Thursday, April 1, 2010

Better: A Surgeon's Notes on Performance

So I meant to post this yesterday, but I came down with a pretty horrendous case of my-throat-is-on-fire, so I ended up taking the day off and doing little more than sleeping and watching movies.  Now that I'm at a level of my-throat-still-hurts-but-I-can-function, I'm able to think a little more clearly and finally post a review.

Better is the second book written by Atul Gawande, a general surgeon in Boston.  His goal for this book was, by giving different scenarios, to explain how the medical system could be better.  Gawande explains how the simple act of a doctor washing his hands can prevent the spread of disease within a hospital, how countries like India combat outbreaks of polio, and how doctors and nurses today are faced with the ethical question of participating in lethal injections for those on death row.

His stories are intriguing and bring light to a world little see.  This whole process, I believe, is Gawande's exercise in improving his own practice, and showing other doctors how they may improve theirs.  While he does explain many things in layman's terms, Gawande is a physician, and there's really no getting around the occasional jargon.  While I enjoyed his stories, I don't feel this was the most captivating work of non-fiction.  Definitely interesting, but maybe better as a resource for other doctors rather than those of us in different fields.  3 out of 5 stars.


  1. A librarian assistant? I'm jealous.

    I'm glad I read your review of this book. I wanted to read it. Now, not so much. Thanks for the words of wisdom :)

  2. Bummer, I am sad you didn't enjoy it more. I've loved his books. Though I started off listening to him on audio and I think that helped actually.

  3. It sounded really interesting, until I got to the end of your review. I'm dubious about it now.

  4. Carin, maybe listening to it on audio would've been better. I think this is a book that will really speak to some readers and not so much to others. If you're interested in learning about what doctors go through and how they can make the profession even better (especially considering where they've come from) it would be really interesting. And I did find some parts fascinating (particularly the parts about the death penalty and the origins of the Apgar test for newborns). But as a whole, it's just not a book I would read again and didn't leave me asking for more.