2011: A Review of the Years Books

Some of the books I read in 2011

A few of the books I read in 2011

Last year, the most popular blog post I had was my personal best achievement of reading 60 books.  I had hoped to beat the record this year, but merely tied it.   In any case, for those few souls who may read this, I’ve updated my 2011 List-o-Books.  As in the past, the list is heavy on non-fiction, but this year I did read three works of fiction.

If there is a theme to this years books, it is public health.  I have been taking courses through UNC’s Gillings School of Public Health, through an online certificate program in core public health concepts.  That, among other things, has kept me from blogging much this year, but it has inspired me to focus my non-fiction reading a bit.  Some highlights from this year, with a focus on public health and medicine include:

  • The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks – by Rebecca Skloot.  This is a wealth researched story of the person behind a notorious cell-line used to research cancer.  A blockbuster bestseller, this book should be on everyone’s “must-read” list.
  • Pox Americana: The Great Smallpox Epidemic of 1775-82 – by Elizabeth Fenn.  A historical account of George Washington’s crucial decision to require inoculation with live smallpox virus of American troops fighting in the revolutionary war.  Inoculation with live virus was a dangerous yet effective way to prevent widespread outbreak of smallpox, and had Washington not done this, the American colonies would likely have lost the rebellion, and our fight for independence.
  • Lethal Passage: The Story of a Gun – by Erik Larson.  Some may argue that this is not a book concerning public health.  I disagree.
  • The Panic Virus: A True Story of Medicine Science and Fear by Seth Mnookin.  An in-depth account of the public dispute over the safety of childhood vaccines.
  • Betrayal of Trust:  The Collapse of Global Public Health by Laurie Garrett.  An excellent, if overly long, examination of the modern political failure to support public health.
  • The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by Siddartha Mukherjee.  A fascinating book.  Cancer is anything but simple, and after reading this, I truly wonder if a cure is possible.
  • The Fever:  How Malaria Has Ruled Humankind for 500,000 Years  by Sonia Shah.  As FHI 360 is doing a lot of work on malaria, I picked this up to find out more what we are up against, and after reading it I feel sure we’ll be in the malaria business for a long time to come.
  • Asleep: The Forgotten Epidemic That Remains One of Medicine’s Greatest Mysteries by Molly Caldwell Crosby.  A chronicle of the epidemic of sleeping sickness that followed in the wake of the 1918 flu pandemic.  Fascinating.

I would welcome anyone’s comments on these books, and suggestions for more great reading in 2012.


About Chris van Hasselt

I eat, sleep, play guitar...but wait, there's more!
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