Book Reviews

Our book reviews share summaries of books that focus on health improvement, medical malpractice, and patient safety.  You will learn how to make changes that turn you into an empowered patient. Order from these links.


Crashing Through by Robert Kurson, biography
Blinded at age 3, Mike May spent his life defying expectations and taking risks. He created world records for downhill speed skiing, joined the CIA, and became a successful family man, entrepreneur, and inventor. He then became aware of the opportunity to undergo high risk procedures that had a chance of restoring his vision. The book details his fascinating journey back to vision, the changes it made in his life, and the challenges it created.

This story was particularly meaningful to me because my uncle was blinded at age 10 and entered the world of the blind. He became an father and an entrepreneur, and ran his business until the day he died in his mid-80s. This story will inspire people who deal with disabilities or feel discouraged about making significant changes in their lives and ask themselves if the risks are worth the pain.

I’m With Fatty by Edward Ugel, autobiography
Edward Ugel was a stay-at-home dad, freelance writer, and massively obese middle aged male when he decided to go on a diet to lose 50 pounds in 50 weeks. He planned to write a book about his journey. In a book that does not spare his ego, he details his self-defeating behavior, eating binges, self-pity, and food addictions. this book will help you appreciate the guilt you feel when you go off a diet, and also help you keep your own eating problems in perspective.


Oxygen, by Carol Cassella, fiction
Oxygen is written by Carol Cassella, MD, an anesthesiologist, about Marie Heaton, MD, an anesthesiologist at the height of her profession. She has lived and breathed her career since medical school, and she now practices at a top Seattle hospital. But when a child dies on the operating room table, Marie is faced with a medical malpractice suit. At the same time, her father’s condition is deteriorating, and Marie is forced to confront relationship issues that were long buried. The author’s first hand knowledge of the rhythms of the operating room create sharply etched details of her profession. The plot twists and portrayal of the price paid by physicians sued for medical malpractice make this an important and compelling story.


Killer Cure by Elizabeth Bewley, nonfiction
This look at medical errors will change how you think about your health and health care. Elizabeth assembled statistics, studies and stories to expose the risks in healthcare. She shares her personal stories of errors in her care, and makes a persuasive argument as to why and how to be the person in charge of your health. She meticulously outlines why health care accidentally kills 12,000 each week. She explains health care’s hidden assumptions and why they can damage your health. I personally know Elizabeth and can vouch for her painstaking approach to assembling this information – facts that everyone needs. This book will change the way you look at your physicians, nurses, and hospital.

Josie’s Story by Sorrel King, autobiography
This story, although one I knew, made me cry. Sorrel King was an ordinary mother of four children when her youngest child was accidentally scalded in a bathtub. Sorrel became an involved mother who spent her days and nights at her daughter’s side at the prestigious Johns Hopkins Medical Center. To her shock and horror, her daughter died before her eyes. This book is the inspiring story of how this happened, the impact on Sorrel and her family, and on the entire US healthcare system. About three years ago, I heard Sorrel speak about her daughter’s death. This book expands on her story and explains how a tragedy turned around the healthcare system. It counters an expression I learned as a child: “You can’t fight City Hall.” Sorrel did and we are the better for it.

This is a blog post about the book.

Read this book. You’ll be changed.

Fatal Care by Sanjaya Kumar MD, nonfiction
Dr. Kumar is affiliated with Quantros, a company that consults with hospitals to improve the quality of care. He gathered stories of fatal or potentially serious preventable medical errors and adverse events and then turned them into chapters, each of which covers a different aspect of medical errors. Each chapter ends with more information on the cause of the error and concrete advice about what you can do to avoid the error. Some of the topics covered include:

  1. Side effects from anesthesia
  2. Risks of Patient Controlled Analgesia pumps
  3. Emergency room care
  4. Wrong site surgery
  5. Hospital acquired infection
  6. Medication errors
  7. Delay in surgery
  8. Failure to diagnose

The chapters are written from the view of the patient (or family) in a readable, compassionate and gripping manner. I found myself drawn into the book and unable to put it down. Dr. Kumar succeeds in humanizing the statistics when he illustrated each type of risk with the story of a patient.

