Autumn Reads, 2017

In my spare time I’ve become a bit of a bookworm, something that has been absent since I was a young girl thanks to the introduction of technology. However, in recent months I’ve found a certain selection of books that have inspired me to get back into reading so thought it rude not to share them. They are all quite similar in genre in that they are autobiographical and tell the stories of fascinating people. Read more about these books below.

When Breath Becomes Air/Paul Kalanithi

Paul Kalanithi was on the path to becoming a well respected neurosurgeon but in the final stages of his qualification he was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. In this inspiring and powerful book he recounts why he chose to become a Doctor and how it feels to cross the line from Healthcare Professional to Patient. Tragically, Paul passed away in 2015 but his legacy in his memoirs have lived on as his dear wife Lucy Kalanithi finished the book on his behalf. The book is written so poetically and pulls from his many inspirations including Literature. A real brave, courageous and honest eye opener that is worth reading to confront our fear of life and death.

Fragile Lives/Stephen Westaby

Following on from my interest in When Breath Becomes Air, this book was recommended to similar readers in the Waterstones store. These memoirs follow the story of one of the worlds most highly respected heart surgeons, Stephen Westaby. He talks rather graphically of his introduction to becoming a Student Doctor, watching heart surgery take place before taking us through some truly inspiring and devastating tales that balance on a thin line between life and death. He went on to pioneer new methods to extend those awaiting heart transplants and champions the need to take risks when approaching surgery than to put restrictions on young surgeons.

Do No Harm: Stories of Life, Death and Brain Surgery/Henry Marsh

This book was lent to me by a family friend after she learned we had both been in awe of Fragile Lives by Stephen Westaby. These memoirs are written by a ruthless and brilliantly honest man, Henry Marsh who is now a retired Neurosurgeon. He pushes the boundaries of learning and patient care by taking no prisoners, but in the same essence provides an honest account of the changes in his role as the NHS has progressed in recent decades. He candidly accepts his role is imperfect and that even with his impeccable skills, he is sometimes doomed when putting patients under the knife. I absolutely loved this book that it was with a sense of urgency I picked up his most recent novel, Admissions: A Life in Brain Surgery which follows his years prior to retirement.

The Last Act of Love: The Story of My Brother and His Sister/Cathy Rentzenbrink

Another one that was lent to me, this follows the lives of Cathy and her family as she bravely recounts how her brother became permanently paralysed and the years after of how it impacted their lives. She honestly approaches the risks of brain surgery and holding on to those with catastrophic brain damage as well as coming to terms with the loss of someone she cared for so deeply. This book is a journey of changing opinions on death and assessing quality of life as well as a heartbreaking tale of knowing when it’s time to let go.

The Way We Die Now/Seamus O’Mahony

I picked this one up in Helsinki instantly in awe of finding a book that takes an honest approach to our opinions to death and the process of dying itself. It talks openly about how we have an expectation of death and how this has changed over the years as well as how different illnesses hold different precedence depending on public awareness. It confronts the opinion that we have evolved to become distant with death and that we will avoid the conversation which disables us from achieving peace and comfort should we reach the stage of facing end of life care. A real compelling and thought provoking read.

You can find me on Good Reads here. Happy reading!



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