection of writing. The essays and stories are quite short as well, so you can easily read one or two just waiting for the bus.