Thursday, November 19, 2009

Sin in the Second City, by Karen Abbott

What a strange book! This is a biography, of sorts, of the Chicago madams Minna and Ada Everleigh. They were proprietors of a successful house of prostitution in the early 1900s. The author writes about their business and the surrounding politics of the time.

It wasn't really very interesting to me, but I admire the author's Schama -style invention of dialogue and event details to fill out a historical text.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

How Doctors Think, by Jerome Groopman

This was a disappointment: it was painful to read and it lacked useful and well organized information.

Why painful? The author makes his points through anecdotes which are invariably depressing. Attribution error leads to mis-diagnosis: the patient looks a certain way which distracts the physician from even considering other causes then the most obvious. This is similar to the mental prototypes that get in the way of complete diagnoses. Then there's diagnosis momentum, where a choice is made and rationalized even as conflicting data, e.g., test results, appear. People are ignored, erroneously diagnosed, put near death, all due to physician error.

The goal of Groopman's book might have been to help physicians do a better job. Hard to imagine this organization structure would do so; which busy doctor, seeing ever increasing numbers of patients under the scrutiny of insurance payer guidelines, would take the time for this?

The goal might have been to alert patients as to how to minimize if not eliminate such defects in their personal medical care. But there is no clear advice on what information to present, in what fashion, or what specific questions to ask, to reduce the risk of medical failure.

When the author, himself a physician, described years of failure in treating his own medical problem, complete with details of horrible malpractice by three out of four specialists he saw, I just about threw in the towel. My conclusion -- although it is not clear this was Groopman's goal -- is that if you have a medical problem outside the typical 75% of diagnoses, you're screwed. Might as well offer goat's bones to a mushroom scarfing shaman as have optimism in a US teaching hospital or their well-published specialists.

But I told you up front that this was painful to read...

Monday, November 16, 2009

Emergency, by Neil Strauss

The sub-title of this book is, "This book will save your life." Hard to imagine, unless you use it to swat a mosquito carrying a virus.

The good news is, this is a very fast read; I read it on a relatively short flight. The bad news is, it is as empty of meaning as a mediocre cheese danish. Said differently, I tried to list the things I'd learned from this book:
  1. This is where the list is supposed to go. You've seen the phrase, "this page intentionally left blank?" Well, this list intentionally left blank.
In fairness, there were a few pointers to interesting training firms, like Gunsite for shooting skills, and onPoint Tactical for urban evasion skills.

It probably would have made for a fascinating magazine article.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Secrets of a Modern Day Bounty Hunter, by Richard James

This is really not my cup of tea. But I know from personal experience how difficult it is to get a book publisher to help market one's work, and the author was standing in front of the HEB supermarket autographing copies for anyone who'd buy one... How could I say no to that?

As for the book? What do you expect when the only way to market it is at a supermarket on a Saturday morning?

Friday, November 6, 2009

Vanished, by Joseph Finder

I was excited to read this new novel because I really enjoyed the last book from this author. But what a disappointment! Convoluted, and not in a, "enjoyed the puzzling plot lines" kind of way at all. Boo.