Hitting the Books

A little over a month left of my pat leave, my return to the wards is quickly approaching. Soon I’ll be back in clinic and at the hospital caring for others.  This time with my family was wonderful, from seeing our son’s first steps to being present to celebrate two of our children’s birthdays next month.

Part of this vacation was also time for myself.  Medical school with a growing family was a challenge, and meant I had to put aside some things I enjoy.  As mentioned in previous posts I enjoy reading (1, 2, 3).  Over the last ~6 months I’ve enjoyed reading/listening to many books in addition to my time with family and occasional writing.  I have a long list of books in my queue, some I sought out, some given by friends, and some inherited. Going over my list I’ve finished 31 books and 5 graphic novels this year.  Great to have time to read for pleasure and not rush through what I’m reading.

Some favorites:

  • Letters from a Stoic – Seneca
  • The Pleasures of the Damned & Run with the Hunted- Charles Bukowski
  • Pale Blue Dot – Carl Sagan
  • Tokyo Ghost – Rick Remender
  • 50 Years of Memorable Cases – Dr. Herbert Fred
  • One Doctor – Dr. Brendan Reilly
  • JR – William Gaddis (2nd reading)

 

Waiting & Listening

My classmates moved on to residency at the beginning of July while I delayed my start to welcome a new addition to the family.  Still three weeks until I start, feeling a bit anxious and know I’ll be rusty going back , but it will be alright (I haven’t been in clinic since November).  With the waiting and driving I have enjoyed some reading after graduating in May and moving to a new city.  I’ve mentioned my love of reading previously (1, 2) and with a baby not wanting to sleep an audiobook can help pass time in the night.

Recently:

The Ocean at the End of the Lane – Gaiman
Post Office, Ham on Rye, Factotum, Women – Bukowski
The Emperor of All Maladies – Mukherjee
Being Mortal – Gwande
When Breathe Becomes Air – Kalanithi
The Sun Also Rises – Hemingway
A Picture of Dorian Gray – Wilde
Candide – Voltaire

Reading

During the last 15 months of clinical training I have tried to keep a few of my hobbies going despite the busy schedule. It was a piece of advice I’m glad I took and I found it valuable in finding some balance.  I read a variety of books and graphic novels in addition to listening to podcasts.

Books:

  • The Old Man and the Sea – Hemingway
  • Invitation to a Beheading – Nabokov
  • Philosophy of Medicine – Gifford
  • Good Omens – Pratchett & Gaiman
  • The Graveyard Book, Trigger Warning – Gaiman
  • Anathemas & Admirations, All Gall is Divided, The Trouble with Being Born – Cioran
  • Deschooling Society, Medical Nemesis – Illich
  • Great Science Fiction about Doctors – Conklin & Fabricant

Graphic Novels:

  • A Contract with God, Life on Another Planet, Minor Miracles – Eisner
  • Atomika – Abbinanti
  • Planetoid – Garing
  • The Airtight Garage – Moebius
  • Doctors – Shaw
  • Stitches – Small
  • The Hospital Suite – Porcellino
  • Sandman Overture – Gaiman & Williams
  • The Sleeper & The Spindle – Gaiman & Riddell
  • Hansel & Gretel – Gaiman & Mattotti

What does a medical student do with their final summer?

It is our last summer and how we have each chosen to use it is interesting. Many moved from the classroom to research, others took on advocacy projects or work in other areas, a good deal of the class traveled (a few got married or had children too). I thought I would share one of the projects I put time into before we enter the clinics this fall.

Over the last year I have found some success writing, having had a few reflections and articles published. At the same time I see many issues with my writing and decided to find ways to improve. This project took the form of reading books on writing, reading ‘great’ novels and watching classic films.

This project actually started last summer when I read Keys to Great Writing and The Elements of Style. This summer I re-read both books along with a dozen other books on writing and made notes of key points from each. I learned a lot about fiction and non-fiction, story and scene structure, and the joys and difficulties of writing. I took the opportunity to absorb the thoughts of many people on the subject and in the future I’m sure their advice will crystallize and be drawn on in future writing projects.

Apart from the books on writing I also read a number of influential novels. These ranged from classic to modern. The Odyssey and Dead Souls (Part 1) are now two favorites; they were books that I saw on my Grandfather’s shelves many times, but never read until this summer. Catch-22 was great in small doses and I finally got through The Castle and then read The Trial by Kafka. Lots of ideas gleaned from my reading, not all of it pleasurable, but I’m glad I did it. Since I looked through lists of great books my queue is now longer than ever. Not sure when I will get the chance to cut it down with clerkship approaching and residency on the horizon.

I also realized I had not experienced many important films, ones that I often saw or heard referenced during my life. Thus, I watched ~40 movies this summer. When not with family or enjoying the weather I’ve watched films by Charlie Chaplin, Akira Kurosawa, Alfred Hitchcock and many more.  The Bicycle Thieves, Cinema Paradiso and Dr. Strangelove were some of my favorites.

I have enjoyed experiencing and learning from these sources, though I know they are not exhaustive by any means. It was great to have the time to read and watch movies along with enjoy many other parts of life this summer.

The book queue residing on my desk:

photo