Week 3: (November 16-20) – Be The Expert/Ask the Expert/Become the Expert (Rennie [me!] @ What’s Nonfiction [here!]): Three ways to join in this week! You can either share 3 or more books on a single topic that you have read and can recommend (be the expert), you can put the call out for good nonfiction on a specific topic that you have been dying to read (ask the expert), or you can create your own list of books on a topic that you’d like to read (become the expert).
One of my favourite non-fiction topics is medical history. I’ve done a lot of work in medical law and it’s just generally something I find interesting.
Here are my favourites:
This is part biography of Joseph Lister (the man who developed germ theory and came up with the concept and application of antiseptics), and part general history of surgical improvements. It won’t surprise you that implementing change was an uphill struggle.
It’s accessible and riveting, and it made me go on the hunt for other works about Joseph Lister – unfortunately I just couldn’t find any. He made such a huge impact on the medical field and whilst I wouldn’t say he is unknown, it’s oddly difficult to find out more. I’ll also be keeping an eye out for other books by Lindsey Fitzharris.
Rabid: A Cultural History of the World’s Most Diabolical Virus by Bill Wasik and Monica Murphy
Although this seems like a very narrow focus, it’s actually more varied than you think. Rabid deals with the werewolf myth and the development of vaccines by Louis Pasteur (my favourite historical figure ever), as well as the history and treatment of rabies itself. It’s such a fascinating read.
Each chapter relates to a different Rabies-related topics, and ties in pop culture to keep it relevant. I learned so much, and so many things, from this one relatively short book.
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
Fun fact: I did a Masters in Biotechnology Law as a result of reading this book. I even actually reviewed it.
The majority of today’s cancer cures and treatments are based of cells taken from one woman, Henrietta Lacks, without her knowledge or consent. She subsequently died and her family remained poor and penniless, despite the billions of dollars made by others as a result of the work done on her cells.
This is a human and moving account of the medical industry’s sacrifice of an individual’s rights for the greater good.
Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women by Kate Moore
I reviewed this one too! Radium Girls broke my heart – I rarely cry at books, especially non-fiction, but I sobbed. Essentially, in the 1920s, young women were employed to paint watch dials with radium so they would glow in the dark. They were encouraged to put the paint brushes in their mouths and often painted their faces with the shiny material… to the obvious (to us) end.
This is fascinating (and awful) from both a medical and legal standpoint, and if you only read one book from this list, I recommend this one.
Bad Faith: When Religious Belief Undermines Modern Medicine by Dr Paul Offit
Also reviewed. On a roll here.
This is only sort-of history, but I’m including it here anyway as it does have some medical history intertwined. I should add that it’s not a rant book. Dr Offit obviously has his opinions, but the point of Bad Faith is certainly not ‘aren’t all religious people stupid.’ Instead it’s a balanced look at how the two doctrines intertwine, and the incidents where that has gone wrong.
Do you have any similar books you could recommend? I’m always on the look out for more!