5 stars

Week 45: The Middle Place – Kelly Corrigan

After reading LIFT by Kelly Corrigan, I was seriously jonesing (does anyone say that anymore? I guess I do) to pick up her first book, THE MIDDLE PLACE. After last week’s book club selection, I wasted no time cracking it open and I am not sure I even put it down once I started.

THE MIDDLE PLACE tackles Corrigan’s battle with breast cancer as a 37 year old mother with two young girls and a doting husband. If that’s not enough, it’s during her course of chemotherapy and radiation that her first love, her adoring and delightful father, is diagnosed with cancer as well.

Dreary and teary, right? Wrong.

Well, a little teary. It is cancer we are talking about. But mostly it’s just a wonderful account of what it means to be a family, and specifically the relationship a daughter can have with her father. And that she, in turn, can create in her own life with her own husband and children.

George Corrigan is in a word, life. He’s exuberant and positive and Corrigan’s biggest fan. To read how she describes her father’s love and support of family, you can actually feel the love coming through the pages. And before this sounds hokey and corny and too good to be true, Corrigan is just so cool. She shoots straight and bares her soul in a way that your heart aches when she’s scared and you laugh as loudly as you expect her to in the many laugh-out-loud moments in the book.

And then there’s Edward, Corrigan’s husband. Edward is a great partner, and supportive husband committed to helping his wife through this disease and remaining a positive and united front with Corrigan as they work through her nausea, physical wear down and hair loss with Georgia (4) and Claire (2). While I certainly hope to never experience cancer, I would totally want an Edward on my team and by my side.

We often hear how important it is that we have positive relationships in our lives. That attitude is a significant contributor to our health and and well-being. It can even help ward off disease. And with a family like Corrigan’s, you can’t help but wonder if that’s true. The perspective they all bring to life’s obstacles–to face it head on and assume the best outcome–is refreshing. Corrigan actually sums this up in the very beginning of her book when describing her father:

“I think people like him because his default setting is open delight. He’s prepared to be wowed–by your humor, your smarts, your white smile, even your handshake–guaranteed, something you do is going to thrill him… People walk away from him feeling like they’re on their game, even if they suspect that he put them there.”

Imagine if we treated every person like they have something wonderful to bring to the table. No matter how small, it would be significant. We could see value in each person we encountered. While we all don’t have the opportunity to meet George Corrigan, as she recommends at the book’s beginning, Corrigan has done the next best thing in writing this love letter to her family and her father for all the world to read.

Rating: 5 stars
Pages: 288
Genre: Memoir

Week 42: It’s a Book – Lane Smith

A couple of weeks ago I read some article, online of course, stating that all books would be gone by two thousand something or another and that ebooks and other technology was killing the book much faster than ever predicted.

Now, I am an ereader and an actual book reader and I personally think we can live in a world that supports both environments. But I am not an economist, a technology innovator or a biz wiz, so what do I really know?

Well, I am a consumer and I know a good book when I read one, however I read it. As it so happens, the good book I am referring to is of the official book variety, with paper and a cover and dust jacket and everything. IT’S A BOOK by Lane Smith is a funny and delightful reminder for children and adults everywhere of the beauty of an actual-hold-in-your-hands-and-flip-the-pages book. Lane uses a reading monkey, a digitally crazed jackass and a mouse (the animal kind not the clicking kind) to tell the story of the value of books. With books, he imparts, we can unplug and disconnect from streaming video, tweets a plenty and a moving screen and get lost in a captivating story. He even puts in a plug for libraries while he’s at it. Nice!

Now, part deux… I am certain there are individuals that will have issue with the jackass (who is only called out for his jackassiness on the very last page). I actually found this the funniest part of the book and a great opportunity to remind my own kiddo of why books – real, live books – are so wonderful. I also got to explain why we don’t want to use any words to name call or hurt another person. A bonus parenting moment from this clever little book!

