Swipe to advance

5 Things: Books I Can't Put Down Right Now

Mark A. Lewis, MD | October 1, 2021 | Contributor Information

In Medscape's "5 Things" series, enthusiasm is contagious. Here, physicians share the handful of fascinations that they can't get enough of. From classic novels to overseas adventures to the cutthroat world of family board games, get ready to find your next obsession. Have a "5 Things" of your own? Email us to share.

For our first installment, Dr Mark Lewis takes us through the five books he's stayed up way too late reading lately.

During the pandemic I rediscovered recreational reading. That said, my wife reminds me that an oncologist with a bedside table covered in books about cancer is hardly practicing escapism! She's right, of course, and yet I find that books still provide a separate peace from my clinical work, diverting my attention to both the science and the art that undergird patient care. Here are five that I've been enjoying.

Image from Random House

5 Things: Books I Can't Put Down Right Now

Mark A. Lewis, MD | October 1, 2021 | Contributor Information

This memoir brings visceral, compelling detail to the observation that "life is what happens to you when you're busy making other plans."

I had long been a fan of the "Life, Interrupted" column in The New York Times where Jaouad chronicles the divergence from the path she had envisioned for herself in her twenties. Instead, she was faced with the stark reality of years-long treatment for leukemia.

As the initial fatigue of her illness proves unresponsive to energy drinks and stimulants, she writes in her diary the self-directed imperative "stay afloat." We readers are lucky that Jaouad shares with us this version of her journal, in which she documents her literal travels as well as her metaphorical journey through a turbulent liminal space that threatened to fatally capsize her young adulthood.

Image from Dutton

5 Things: Books I Can't Put Down Right Now

Mark A. Lewis, MD | October 1, 2021 | Contributor Information

Perhaps best known to the oncology community for his emotionally devastating young adult novel The Fault In Our Stars, Green offers a series of essays (many related to themes of his NPR podcast of the same name) on topics as varied as the Lascaux cave paintings and Staphylococcus aureus, formatting his perspective as reviews but with a writerly eye for detail that transcends a reductive numerical scale.

That being said, five stars.

Image from BenBella Books

5 Things: Books I Can't Put Down Right Now

Mark A. Lewis, MD | October 1, 2021 | Contributor Information

Arney's background in genetics and science communication is on full display here as she eschews jargon to clearly explain the biology of malignancy with commendable clarity. By presenting cancer-causing mutations less like a bug and more as an obligate feature of evolution, she absolves patients of guilt that they "did something wrong" to incur their diagnosis while also explaining the enormously complicated mechanisms of resistance host-tumor crosstalk that defy straightforward remedies. As a cancer survivor myself, it's a refreshing take.

Check out her latest piece for Medscape here.

Image from Liveright

5 Things: Books I Can't Put Down Right Now

Mark A. Lewis, MD | October 1, 2021 | Contributor Information

It's uncanny the way Apple unpacks the connections between sugar consumption and oncogenesis, almost as if he were a fly on the wall of the exam rooms where I consult with patients puzzling over nutritional cause and effect.

His biography of a Hitler-supported Warburg pursuing the hypothesis that cancer is largely a problem of metabolism struck me as a stark contrast to Siddhartha Mukherjee's account in The Gene: An Intimate History of Josef Mengele's twin research at Auschwitz.

While they were both in the employ of the Third Reich, Warburg and Mengele were very different men, proffering diametrically opposite ideas. Mengele sought to demonstrate the overarching importance of heredity (and, by extension, the superiority of the Aryan race) whereas Warburg's gnawing suspicion was that we are, oncologically speaking, what we eat.

Image from Starry Forest Books

5 Things: Books I Can't Put Down Right Now

Mark A. Lewis, MD | October 1, 2021 | Contributor Information

I am in the habit of returning to these detective stories every 5 years or so, giving myself just enough time to forget all the salient details of each case so I can enjoy the mysteries unraveling all over again.

Holmes' deductive logic is aspirational for any diagnostician. The way he explains to Dr Watson how he knows his physician companion has returned to practice is simply delightful: "If a gentleman walks into my rooms smelling of iodoform, with a black mark of nitrate of silver upon his right forefinger, and a bulge on the right side of his top-hat to show where he has secreted his stethoscope, I must be dull, indeed, if I do not pronounce him to be an active member of the medical profession."

While we may have long since traded in our top hats for white coats and scrubs, there is a timeless appeal to Sherlock who, I suspect, will always remain in fashion.

1 26 Next