I have a good friend who studied Icelandic language and culture; he told me that they have a nearly unpronounceable winter holiday that is celebrated by exchanging and reading books next to the fire. This sounds better than most of the Hallmark holidays we celebrate here, but I love books more than most folks.
This summer, my family and I took a road trip out west, did a lot of camping, and caught up with some old friends. We had a lot of hours in the van for reading, and my family can turn some pages. Here are some of my favorites, some related to medicine, and a few other random good finds.
Michael Pollan's new book is everywhere and you've likely heard of it already, but it deserves the hubbub that it's generating. For me, his synthesis of the neuropsychiatric research surrounding consciousness, psychedelics, meditation, and the applicability of that research to the treatment of anxiety and depression changed my view on psychiatry in general. My wife, who is a psychiatrist, felt similarly about reading it. It also covers the history of psychedelic drugs and chronicles the author's experiences with several hallucinogens. The author is a skeptic which keeps this book from being evangelical about the use of psychedelic drugs and provides a balanced and articulate perspective on the subject matter. And he smokes some toad venom, which sounds pretty crazy.
So much of my enthusiasm for medical marijuana stems from my experiences in the emergency room with the ravages of opioid abuse and dependency. I have to warn patients that "Pain won't kill you, but pain medicine can." This book gives the history of some of mankind's worst inventions including, of course, the production of opioids. The author does an excellent job of showing how opioids have repeatedly devastated the societies that have embraced them for the treatment of pain. The chapter on lobotomies is also a good reminder of the dangers of hubris in medicine. So often, the history of medicine is the history of unnecessary suffering.
This is an excellent overview of some the latest information on medical marijuana. If you are trying to use cannabis for the treatment of pain or illness, then this book can help guide you to specific strains of medical marijuana and gain a better understanding of how specific cannabinoids interact with our endocannabinoid system.
A friend sent me this book with a two-dollar bill as a bookmark. I enjoy reading about Taoism because it seems to be the only "ism" that it compatible with any faith or philosophy. Being good at being a human being serves you well in any context. The author does a good job making the Tao approachable by describing what each passage means and then by giving a personal example from his own life. His passion for Taoism certainly exceeds mine, but that may be what makes him so good at making it at least make sense. A lot of other translations end up sounding like Yoda with a few drinks in him.
I try to read most of my kid's books. My daughter is hard to keep up with but fortunately my 5 year old son gravitates towards comic books. I did not even expect to make it all the way through "Dogman and Cat Kid"; I was mainly making sure it didn't have a bunch of poop jokes and advertisements for toys. Turns out, this book is a clever homage to "East of Eden" by Steinbeck. The author also does a nice job of addressing some of the challenges of ADD/ADHD with one of it's characters. It has some great puns and site gags and gives step-by-step directions for drawing it's characters at the end. If you need a good one for the kiddos in your life, this one it pretty safe and cute.
The process of sharing information has changed so much in my lifetime. So far I still have trouble getting enough good book recommendations from social media or automated suggestion algorithms. If this random collection of books appeals to you, leave a recommendation or two for me.