Representatives from ASPPH member institutions have put together a recommended Summer of Public Health reading list. The diverse list of novels will help those looking to enrich their minds while enjoying the summer months.
Dean Robert F. Meenan (Boston) recommends All in the Family: The Realignment of American Democracy Since the 1960s by Dr. Robert O. Self. Dean Meenan said, “Although the title calls to mind a famous television comedy series of the same name, this book is a serious and informative study of how idealized notions of the American family have served as the critical fulcrum for many trends and themes in U.S. politics and society during the past half century. Self’s basic premise is that key political movements in the 1960s and 1970s were based on a liberal ideal of the breadwinner family as a critical social entity that needed government support through programs such as welfare. This is a very entertaining and educational read that will give the reader a more informed perspective on many current issues.” Dean Meenan also recommends The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail, but Some Don't by Mr. Nate Silver. “It may be unnecessary to recommend this very popular book, but it’s such a great read that it’s worth calling it to the attention of those who haven’t read it yet.” For fiction, Dean Meenan recommends Gone Girl by Ms. Gillian Flynn. Dean Meenan said, “Summer vacation calls for reading at least one engrossing semi-trashy novel, and this best seller will certainly answer that call. It’s hard to give a plot summary of this unique mystery without giving too much away. One review summed it up very nicely, “Marriage can be a real killer. Part of the fun of this book is how it gives a new twist to the war of the sexes. I was planning to give the book to my daughter in law as a present last Christmas. After you’ve read it you’ll understand why I chose a work of historical fiction instead!”
Dean Linda Fried (Columbia) recommends the National Research Council and Institute of Medicine report “U.S. Health in International Perspective: Shorter Lives, Poorer Health” which describes why the U.S. has a health disadvantage compared to 16 comparable high-income or “peer” countries around the world. The report points out that the U.S. suffers from a pervasive pattern of higher mortality and inferior health beginning at birth, and argues that with so much at stake the country can no longer afford to ignore this growing disadvantage. The panel offers three recommendations for attaining superior health and the life expectancy that exist elsewhere in the world.
Dean Julio Frenk (Harvard) is currently reading Arrowsmith by Mr. Sinclair Lewis. He said, “I am re-reading this novel, which I first read when I was in medical school. The book, for which Mr. Lewis won (and refused) a Pulitzer Prize, is particularly of interest to me because it is written about the period during which medical education was being transformed in the early twentieth century in the years shortly after the Flexner Report had been released. I have always liked to read literature. Sometimes I read for pleasure, and other times I pick books because they have relevance to my work as well. Arrowsmith is particularly interesting because it depicts the process of medical training, how science, social issues and other content areas were being newly introduced into medical education, and the issues and conflicts that arose in medicine and public health in this earlier era. With the transformation that is now occurring in public health education here at Harvard School of Public Health and elsewhere, some of the issues explored in this book are professionally interesting to me – but the book itself is also just very enjoyable to re-read at this stage of my career.”
Dean Philip C. Nasca (SUNY Albany) recommends Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic by Mr. David Quammen. The recent reports from Saudi Arabia and China hint at a new virus strain that could be the “next big one.” SUNY Albany has been offering a course titled Public Health in Film and Fiction that draws not only students and faculty but community members too. We have a long reading (and watching) list to supplement the books we read together and the films we watch, but we also collaborate with the New York State Writers Institute to bring authors who write about public health themes. Mr. Quammen was a guest lecturer last October and had the audience spellbound. The book is an excellent read for those who love science and thrillers!
Dean Michael G. Perri (Florida) recommends The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration by Ms. Isabel Wilkerson. Ms. Wilkerson describes the decades-long migration of six million African Americans who leave the South in the hope of better opportunities in Northern and Western cities. The book combines research on the migration with the personal stories of three individuals: Ida Mae Gladney, a sharecropper’s wife from Mississippi who settles in Chicago, George Swanson Starling, a Florida citrus worker who heads to New York City, and Robert Joseph Pershing Foster, a physician who leaves Louisiana for Los Angeles.
