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Cure for boredom

Written by: Marilyn Linton, QMI Agency
Dec. 19, 2011

These scientific books are fascinating reads - no medical degree required

Good medicine, good reads?

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot, and The Emperor of All Maladies, by Siddhartha Mukherjee, are among my all-time book favourites. Even though they were heavy-duty science books (the former about cell biology and the latter about cancer), they were easy-to-read, immensely engaging, and entertaining along the way.

So, in my belief that there’s far more to the world of health than diet and fitness books, here is my list of must-reads. Give one and get one for yourself!

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· Moonwalking with Einstein, by Joshua Foer. Like the rest of us, Foer sometimes forgets where he puts his keys, so the freelance journalist became curious about memory and took a year to build up his own while focusing on the U.S. Memory Championship. He eventually ends up competing in the event but the book is a wonderful journey into memory and mnemonic devices. By book’s end, Foer can memorize a series of shuffled cards in an hour. A great read, particularly now that we are outsourcing our memories to high-tech devices. Nobody memorizes poetry anymore.

· Eating Animals, by Jonathan Safran Foer. Brother of Joshua, Safran Foer (usually a fiction writer) explores eating meat and how we choose not to know how it gets to our plates. Reading about everything from slaughterhouses to feedlots and antibiotic-loaded chickens will turn most of us off meat – until we crave that burger. A good book choice for vegetarians on your list or those whose New Year’s resolutions include Meatless Mondays. Next year: Tofurky!

· Wherever You Go, There You Are, by Jon Kabat-Zinn. This new 10th anniversary edition of the book that launched Kabat-Zinn as a mindfulness guru is a welcome gift for anyone who wants to know more about de-stressing their lives and learning basic meditation techniques. Mindfulness, he says, is a state of being rather than doing – still, it requires practice to get it right.

· The Happiness Project, by Gretchen Rubin. To discover what was missing in her life, Rubin devoted a year to test driving popular theories on how to be happy. Along the way she found that happiness didn’t have to mean exceptional experiences like swimming with dolphins -- it could be an afternoon break at your favourite coffee shop. This is a self-help experiment about finding oneself and liking oneself, a map for someone interested in their own happiness project.

· The Book of Awesome, by Neil Pasricha. Little things mean a lot and this bestseller has launched an industry of spin-offs for the self-described nerd who started with a blog (1000awesomethings.com) to cheer himself up. He’s now cheered up millions of us with his reminders of popping bubble wrap and broccoflower. A good mental-health Christmas stocking stuffer that may make you even like snowy days.

· The Art of Medicine, by Emm Barnes, Julie Anderson and Emma Shackleton. Medicine through the eyes of artists is the subject of this unusual book which includes rarely seen paintings, drawings, prints and artifacts and takes readers on a visual journey through sickness and health – from cave drawings to today’s biomedical images. For art lovers who aren’t too squeamish.

· Bonk, by Mary Roach. This history of sex, sex theories and sex research is the subject of Roach’s exploration. Along the way, she visits a sex-toy factory, a pig farm that specializes in sow pleasure and observes penis surgery. She and her husband even have sex for science! Her book is a fun read for anyone who likes sex – though having it is still more fun than reading about it!

· Turn of Mind, by Alice LaPlante. Mystery lovers with an interest in medicine will enjoy LaPlante’s novel about an orthopedic surgeon forced to retire due to Alzheimer’s who finds her friend dead in her Chicago brownstone. The surgeon becomes the prime suspect when the body is discovered with four fingers amputated. All the twists and turns of the best mysteries, plus a careful chronicling of a devastating illness.

Young at heart

Not a book, but a super 2012 calendar of senior supermodels shot by veteran photographer Hugh Wesley. Proceeds from Revera’s Claremont Retirement Residence calendar will be donated to Free the Children. The calendar’s theme, What Happens in Vegas, Stays in Vegas, features 84- to 98-year-old residents posing in fun colourful shots for each month. The calendar costs $12 and is available through www.reveraliving.com or by calling 416-440-0012. Good cause, good fun, great gift!

A doctor in the house

The Merck Manual Home Health Handbook uses everyday language to explain disorders, symptoms, prevention and treatment. With more than 300 doctors contributing on subjects ranging from childhood illnesses to fractures and blood disorders, it’s a great addition to any home medical library.

Tops in women’s health

Now available, the 2011 edition of Our Bodies, Ourselves, by the Boston Women’s Health Book Collective – originally published 40 years ago as the ultimate women’s health guide -- includes topics ranging from body image to gender identity, perimenopause, infertility, violence against women and environmental issues.

 

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