The reality is we are moving into a world where it’s highly possible that kids will grow up without much exposure to actual books outside of text books. Will they know the pleasure of reading a book for pleasure or see the value of cracking open a new book and getting lost flipping the pages on a lazy Saturday afternoon?

I certainly hope not.

Rating: 5 stars
Pages: 32
Genre: Children’s

Week 39: To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee

It’s Banned Book Week this week and I am going back into the vault to dust off and return to a classic, TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD by Harper Lee. How this book was ever banned, I just don’t understand. Well, unfortunately, I do. Fear, ignorance, control, and whatever all that mess is that goes into limiting the scope and viewpoints and minds of people, that’s what. And it’s such a shame, because this is a glorious book.

At a time when people weren’t writing like this, Harper Lee put out a beautifully written book about the coming of age of young Scout and Jem Finch the summer their daddy Atticus Finch was set to defend Tom Robinson, a black man accused of raping a white woman in the small southern spot of Maycomb County, Alabama. And if that isn’t a lot to consider, consider this: It was published in 1960 at a time when race relations where top of mind across the country. Wait now. It’s 2010 and race relations are still top of mind across the country. And 50 years later, this book is still painfully and so importantly relevant.

Now, I know for a fact that I am not likely to shed any new light on Lee’s masterpiece for which she earned the Pulitzer Prize. This book has been read and dissected far too many times and ways for me to have a new little nugget. And while I think everyone has read it, perhaps that’s not the case, so I don’t want to give away any spoilers. Just know this: TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, to me, is a story about relationships.

“As you grow older, you’ll see white men cheat black men every day of your life, but let me tell you something, and don’t you forget it–whenever a white man does that to a black man, no matter who he is, how rich he is or how fine a family he comes from, that white man is trash.” Atticus Finch

It’s about how we are supposed to treat one another, not how we aren’t.

“They’re certainly entitled to think that, and they’re entitled to full respect for their opinions,” said Atticus, “but before I can live with other folks I’ve got to live with myself. The one thing that doesn’t abide by a majority rule is a person’s conscience.” Atticus Finch

It’s about the similarities people share and in how much greater abundance they are than our differences.

“I think there’s just one kind of folks. Folks.” Scout Finch

I would encourage anyone to pick this up again; and if you haven’t, don’t delay. TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD is a masterpiece.

Rating: 5 stars
Pages: 336

Week 37: The Table Where Rich People Sit – Byrd Baylor

It’s confession time. I am reading many more children’s books for this project than I anticipated. They are a great pick when it’s a hectic week. I also have a six year old son that I am trying to mold and shape into an avid reader in a world where video games and TV rule. And, I am actually finding that some of these books provide a nice shift in focus and perspective, reminding me of imagination, wonder and the things that really matter. Byrd Baylor’s works fill that need perfectly.


I first read Byrd Baylor with the kiddo this summer (EVERYBODY NEEDS A ROCK) and fell in love with her words and the illustrations of Peter Parnall. Then through a decades-old friendship rekindled on Facebook, I received a recommendation of THE TABLE WHERE RICH PEOPLE SIT, another Baylor/Parnall partnership that is both endearing and beautifully told.


THE TABLE WHERE RICH PEOPLE SIT concerns Mountain Girl, nicknamed for her birth place, a young girl troubled by her parent’s disinterest in acquiring more money and things for her and her brother. Her disdain for her parent’s seemingly simple-minded approach to living is broached at dinner while sitting at “our old scratched-up homemade kitchen table.”


As I turned the pages, a beautiful story focused on the riches that come from nature, relationships and experiences unfolded. The illustrations are as critical a component to the storytelling as the poetic verse, with gorgeous water colors randomly and sporadically filling in the hand-drawn shapes. I think the message went a bit over the head of my six year old. And, in full disclosure, he fell asleep before I hit the last page. But I kept reading Baylor’s words aloud, savoring them along with the illustrations that truly are amongst the most creative I have ever seen.


