These nonfiction science and health books have changed the way readers including myself view themselves and world around them. There are countless other books that could have been added to this list, but I wanted to solely include books that I have read myself and can definitely recommend. This list is not organized in any particular order.
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The Gene: An Intimate History: Siddhartha Mukherjee: An extensive look at the history of genetics research, and how genes have a much greater influence over ourselves, our actions, and human history than we have come to realize. Throughout the book run personal anecdotes from Mukherjee’s own family about the ways in which genetics controlled his ancestors.
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks: Rebecca Skloot: Henrietta Lacks’ HeLa cells have been responsible for huge breakthroughs in medical research, yet she died in poverty without ever knowing that her cells had been taken. This intriguing story looks at the history of Henrietta’s family and the disregard of bioethics involved in her case. It reveals the racism behind historical medical research. I saw Rebecca Skloot and members of the Lacks family speak at my university a few years ago, where I also bought the book and read it quickly. The combination of historical and scientific information with personal attributes makes for a very intriguing read. This book has recently been made into an HBO film starring Oprah.
Being Mortal: Atul Gawande: Gawande is a superstar in the world of medical writing. Being Mortal explores the history and different types of end of life treatment. Gawande determines what we have done right and wrong to help people die with dignity. He interviews researchers, owners of assisted-living communities, and patients in order to figure out what the best approach is. A physician himself, he reflects on grave mistakes and changes he has made in regards to preparing his patients for death. Furthermore, he describes the cultural differences in end-of-life treatment, especially those that exist between the US and his parents’ home country of India.
Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind: Yuval Noah Harari: Dr. Harari traces the biological, anthropological, and economical origins and growth of the human species. He questions how we as a race have survived and evolved, and what we will become in the future.
Delusions of Gender: How Our Minds, Society, and Neurosexism Create Difference: Cordelia Fine: Researcher Cordelia Fine utilizes neuroscience and psychology research to debunk the claim that male and female minds are “wired differently”.
“Drawing on the latest research in neuroscience and psychology, Cordelia Fine debunks the myth of hardwired differences between men’s and women’s brains, unraveling the evidence behind such claims as men’s brains aren’t wired for empathy, and women’s brains aren’t made to fix cars. She then goes one step further, offering a very different explanation of the dissimilarities between men’s and women’s behavior. Instead of a “male brain” and a “female brain,” Fine gives us a glimpse of plastic, mutable minds that are continuously influenced by cultural assumptions about gender.”
Brain on Fire: Susannah Cahalan: This is Cahalan’s true account of surviving a rare auto immune disorder which drastically impacted her brain functioning and behavior. When Cahalan begins displaying strange behavior, doctors consistently misdiagnose her condition, leading her family to initially believe that she is undergoing drug or alcohol withdrawal or a nervous breakdown. It takes her months of suffering an support until she receives a life saving diagnosis of “anti-NMDA receptor autoimmune encephalitis”. Brain on Fire is an eye-opening experience for anyone who has experienced similar struggles to get correctly diagnosed. Cahalan’s experience is terrifying, but her family and boyfriend’s support throughout her descent into madness is inspiring. Cahalan was a reporter for the New York Post, and her writing skills clearly show through in this memoir.
Thank you for reading! What are some scientific or health-related books that you recommend?