Handle with Care by Jodi Picoult, fiction
Handle with Care tells the story of a medical malpractice claim. Willow is a smart and charming five-year-old who was born with a brittle bone disease called osteogenesis imperfect. Over her lifetime, Willow will have hundreds of broken bones. Her mother, Charlotte, will do anything to give Willow the best life possible, even if she has to sue her best friend, the obstetrician. Charlotte puts everything on the line to gain the financial resources needed to pay for the complex and expensive care of her daughter. Picoult weaves together the story from the perspective of the attorney, mother, father, and sister of Willow and raises questions about wrongful birth, ethics, parenting and honesty. Picoult is known for tackling difficult subjects, and is the author of Change of Heart, Nineteen Minutes, and My Sister’s Keeper, all best sellers.


The First Time by Joy Fielding, fiction
After 16 years of marriage, Mattie Hart discovers that her husband is involved in yet another affair. A far greater crisis evolves when Mattie receives devastating medical news that will alter their lives. Her husband returns to her, a wife he never loved, and a teenage daughter who wants nothing to do with him. The poignant drama explores the nature of relationships, communication, and healing wounds.

Still Alice by Lisa Genova, fiction
Alice Howland is proud of the life she worked so hard to build. At fifty years old, she’s a cognitive psychology professor at Harvard and a world-renowned expert in linguistics with a successful husband and three grown children. When she becomes increasingly disoriented and forgetful, a tragic diagnosis changes her life and her relationship with her family and the world- forever. Still Alice is heartbreaking, beautiful and terrifying. It is a moving and vivid depiction of life with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. This should be required reading for any family member with a relative with Alzheimer’s disease. It was written by a woman who holds a PhD in neuroscience from Harvard.

The Patient in the White Coat: My Odyssey From Health to Illness and Back by Rosalind Kaplan MD, autobiography
We don’t often think about what it is like for a physician to be a patient. Rosalind Kaplan had it all – a loving husband, a newborn son, an Ivy League medical degree and a promising career as a physician. She was fresh out of her residency when she contracted hepatitis C. She transformed from confident caregiver to a terrified, isolated patient. She faced devastating side effects, indifferent physicians, and the risks of experimental treatment. Dr. Kaplan shares her story as she navigated through a maze of treatments, caregivers, experimental studies, and learned how to be her own advocate. She offers her hard-won insights in this book and provides inspiration to anyone caught up in a chronic illness. Her memoir is riveting and brutally honest.


You Bet Your Life! The 10 Mistakes Every Patient Makes by Trisha Torrey, nonfiction
This book was written by a woman who became a patient advocate after she was misdiagnosed with cancer and was being forced to agree to chemotherapy. Her experience led her to develop knowledge on patient empowerment. Part expose, part toolkit, You Bet Your Life explains why the healthcare system is so dysfunctional and how that hurts patients. She shares true stories of people like you who have suffered from substandard care. She provides tactics you can use to get the help you or a loved one needs.

The Empowered Patient by Elizabeth Cohen, nonfiction
Elizabeth Cohen turned her investigative eye to the healthcare industry. A CNN Senior medical Correspondent, Elizabeth offers practical advice on how to

  1. Find a doctor who understands and listens to you
  2. Ask the right questions for the best treatment
  3. Make the most out of a short office visit
  4. Avoid getting a misdiagnosis
  5. Cut out of pocket costs for prescription drugs
  6. Harness the power of the Internet for learning about medical issues
  7. Fight back when insurance claims are denied
  8. Keep safe in a hospital

The author combines stories and crucial advice on receiving the best possible health care. She has a personable, informative and conversational writing style. This is a book that will leave you feeling informed and armed with helpful guidelines.

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