I wholly recommend this book for children (probably eight and older) and adults. I am anxious to dig into the other Baylor/Parnall books I picked up while buying THE TABLE WHERE RICH PEOPLE SIT. I wouldn’t be surprised if I am back again reviewing their other collaborative efforts.


Rating: 5 stars
Pages: 32
Genre: Children’s

Week 34: Let’s Take the Long Way Home – Gail Caldwell

For the past 33 weeks I have chosen a book to read and write about for this yearlong reading project. Sometimes the selection process is a thoughtful one; other times there’s not much more than a single thought in my brain as I reach up and grab the next book off of the shelf and attempt to dive right in.


This week, however, something different happened. I didn’t choose a book. A book chose me.


I am not saying that a book flew out of my bookcase and into my hands. Nor did one come to me in a dream or some kind of vision imploring me to read it. No, it was as simple as a spontaneous late-night online shopping excursion fueled by the discovery of a long lost gift card in my in box. It didn’t hurt that amazon.com had it sitting in the “We have recommendations for you” section of their site, or that it was a memoir. But it was the title, simple cover and summary that drew me in. And that’s how LET’S TAKE THE LONG WAY HOME by Gail Caldwell came to me.


But that’s not how it chose me.


I downloaded the book to my Kindle within seconds and then left it to wait until I was ready to read it. The truth is that I rarely, if ever, read a book right after I buy it. Sometimes I do, but not usually.


Well, welcome to sometimes.


After just a few days of having purchased LET’S TAKE THE LONG WAY HOME, I found myself eager to start this book that was already garnering solid buzz. Within the first two paragraphs, though, I caught my breath and had to stop.
[blockquote]It’s an old, old story: I had a friend and we shared everything, and then she died and so we shared that, too. … For years we had played the easy, daily game of catch that intimate connection implies. One ball, two gloves, equal joy in the throw and return. Now I was in the field without her: one glove, no game. Grief is what tells you who you are when you are alone.[/blockquote]
So very sad. And, yet, so beautiful.


And so goes LET’S TAKE THE LONG WAY HOME, a sad yet beautiful account of Caldwell’s friendship with fellow writer Caroline Knapp. The two had been set up through a mutual acquaintance that was certain their love of writing and dogs would bond them. As it turned out, they had even more in common than a life of writing, they both loved the outdoors (Knapp a rower, Caldwell a swimmer) and both battled decades-long addictions to alcohol that were long left behind at the time their friendship formed.


As similar as the two were, differences abounded. Caldwell achieved literary acclaim as a Pulitzer prize winning book critic with her audience and those around her unaware of her alcoholism. Knapp came into the fray with her critically lauded, DRINKING: A LOVE STORY an intimate and candid look at a woman’s affinity for the bottle. It’s only now, through this book, that Caldwell is comfortable sharing her addiction and it seems as this book is as much a tribute to friendship as it is a mechanism through which she can process her own grief and come clean about her own demons.


Heavy stuff for sure. But there are also moments of humor and candor that had me quietly smiling in agreement or laughing out loud.
[blockquote]Men don’t really understand women’s friendships, do they?” I once asked my friend Louise, a writer who lived in Minnesota. “Oh God, no,” she said. “And we must never tell them.” [/blockquote]
Caldwell captures the ebb and flow of seriousness and brevity that makes friendships–especially those between women–so rich and dynamic. Despite her loss, Caldwell knows she is a better person for knowing Knapp and having shared the intimacy and connection that a rich and deep relationship affords, even if only to lose that friend far too soon.
[blockquote]I know now that we never get over great losses; we absorb them, and they carve us into different, often kinder, creatures.[/blockquote]
At the end of the day, LET’S TAKE THE LONG WAY HOME is a sentimental and gracefully told story. I was eager to write my review and share this gem of a book with all my female friends, but found that I couldn’t immediately do so. I needed time for Caldwell’s words to settle into all nooks and crannies of my heart. I needed time to reflect on my own friendships and was reminded how very fortunate I am to have them. I needed time to wrap my head around what I wanted to capture here and I am almost certain my words fall entirely too short.


