Summer has arrived in the northern hemisphere, and there’s no better way to take advantage of the long days than with a good reading list.
We asked our colleagues what books they’re choosing to fill their days, and they do not disappoint. From biographies on the first female medical doctors in the United States, to a fictionalized romp through Ukrainian modern history, to a heartfelt memoir about a Iranian-American's journey with bipolar disorder, the Think Global Health book recommendations span enough topics and genres to fill your summer season.
We hope you enjoy!
Eight Picks from CFR Staff
Jessica Harrington recommends The Doctors Blackwell by Janice P. Nimura, calling it “a wonderful look at women and health care.” This book tells the story of Elizabeth Blackwell, the first woman to receive an MD in the United States. Her sister Emily followed in her footsteps, and together they opened the first hospital staffed entirely by women.
Jessica Harrington's second recommendation is Empire of Pain, a “sharp and compelling” account of the rise of the Sackler family, who launched Purdue Pharmaceuticals. The book traces the role played by Purdue and its owners in the promotion of Oxycontin and its contribution to the modern opioid epidemic.
Senior Fellow for Global Health, Economics, and Development Thomas J. Bollyky suggests Babel, the fourth novel by R. F. Kuang. This fantasy novel imagines the act of translation as the force that powers England’s imperial appetites and as the fuel that make technological advances of the Industrial Revolution possible. The novel is set at Babel, a Victorian-era research institution in Oxford, where scholars from around the world are put to work translating, for the benefit of the wealthy in London, and often to the detriment of the scholars’ homelands. A bit heavy-handed at times, Babel is nevertheless a fun and fascinating exploration of identity, colonialism, and benefit-sharing—themes that reverberate through the field of global health.
Tess Turner’s reading list includes Elizabeth Rush’s award-winning Rising: Dispatches from the New American Shore. Detailing how climate change has driven sea level rise in the United States, Rush tells the story of a changing U.S. coastline. The author outlines the struggle of the most affected areas, where humans and wildlife alike must decide whether to flee or remain to face the consequences.
Senior Fellow for Global Health Tom Frieden's pick is In the Blood by Charles Barber — “an inspiring and well-told story of innovation, persistence, and success.” Describing the invention of a life-saving blood clotting product, Barber shows the vagaries of research, product development, and government funding. It is an epic tale with vivid real-life characters about the struggle to save lives from injuries on the battlefield and everywhere. A “terrific read,” Barber cites the perfect quotation to sum up the story: “No force on earth can stop an idea whose time has come” — Victor Hugo.
Natalie Caloca recommends Kalani Pickhart’s I Will Die in a Foreign Land, a fictionalized look at Ukraine’s very real, very painful modern history. The novel follows a doctor, an activist, and others through the revolution of 2014 as they each struggle with their own pasts and their nation's future. “It’s the story of people, but it is also the story of Ukraine,” she says.
Picked by Abigail McGowan, Foster is a novella about a young girl in rural Ireland who is sent to live with a foster family while her own struggles to care for her and her siblings. Given the continued challenges to reproductive health around the world, the book’s setting is an important “reminder of the societal consequences of a lack of access to contraception.” In a little over one hundred pages, author Claire Keegan tells an impressively moving story through the eyes of her young narrator.
Haldol and Hyacinths is recommended by Nicolette Mehran. It is the memoir of Melody Moezzi, an open and unapologetic Iranian American woman, and documents her life with bipolar disorder. Moezzi uses humor, empathy, and honesty to provide the reader with insight into one person’s battle with a highly stigmatized mental illness as well as the intricacies and culture of the Iranian American community. Moezzi not only uses her voice and her story to become an advocate for the destigmatization of mental illnesses, but also welcomes the reader into her life, allows them to clearly see her struggles and scars, and teaches them a new manifestation of strength and resiliency.