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January 2015

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Better by Atul Gawande

Written by , Posted in Reviews

Three Stars

better

This is the third of Dr. Gawande’s books I’ve read and reviewed for Cannonball Read, and it’s probably my least favorite. However, it’s still a decent book that I’m glad I read.

The book is ostensible about ‘how success is achieved in this complex and risk-filled profession,’ talking about medicine. And there are certainly many really compelling stories about medicine. But I wasn’t really able to follow any sort of coherent theme to the stories. I almost felt like I was reading a collection of interesting essays as opposed to a book that was seeking to make a strong point about how to improve the field of medicine (and, in turn, other field).

Dr. Gawande splits the stories into three sections: diligence, doing right, and ingenuity. There are three-five stories in each section that purport to demonstrate the benefits of diligence, doing right or ingenuity. I think the strongest, most interesting section for me is the Doing Right section, especially in areas such as the ethics of physicians participating in the death penalty. And as I said, all of the stories are interesting to read, but I don’t think Dr. Gawande does a great job connecting them or really telling the ready what point he’s looking to make.

The book ends with a few pages that seem to come out of nowhere but that I think could have been woven into the book to create that theme that I felt was missing. Dr. Gawande proposes five things to do to improve in your field: ask an unscripted question, don’t complain, count something, write something, and change. I can see applying these to my current work, and would have enjoyed reading more about them in relation to the stories he has told throughout the book.

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