So I will leave you with a simple request: Read this book. Step away from all the responsibilities of your world and find a few hours that you can immerse yourself with an exquisite account of life, loss, friendship and all that falls in between.


Rating: 5 stars
Genre: Memoir
Pages: 208

Week 33: The Quiet Book by Deborah Underwood

Life has felt kind of crazy lately. Everything is swirling around me at a rapid-fire rate and I am not seeing much of a slowdown in the near future. There’s a lot of external clatter. The push and pull, tug and tear of all the things that people are asking of me. Things that need to be done. Things that I demand of myself that really don’t have to be done and all the things that I just wish would magically get done on their own. Focus is hard. I jump from task to task, welcoming distractions, while at the same time clamoring for a little peace and quiet.

I close my eyes.

I take a deep breath.

I relish the solitary seconds of these two infinitely small, highly restorative actions; and then I hear a small little voice calling me.

“It’s time for stories mommy!”

I am confident I don’t have the energy this week, or this night to pull off a dramatically engaging story with distinctly different sounding characters. But I gather what little left I have in me for this sweet child who adores this time we spend every night (as do I) cuddling and turning the pages of a curious new adventure… and then I remember THE QUIET BOOK by Deborah Underwood.

Yes! A children’s book is actually the perfect remedy to all this commotion. Well, that and spending some A+ quality time with the kiddo.

There’s no doubting THE QUIET BOOK is a children’s book. But in the few times that I have read it, I think I have benefited more (okay, maybe differently) than my son has. It’s a lovely little book, graced with delightfully drawn woodland creatures by Renata Liwska, that shares the variety of quiet moments a child can encounter in a day. Bunnies, birds, bears and deer experience quiet moments like “Sleeping sister quiet,” “Lollipop quiet,” and “Bedtime kiss quiet.”

As we turn the pages, I feel myself relaxing and slowing down. The pace of the book actually encourages this. There are bursts of loud quiet, like “Right before you yell SURPRISE! quiet” which makes my little guy laugh and read the page again, blurting SURPRISE even louder. Now we are both laughing.

“This is my favorite kind of quiet, mommy,” he says as we turn the page to “Top of the roller coaster quiet.”

And I can almost picture his own face, like the furry little creatures sitting in the car at the top of the ride, a mixture of fear and exhilaration capturing their breath before they round the corner and come flying down.

“That’s a good one,” I acknowledge.

My favorite sits on the adjoining page, a serene scene of a bunny and bear skipping rocks across the water. “Best friends don’t need to talk quiet.”

We finish the book and our nightly routine of songs and hugs before the official tuck-in and lights out. THE QUIET BOOK has been the perfect silencer to all the external noise of this past week.

Rating: 5 stars
Genre: Children’s
Pages: 32

Week 24: 102 Minutes: The Untold Story of the Fight To Survive Inside the Twin Towers – Jim Dwyer and Kevin Flynn

It was a Tuesday like any other. I rose after my normal snooze delay, always thankful for a few more minutes of rest, and got ready for work. My daily routine was uneventful. This morning was different, though. Unlike other weekdays the television remained off, freeing me from the usual background chatter of morning news anchors as I dabbed on some mascara and brushed my teeth. I relished the empty house and the total silence. I got in the car, buckled myself in and made a point not to turn on the radio as I embarked on my 45 minute commute into the the office. A few minutes into the ride my cell phone rang, jolting me out of my quiet fog and into a day that would forever live in infamy.

I can’t tell you much else about that day except that it was Tuesday, September 11, 2001, and after that jarring phone call asking if I knew what was going on, the silence of the day was instantly shattered. I, along with our nation, was glued to the radio while in the car, in front of the computer at work and the television at home. It seemed that time stood still, or rather, needed to be rewound so that we could understand what was happening. We learned that American Airlines flight 11 crashed into the North Tower of New York’s World Trade Center at 8:42 a.m. Surely it was a pilot error or some kind of horrible mistake. But when 16 minutes later, at 9:02 a.m., United Airlines flight 75 crashed into the South Tower (followed by American Airlines flight 77 into the Pentagon at 9:37 a.m. and the crash of United Airlines flight 93 near Shankesville, Pennsylvania at 10:03 a.m.) it was clear this was no accident. This was a calculated, premeditated terrorist attack with aims to do severe and everlasting damage.

