Summer Reading 2021

“Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.” — Richard Steele

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I’m certainly no Bill Gates. But with the Independence Day Holiday weekend upon us, I’m going to poach his idea of a “Think Week,” albeit in shorter form, to dig into some books that have been piling up since the beginning of the year. There are a wealth of options to choose from, but here are some of my top recommendations.

I will read anything that Walter Isaacson publishes. I loved his biographies of Albert Einstein and Leonardo DaVinci. So it is no surprise that one of my top recommendations is his book The Code Breaker, his biography of CRISPR pioneer Dr. Jennifer Doudna. The development of CRISPR by Nobel Prize Winner Doudna and her colleagues launched a revolution that will have dramatic implications for science and medicine in the future. Isaacson makes the science understandable and probes other ethical concerns that the development of this tool creates.

Dr. Robert Pearl’s latest book, “Uncaring: How the Culture of Medicine Kills Doctors & Patients” is another must-read. In this critical and timely book, Dr. Robert Pearl shines a light on the unseen and often toxic culture of medicine. Today’s physicians have a surprising disdain for technology, an unhealthy obsession with status, and an increasingly complicated relationship with their patients. All of this can be traced back to their earliest experiences in medical school, where doctors inherit a set of norms, beliefs, and expectations that shape almost every decision they make, with profound consequences for the rest of us. To get a sense of the importance of this book, you can view this YouTube interview with Dr. Pearl by Dr. Zubin Damania (aka ZDOGGMD) here.

From former head of Obamacare Andy Slavitt, Preventable is an inside account of the United States’ failed response to the Coronavirus pandemic. Slavitt chronicles what he saw and how much could have been prevented – an unflinching investigation of the cultural, political, and economic drivers that led to unnecessary loss of life. A sobering account of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic from someone on the front lines. A link to Slavitt’s interview with The Washington Post is here.

Dr. Makary is a professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and Bloomberg School of Public Health and prolific writer on medicine and healthcare policy. One in five Americans now has medical debt in collections and rising health care costs today threaten every small business in America. Dr. Makary shows how so much of health care spending goes to things that have nothing to do with health and what you can do about it. Dr. Makary challenges the medical establishment to remember medicine’s noble heritage of caring for people when they are vulnerable. He and his team have testified in court proceedings for patients & their families who have been sued for outstanding charges and won victory after victory. Dr. Zubin Damania interviews Makary about his book here.

Scott Galloway is a professor at the NYU Stern School and an entrepreneur, podcaster, and critically acclaimed writer. In this book, Galloway argues that the pandemic has not been a change agent so much as an accelerant of trends already well underway. In Post Corona, he outlines the contours of the crisis and the opportunities that lie ahead. Some businesses, like the powerful tech monopolies, will thrive as a result of the disruption. Other industries, like higher education, will struggle to maintain a value proposition that no longer makes sense when we can’t stand shoulder to shoulder. And the pandemic has accelerated deeper trends in government and society, exposing a widening gap between our vision of America as a land of opportunity and the troubling realities of our declining wellbeing. He co-hosts the podcast Pivot with New York Times tech reporter Kara Swisher. You can find their episodes here.

Although not technically a “tech” book, Michael Lewis’s book The Premonition highlights the work of a band of medical visionaries against the wall of ignorance that was the official response to the outbreak of COVID-19. A great read.

Cybersecurity is a huge issue in healthcare. Every week we hear of new attacks on health systems, insurance companies and other care providers. Millions of dollars have been paid to bad actors to regain access to health record systems that have been held hostage, delaying care and exposing the protected health information of millions of patients. Frankly, this book scared the !$%^ out of me. New York Times cybersecurity reporter Nicole Perlroth’s in-depth reporting exposes the dark underworld of “zero-day” exploits, revealing the urgent threat faced by us all if we cannot bring the global cyber arms race to heel.

I hope you find these books as enjoyable as I have. If I’ve missed one of your favorites, or you have suggestions for additional reading, please leave them in the comments to this post. Happy reading!

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