My Christmas 2019 Reading List

Published on 25 Dec 2019 · 5 mins read

This Christmas holiday, I’ve been spending a lot of time reading books. Here are a few I’ve particularly enjoyed and would recommend to others!

📚 How to Lie with Statistics by Darrell Huff

Proper treatment will cure a cold in seven days, but left to itself a cold will hang on for a week.

This is actually quite an old book, published in 1954! However, the lessons from it are just as true today as they were back then - with the increase in the sheer amount of data we have today in medicine, arguably even more so. It aims to catalogue the ways that statistics are used to mislead us, and how we might be more careful when so much depends on not drawing the wrong conclusions from data.

📚 Trust Me, I’m a (Junior) Doctor by Max Pemberton

T.S. Eliot was wrong; it’s not April that’s the cruellest month, it’s August, because that’s when final-year medical students up and down the country are rudely awoken to the fact that they are now doctors and introduced to exactly what this entails.

Although many of my colleagues have been reading Adam Kay's recent book, I found this little gem. It is set from the point of view of a well-meaning, competent and decent young man thrown into an overworked, underfunded, often incompetently administered NHS beset by political despair; and this is pre-austerity 2008!

📚 When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

When you come to one of the many moments in life when you must give an account of yourself, provide a ledger of what you have been, and done, and meant to the world, do not, I pray, discount that you filled a dying man’s days with a sated joy, a joy unknown to me in all my prior years, a joy that does not hunger for more and more, but rests, satisfied. In this time, right now, that is an enormous thing.

A book written by a neurosurgeon with his whole life ahead of him, who finds himself no longer the invincible surgeon, but a patient with metastatic cancer. This book really explores first hand how this dichotomy feels and to have a future so meticulously planned and yet just always out of reach, and what things that we as doctors should never lose sight of.

📚 Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World — and Why Things Are Better Than You Think by Hans Rosling

The world cannot be understood without numbers. But the world cannot be understood with numbers alone.

In these troubled times, a book like this is very refreshing. Although the world appears to always be on the brink of collapse, by many objective measures the world is a far better place today than even 50 years ago, and the standard of living for just about anyone would be the envy of royalty from a few centuries ago.

📚 Everything I Know About Love by Dolly Alderton

I would like to pause the story a moment to talk about ‘nothing will change’. I’ve heard it said to me repeatedly by women I love during my twenties when they move in with boyfriends, get engaged, move abroad, get married, get pregnant. ‘Nothing will change.’ It drives me bananas. Everything will change. Everything will change. The love we have for each other stays the same, but the format, the tone, the regularity and the intimacy of our friendship will change for ever.

This was an excellent book about how what we think we know about love changes over our life, and how that is not necessarily a bad thing. It also has some excellent recipes.
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