I am sure that for many of us the events that immediately unfolded became a blur. New York Times writers Jim Dwyer and Kevin Flynn bring clarity to the day by recounting every single moment of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center starting at 8:42 a.m. when the first jet crashed into Tower 1, until 10:29 a.m. when the second tower fell. 102 MINUTES: THE UNTOLD STORY OF THE FIGHT TO SURVIVE INSIDE THE TWIN TOWERS is a significant body of work in capturing heroic and heartbreaking moments within and around the World Trade Center that fateful day.


Through countless interviews with survivors, families, city, state and federal officials, and research and review of phone and e-mail records, Dwyer and Flynn tell the stories of the day from the voices of the people who lived it, and those who ultimately did not. At just under 4oo pages, readers are exposed to the harrowing events of the crashes and the aftermath of challenges facing the World Trade Center’s occupants due to the communication breakdowns between city agencies and the structural issues with the towers themselves.


I was fascinated reading their detailed account of the World Trade Center towers which were massive in their size and reach, yet ill-equipped to sustain the crash of a jumbo jet, despite building plans and agencies that said otherwise. They were built to maximize rentable space over safety, each with only three stairwells for 110 floors, four million square feet of office space and 20,000 occupants (versus the Empire State Building’s nine stairwells for 102 floors, 2.25 million square feet and 15,000 occupants). I was baffled that infighting between NYPD, NYFD, NY Port Authority and other rescue agencies trumped necessary disaster recovery training and processes that clearly had a negative impact on the ability to share information. Rescue teams were unable to communicate which stairwells were clear and free for use, or that helicopters needed to be released to rescue tenants on the roof that couldn’t descend past the floors consumed with wreckage, or even more crucial… when it was clear for folks to go back upstairs and back to work, to stay put and wait for help or when a total evacuation was necessary.


It’s evident there were a number of mistakes attempting to clear out the towers. 102 MINUTES seeks not to point fingers at the failures, but to shed light on opportunities to do differently knowing what we now know. What they uncover through their research is important, vital even. It should be required reading for all of us, but most especially those in positions to impart change in the way we approach disaster and recovery efforts during an attack or high-rise fire.


And despite the harrowing events of September 11, I found myself utterly captivated by this book. My heart swelled reading the stories of humanity and generosity amongst strangers in a window of time–not even two hours!–that was fraught with terror and uncertainty. 2,749 people died in the attacks and 4,400 were injured. Dwyer and Flynn do not claim to have collected all the stories, but they have created an enduring record. As they share in their own words:

[blockquote]No single voice can describe the scenes that unfolded at terrible velocities in so many places. Taken together, though, the words, witnesses, and records provide not only a broad and chilling view of the devastation, but also a singularly revealing window onto acts of grace at a brutal hour.[/blockquote]


102 MINUTES encourages us to carry on their legacy–even those we didn’t have the pleasure to meet–and to never forget them.


Rating: 5 stars

Genre: Non-fiction
Pages: 384

Week 18: The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafón

So, I have another confession to make: I don’t ever read books again. Well, not ever. But aside from rereading all of Judy Blume’s coming of age novels right after college (which I actually loved just as I did the first time), I typically think it’s too big of a risk to return to something you love for fear that the initial magic will be lost. That’s why I have really only returned–and on just two occasions–to books that I haven’t loved. That’s right. When there’s so much out there to explore, I chose to reread books that I didn’t love.

