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Medicine and Literature

My top medical reads of 2011 (aside from those I edited)

My favorite medical story this year managed to make me laugh about aging — a topic I’m seriously obsessed about. Thanks for that. Looking back at my other faves, I see it’s been a good year for medical stories chronicling discoveries, wrong turns and all. So without further ado, here are my top 10 long-form journalism reads for 2011. Aside from the first, they’re listed in no particular order. Oh, and one more thing: Stories from Stanford Medicine, which I edit, are not included. No playing favorites with my babies.

-What do a bunch of old Jews know about living forever? by Jesse Green, New York Magazine

-The human lake by Carl Zimmer, The Loom
The history and science of ecology and your inner microbial wilderness. A favorite bit: “So try to imagine for a moment producing an elephant’s worth of microbes. I know it’s difficult, but the fact is that actually in your lifetime you will produce five elephants of microbes.”

-The mouse trap by Daniel Engber, Slate
Why mice are not model models for humans.

-A victory in the war against cancer by Terence Monmaney, Smithsonian
Beautiful melding of stories about a driven cancer patient and the cancer researcher who brought us Gleevec.

-Study of a lifetime by Helen Pearson, Nature
What’s been learned by tracking the health and demographic details of thousands of British children born one week 65 years ago? As the story says: “Now, as the cohort members enter old age, the study offers a precious opportunity to understand how a lifetime of experiences might hasten or slow their decline — an urgent question for countries such as the United Kingdom and United States, whose populations are rapidly ageing and sickening.” Plus, odd bits like the heaviest babies were most at risk of breast cancer decades later, and that women with higher IQ reached menopause later in life.

-Should we all go gluten free? by Keith O’Brien, New York Times
I thought I knew what there was to know about the diet trend to go gluten-free but it turns out I had no idea.

-Led by the child who simply knew by Bella English, Boston Globe
About a boy who is a girl. A stunning story stunningly told.

-Don’t blame the usual suspect for cancer by Carlos Sonnenschein and Ana M. Soto, New Scientist
Two scientists explain how they’re thinking differently about cancer, and why other scientists should too.

-A drug that wakes the near dead by Jeneen Interlandi, New York Times
What happens when a drug nudges awake those who doctors had every reason to think would never really be conscious again?

-Inseparable by Susan Dominus, New York Times
Mind-boggling, both the story and its telling. Sensitive, gutsy reporting about conjoined twins.

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