I read, on average, one book a week. I keep a journal of my books, because otherwise I wouldn't remember them. I consider myself a reader, although I know others who read more than I do. I plowed through Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson, at a little more than 500 pages; but there's no way I'm picking up Grant by Ron Chernow. It's over 1000 pages!
I have a friend who reads, literally, a book a day. He's a fast reader, and I always think he must be skimming; but I find that he often remembers more about a book than I do.
B, a retired librarian, usually has two or three books going at once. She has an upstairs book and a downstairs book. And very often she's got something else going as well. We both like mysteries, but otherwise we don't read a lot of the same books, just as we don't watch a lot of the same TV programs. (She's currently binge watching Grace & Frankie, a show I tried once but didn't like.) She reads a lot of chick lit and a lot of book-club-type books. I read mysteries and some history and a few biographies.
Are you a reader? I know not everyone is, which is why I generally don't recommend books on this blog. A lot of people don't care. But I have to point you in the direction of one book I just finished. B read it two years ago when it first came out. It's called When Breath Becomes Air, by Paul Kalanithi, a surgeon at Stanford Medical School.
Here's how the story begins:
flipped through the CT scan images, the diagnosis obvious: the lungs were matted
with innumerable tumors, the spine deformed, a full lobe of the liver
obliterated. Cancer, widely disseminated. I was a neurological resident
entering my final year of training. Over the last
six years, I’d examined scores of such scans, on the off chance that some
procedure might benefit the patient. But this scan was different: it was my
He goes on to describe how he lost weight and suffered from back pain, attributing his symptoms to a punishing schedule at the hospital. But he finally gets an X ray, on his
way to visit friends in New York. “I'd hoped a few days out of the OR, with
adequate sleep, rest and relaxation – in short a taste of normal life – would
bring my symptoms back into normal range. But after a day or two it was clear
there would be no reprieve.” He goes home early; sees the blurry X-ray, and
lies down next to his wife. “I need you,” he says.
The author then recounts how he got
to where he was – growing up in Arizona the son of Indian immigrants, studying
English literature at Stanford trying to divine the meaning of life; then after
a post-graduate year in England, opting for Yale Medical School, then
back to Stanford for his residency. He describes his first experiences cutting
up a cadaver; the first death of a patient; his decision to go into
neurosurgery where the mind meets the brain, where life meets death, where the
meaning of life is never more critical.
He undergoes one therapy which puts
him in remission, and he goes back to work. But again the pain, the exhaustion.
The cancer reappears. Before he undergoes chemotherapy he freezes sperm,
because the chemo can damage the genes . . . and his wife gets pregnant.
There's more to the story. So if you want to be inspired by someone's courage and honesty in the face of a life-changing disease, pick up a copy of the book on amazon, or at your library. It's only 230 pages, so you can share his "beautiful mind," even if you're not a big reader.