Dean Martin Philbert (Michigan) recommends The Plague by Mr. Albert Camus “It is simply the identification of disease and its therapeutic cure that predict the outcome. Indeed, it is the social constructs, politics, economics, prejudice, and human behavior that are frequently the major influences on individual and population health. The unfolding story with the emerging infections of SARS-like coronavirus in the Middle East in an age of pervasive social media and access to information is likely to be different from the bleak story told by Mr. Camus – but, many of the elements have remained sadly unchanged.”
Dean Paul Brandt-Rauf (UIC) has put together his annual Summer of Public Health reading list. At the top of his list is Why Does the World Exist? by Mr. Jim Holt. “He asks one of the great questions – why is there something rather than nothing?” says Dean Brant-Rauf. Another book on his list is The Social Conquest of Earth by Dr. E.O. Wilson “because it tells us why we need to be more like ants!” 2052 by Dr. Jorgen Randers shows us what the next 40 years will look like “and it isn't pretty,” warns Dean Brandt-Rauf.
Rounding out the rest of his summer reading recommendations are: A History of the World in 100 Objects by Mr. Neil MacGregor, Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand, Boomerang by Mr. Michael Lewis, The Price of Inequality by Dr. Joseph Stiglitz, The Trouble with Physics by Dr. Lee Smolin, and Enhancing Evolution by Dr. John Harris.
Dean Barbara K. Rimer (UNC) has been reading Ms. Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In. “It should be must reading for men and women who want to advance their organizations,” Dean Rimer said. “Even those of us in leadership positions may find ourselves looking in our mirrors and realizing that we still haven’t completely left behind the legacies of our upbringing.”
Dean Rimer is also starting to read College Unbound: The Future of Higher Education and What it Means for Students, by Mr. Jeffrey Selingo, editor-at-large of The Chronicle of Higher Education. “He spoke at Carolina,” Dean Rimer said, “and we were impressed by his thoughtful analysis of higher education. Here’s wishing everyone good reading!”
Dean Don Burke (Pittsburgh) is also recommending The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail, but Some Don’t by Mr. Nate Silver. Dean Burke writes, “Nate Silver became rock-star famous for his incredibly accurate ‘538’ blog of election predictions last year. So when Nate came through Pittsburgh to interview our epidemic modeling team for this new book on modeling, we cooperated. ‘Signal’ is a very thoughtful comparative analysis of modeling and predicting across a variety of disciplines – economics, weather and climate, and epidemiology.“ Dean Burke also says that according to Mr. Silver, “Epidemiologists – in refreshing contrast to their counterparts in some other fields – [are] strongly aware of the limitations of their models. Anyone interested in the growing uses of computational modeling will find this an enjoyable read.”
Dean Paul D. Cleary (Yale) recommends The Body Economic: Why Austerity Kills by Dr. David Stickler and Dr. Sanjay Basu. Many of us talk almost constantly about the impact of austerity policies on health science, but have little information about the impact of economic policies on health. Drs. Stuckler and Basu use historical cases from the 1930s through the present, personal stories and epidemiologic analyses to assess the impact of policies adopted by different nations following economic crises, such as the one that started in 2007. They make a convincing case for the deleterious effects of austerity policies and suggest an alternative approach that would prevent such widespread suffering.
Dean Edward F. Lawlor (Washington University in St. Louis) suggests Transdisciplinary Public Health, edited by Dr. Debra Haire-Joshu and Dr. Timothy D. McBride, who are members of the faculty at the Brown School and scholars at Washington University’s Institute of Public Health. The book features contributions by leading experts who share ways that interactions among the biological, behavioral, social, and public health sciences can create solutions to complex public health issues. Dean Lawlor said the book “makes a great leap in the conceptualization of transdisciplinary approaches and provides concrete examples in practice, teaching, policy, and research.”