In my defense, both of the books were critically lauded or at least highly praised and I just didn’t see what the big deal was. Maybe I missed something that everyone else caught. For some reason, I decided they warranted a second look. Well, after revisiting I can tell you that I had misjudged The Girls’ Guide to Hunting and Fishing by Melissa Bank and was absolutely right about Zadie Smith’s White Teeth being a waste of time, at least for me.

I mean, what do book reviewers know anyway? Aren’t we just readers with big mouths? And lots of opinions? And of the mind that people should care about what we think?

Well, this reviewer does know that sometimes there is a book that just knocks your socks off, takes your breath away and requires you to tell everyone about it. It might even change any previously conceived notions you may have held about rereading books. Yep, that’s right (part two). When there’s so much out there to explore, I have found a book worth returning to again, and even possibly again: THE SHADOW OF THE WIND by Carlos Ruis Zafón.

I am actually not quite sure one can absorb in one reading everything that is this multi-layered, expertly cast work that is part thriller, love story, fairytale, drama, historical fiction, and modern-day classic. Zafón has written a complex, yet highly readable story centering on Daniel Sempere and a single book he chooses one fateful day during the summer of 1945. Daniel’s bookstore owner father has taken them to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, secretly hidden within the streets of Barcelona, and tells his son to select a book, any book, amongst the thousands housed there. According to the older Sempere, in adopting a book from the cemetery, this once forgotten book will gain new life and live on forever.

Daniel takes the charge seriously and spends a great deal of time walking through the maze of books. He settles on a book titled The Shadow of the Wind by Julián Carax, a gothic mystery. Having loved the book, Daniel goes on a quest to read all of Carax’s works only to find that the novelist is no longer living. Not only that, the few books he’s written have all but disappeared. Daniel begins digging for answers and learns that he isn’t the only one interested in Carax. His own curiosity sends Daniel on a thrilling yet dangerous journey to uncover the mystery of this Julián Carax, while learning much more along the way.

At the end, and at its heart, THE SHADOW OF THE WIND is a book about books. Our love of books, the importance of books, and the value of the story. There’s nothing like a book that can take you in, transport you to another place and stay with you long after you have returned it to the shelves. In the opening pages of this gem, Daniel himself describes the feelings we experience when we have found a perfect book:

“I lay in the bluish half-light with the book on my chest and listened to the murmur of the sleeping city. My eyes began to close, but I resisted. I did not want to lose the story’s spell or bid farewell to its characters yet.”

Rating: 5 stars
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 487

Week 13: The Help – Kathryn Stockett

It’s a milestone week! By completing this book, I have officially read more in the first three months of this year than I did all of last year. That’s a bit crazy to me and yet, I am feeling really good after the first quarter of this project to read a book a week for an entire year. I still have momentary flashes of my bookshelves caving in on me or having the super ability to read multiple books at once, the words flashing through my eyes like all the images scrolling across an iPad. But I consider these minor psychological casualties and onward I press.

THE HELP came to me courtesy of my book club and was mandated by one of our original members–and my bestie–Claudia. Claudia has wanted to read THE HELP for the past six months and was eagerly anticipating her month to host. And, why not? The book has been quite the talk of the town: A Today Show “10 Must Read Books for Spring”, it currently sits at number 2 on the New York Times Hardcover Best Seller list and in the number 14 spot on amazon.com’s Top 100. And, a gazillion people have given it rave reviews.

All of this, of course, is good news; but it’s also kind of bad. It reeks of hype and overselling and all that, “You have to read this great book–you’ll love it! Everyone loves it! My sister and her friend and her friend and her friend, well, I mean just everyone’s reading it but you, so just read it, okay? You’ll love it; I just know you will. I mean, have you read it already? MY GOD WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?”

Ugh. So, I cracked open my Kindle version of the book and started reading, hoping it hadn’t been ruined by, well, everyone.

I am here to officially report that nobody ruined it. Kathryn Stockett’s novel lives up to the hype machine and she’s delivered a knockout the first time out.

