Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Book Review Round-Up

I work in a library. I read books and I want to tell you about them:


Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder tells the story of Paul Farmer, the Harvard educated genius doctor who, along with a tight-knit group of very dedicated people, has altered the way public health policy towards the Third world is developed and implemented. Focusing primarily on his work in Haiti and then outward as Farmer’s organization (Partners In Health) expands and its impact spreads, the book is well written and very thought-provoking.

I cannot really put into words the way this book has impacted me. I have read this book in a period of personal soul-searching that has slowly been taking over my thoughts since we returned from Africa. I have been trying to find my place again. I’m back from Africa, out of school, no longer working at any non-profit, and volunteering in a way that I often feel has very little real impact. In short: I’m squarely back in the real world and trying to discern my next steps. And this book hasn’t made it any easier; in fact, this book really got under my skin and challenged me in ways that have really struck a chord lately. I wanted to blog about this book weeks ago and was waiting for some profound thought or solution to my quandary to strike me, but alas, that answer of moment of clarity has yet to arrive. So I’ll keep soul searching and just say everyone should read this book. It’s riveting, it’s inspiring, it’s medically informative, it’s sociological in it indictment of the structural nature of world health problems, and it’s just a dang good book.

An Ordinary Man cover

An Ordinary Man by Paul Rusesabagina is the autobiography of the man played by Don Cheadle in Hotel Rwanda. I don’t think I need to say that this is an intense book, but for anyone who saw the movie, it is worth the time to hear the events told outside of the filter of a movie screenplay (though the film really seems to have been very accurate). The book fills in some real life details about Paul and his family, about the horrors of the 1994 genocide, and about what happens after the events seen in the movie end. A good, insider’s view of the events.

von Iglefeld books

Well, you knew there would have to be something by Alexander McCall Smith in here, and in fact there are THREE short novellas included in the Round-up: Portuguese Irregular Verbs, The Finer Points of Sausage Dogs, and At the Villa of Reduced Circumstances relate several tales revolving around Professor Dr. Moritz-Maria von Igelfeld, the author of an extremely important book on Portuguese verb usage. In these novellas, we see von Igelfeld direct surgery on an unfortunate wiener dog, participate in a revolution, match wits with a prejudiced Italian innkeeper, stumble upon a serious health risk to Germans in Venice, and resist the advances of hundreds of lonely widows while out to sea. And much more. Short, funny, well written. And I can now say I have read all four of McCall Smith’s series. Only a few books left and I’ll have knocked out his entire catalog. Booyah.

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