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Our best reads of 2019: Stanford Medicine picks

Looking for a good biomedical or science read? Stanford Medicine leaders and science communicators suggest some of their favorites.

Did you read anything this year relating to the realm of medicine that you'd urge the rest of us to peruse? That's what I asked Stanford Medicine's leaders as well as my fellow Stanford science communicators.

Now I have a tempting reading list of articles and books, and here's what's on it:

The Code: Silicon Valley and the Remaking of America by Margaret O'Mara
It's written by a professor of history -- a fascinating and accurate account of the creation of Silicon Valley, including the crucial role Stanford played in stimulating innovation.
-- Contributed by Dean Lloyd Minor, MD

How We Work: Live Your Purpose, Reclaim Your Sanity, and Embrace the Daily Grind by Leah Weiss
A practical guide to bringing our whole selves to our professional work, based on the author's popular course at the Stanford Graduate School of Business.
-- Contributed by Paul King, president and CEO Stanford Children's Health

The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference by Malcolm Gladwell
-- Contributed by David Entwistle, president and CEO of Stanford Health Care, who had this to say about this classic: "There are moments in our lives that shape where our career path and future take us. As we make choices over time and balance those decisions, it is important to consider those points of inflection."

"Our Hospital's New Software Frets About My "Deficiencies" by Emily Silverman, New York Times
This essay is a humorous and accurate look at the frustrations of EPIC for physicians, and has some good ideas for improvements.
-- Contributed by Jacqueline Genovese, executive director, Medicine & the Muse

"This Congolese Doctor Discovered Ebola But Never Got Credit For It -- Until Now" by Eyder Peralta, Goats and Soda/NPR
Credit where credit is due -- and the battle to stop a deadly hemorrhagic virus.
-- Contributed by Becky Bach, editor of Scope blog

"Can You Flip a Breech Baby in the Womb?" by Jyoti Madhusoodanan, New York Times
This author is admittedly a friend, but I love how the personal story is used to address a relatively common problem. The internet is jammed with conflicting "wisdom" about pregnancy and childbirth and this piece clears some space for evidence in the form of a story.
-- Also contributed by Becky Bach

Bitten: The Secret History of Lyme Disease and Biological Weapons by Kris Newby
My favorite biomedical read of the year chronicled a quest to uncover whether tick-borne infections were weaponized by the U.S. government during the Cold War. This book has all the ingredients of a good science thriller, including a compelling personal backstory (author Kris Newby's interest was sparked by her own experience with Lyme disease; Newby is also a science communicator at Stanford); poorly understood disease-causing microbes; a mysterious scientist conducting possibly-nefarious research; Swiss bank accounts and medical experiments on conscientious objectors.

But the best thing about Bitten is that it has prompted action in the real world. Last summer, after the book hit the news, the U.S. House of Representatives boosted funding for Lyme disease research and passed an amendment to investigate past bioweaponization of ticks, including asking whether infected ticks were ever accidentally released into the wild.
-- Contributed by Erin Digitale, who covers pediatrics

"Cats know their names -- whether they care is another matter" by Colin Barras, Nature
This article was a breath of fresh air. It doesn't contain any information that's likely to impact or improve your life, yet because so many of us have had the experience of interacting with -- or attempting to interact with -- a cat, it's somehow relevant and memorable. Notable passage: "Most cats showed subtle signs that they were paying attention at first, by moving their head or ears. But by the fourth word, many had essentially stopped listening..."
-- Contributed by Holly MacCormick, social media producer

"Why the way we talk to children really matters" by Melissa Hogenboom, BBC Future
This being my first year as a mom, I relied on Google searches at all hours of the night to make sure I was doing the "right" thing and to be reassured that millions of parents everywhere were also doing the same bleary-eyed Googling that I was. This article really helped me because now that I am working full time, I see my baby so few hours in the day and those hours are when I am most spent. This gave me the boost of knowing that the energy I spend talking, singing and reading to him, even when I am totally wiped out, is actually bringing him a major (and scientifically measurable) benefit.
-- Contributed by Samantha Beal, director, media and public relations, Lucile Packard Children's Hospital Stanford

Exhalation by Ted Chiang
This collection of philosophical science fiction stories (sometimes closer to meditations) got me thinking about some ethical quandaries, including the line between humans and "others" -- be they artificial intelligences or animals.
-- Contributed by me, Rosanne Spector, editor of Stanford Medicine magazine

Photo by Jonathan Cohen

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