Set in Jacksonville, Mississippi in the early ’60s, THE HELP concerns Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan, a college graduate returning home in hopes of embarking on a career in journalism; but she’s not quite sure where to start. Unbeknownst to her, there’s a wealth of story brewing right under her very own nose. Skeeter grew up, as did her privileged white friends, with hired help. The maids were brought in and entrusted with a woman’s children, but not the family silver. The racial, socioeconomic and hierarchical lines were strong and clear and become more strained when Skeeter’s best friend spearheads a community effort encouraging white families to build separate, external bathrooms for their help.

Outraged by the notion and sensitive to stepping outside her social boundaries, Skeeter goes underground and slowly gains the trust of maids Aibileen and her best friend Minny to share their stories of what it’s really like to work for a white family. This is extremely tricky and risky, with a number of implications if any are found out. As Skeeter gains the trust of Aibileen, a multi-layered story unfolds. A story that had me cringing and outright disgusted with the actions and attitudes of Skeeter’s friends, and enlightened by the relationship between a family and their help, which is a complicated one, fraught with many different emotions.

Stockett tells her story from the perspectives of its three main characters, using a first person narrative that alternates across the chapters. She is able to capture Skeeter, Aibileen and Minny’s different voices and, because it’s done so effectively, she keeps the story progressing at a rate that I didn’t want to put it down. I actually read the book in just two marathon sittings! I was most impressed with how well developed all of the characters were. Stockett brings their lives to life, showing them as individuals with hopes, dreams and desires, but also with talents and abilities well outside of what others–or they themselves–may expect.

Rating: 5 stars
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 464

Week 12: The Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper, and Fairer Health Care – T. R. Reid

It has been a monumental week, no matter what side of the political fence you sit on. This week, the President of the United States signed healthcare reform into law. Now, I am not here to debate arguments, the situation or the yet-to-be-seen outcomes. I think we can all agree that our system is not a perfect one and it’s one that could benefit from some form of redesign. So that’s what I took a look at this week, turning to a non-partisan, highly informative and tremendously fascinating book: THE HEALING OF AMERICA: THE GLOBAL QUEST FOR BETTER, CHEAPER, AND FAIRER HEALTH CARE by T.R. Reid.

Ried, a former Princeton graduate, naval officer, reporter having covered four presidential campaigns and chief of the Washington Post’s Tokyo and London bureaus is taking on the U.S. healthcare system and attempting to find solutions–by looking at the World Health Organization’s top-ranked countries for health care (we aren’t one of them). He hits the road with his bum shoulder and the knowledge that we have the highest percentage of deaths that are cureable with medical intervention and some 22,000 Americans die annually due to lack of medical coverage. How will treatment and cost differ between the U.S., France, Germany, Britain, Japan and Canada, and what best and worst practices will he identify in the process?

I found the individual country case studies fascinating. France has successfully converted to a completely digitized medical record all contained on a microchip that is affixed to a credit-card sized piece of plastic (a system, ironically enough, that was created by Americans). Preventive care is the focus of many of our European counterparts. Japanese citizens have access to over 2,000 health plans and can see a specialist immediately – often without an appointment.

Now, I am touting the pluses; but Reid goes into an objective analysis showing the successes and failures of each country’s system. He speaks to top health officials, health reformers and providers along the way creating a full picture of how other comparable nations are managing and providing health care. He breaks down a number of different models (of which the U.S. uses a little bit of every kind), myths (it’s not all socialized medicine outside of our contiguous 50 states) and realities (we are the only industrialized nation that doesn’t hold health care as a basic right for all its citizens).

Reid’s research found that American’s aren’t cold hearted. When polled, the vast majority are in favor of everyone having access to health care and think that most do. Unfortunately, there is a significant number of Americans who are uninsured, underinsured and unable to obtain health care. There is so much we can learn when looking at how others not just provide health care, but finance its delivery. There is tremendous opportunity to arm ourselves with information and knowledge to understand what we really have available and use that information to create a better, cheaper and fairer system.

I think Reid’s book is one tool to do just that.

Rating: 5 stars
Genre: Non-fiction
Pages: 288