Writing and running in Austin, TX.
Title: Better: A Surgeon’s Notes on Performance
Author: Atul Gawande
I don’t know that I would have picked this book up on my own, but after my boyfriend devoured it in 3 days, I was intrigued. (He usually has trouble getting through a library book in the 6 weeks they let you keep it. He gets bored easily.)
I found this book to be a truly thoughtful reflection on a variety of issues in modern health care, from vaccinating children in rural India to the ethics of medical professionals’ involvement in executions. My only critique is that it does read a bit like a collection of essays. The only central theme seems to be “what this guy thinks”, but for the most part I agreed with his thinking, so that didn’t bother me.
I think one thing that inadvertently helped my opinion of this book was that I picked it up right after finishing Superfreakonomics. Both of these books devote entire chapters to hand-washing—or the lack thereof—in hospitals. In Superfreakonomics, the subject is approached with a tone of rebuke toward the doctors who can’t accomplish this one simple task. In Better, Gawande provides us with an in-depth look into exactly why consistent hand-washing is so difficult to achieve. (Impressively, he does so without sounding like he’s making excuses in any way. Indeed, I was shocked by the level of “mea culpa” in this book.)
I always enjoy books that force you to look at two sides of a difficult issue, and this one does just that.