Author Archives: admin

Prinz, Jesse. Gut Reactions: A Perceptual Theory of Emotion

Gut Reactions is an interdisciplinary defense
of the claim that emotions are perceptions of changes in the body. This thesis, pioneered
by William James and resuscitated by Antonio Damasio, has been widely criticized for
failing to acknowledge that emotions are meaningful insofar as they represent concerns,
not respiratory function and blood pressure. Fear represents danger, sadness represents
loss. To explain this fact, many researchers conclude that emotions must involve judgments
regarding one’s relationship to the environment. Prinz offers a new unified account
of the emotions that reconciles these two theories. He argues that emotions are embodied
appraisals–they are perceptions of the body, but, through the body, they also allow
us to literally perceive danger, loss, and other matters of concern. 

Demian Whiting HYMS: An interesting
and accessible defence of a Jamesian theory of emotion.

Publisher: OUP USA
Year: 2006
ISBN-10: 0195309367


Penhall, Joe. Blue/Orange

This TV Play is made available via the Education Recording Agency (ERA) licence, as such the following link will only work via a computer on the HYMS network.

>click here<

Chris has been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder following a psychotic episode. After 28 days in the care of young registrar Dr. Bruce Flaherty he is due to be released, but Bruce fears that his patient’s belief that his father is Idi Amin, and the fact that he insists that oranges are blue, are warning signs of schizophrenia. If Chris is released into the community he could well suffer a terrible breakdown. The scene is set for a struggle with senior consultant Dr. Robert Smith who sees Chris as ready to leave.

Dr Bill Laughey HYMS:  There is a very interesting modern play which is very medical: Blue Orange, by Joe Penhall. Written about 10 years ago it premiered at The National with Bill Nighy in the lead role.
It is about an older and a younger psychiatrist and a black patient who is under their care. There is a whole interesting argument about what schizophrenia is and does the patient have it or can his beliefs be explained on cultural rather than psychiatric grounds. Blurring the argument is the fact that the older pyschiatirst is under financial pressure to discharge him. There’s a lot of alpha male arguing between the two doctors and dodgy careers advice from the older to the younger. There are times when you wonder who is maddest – the doctors or the patient? 

The blurb puts it like this: BLUE/ORANGE is an incendiary tale of race, madness and a Darwinian power struggle at the heart of a dying National Health Service.

I rate it as a must-see for any doctor, anyone interested in the NHS, and anyone who just likes a jolly good play.


Part of collection “The Methuen drama book of twenty-first century British plays / edited by Aleks Sierz”

Dancy, J. Ethics without Principles

Jonathan Dancy presents a long-awaited exposition and defence of particularism in ethics, a view with which he has been associated for twenty years. He argues that the traditional link between morality and principles, or between being moral and having principles, is little more than a mistake. The possibility of moral thought and judgement does not in any way depend on an adequate supply of principles. Dancy grounds this claim on a form of reasons-holism, holding that what is a reason in one case need not be any reason in another, and maintaining that moral reasons are no different in this respect from others. He puts forward a distinctive form of value-holism to go with the holism of reasons, and he gives a detailed discussion, much needed, of the currently popular topic of ‘contributory’ reasons. Opposing positions of all sorts are summarized and criticized. Ethics Without Principles is the definitive statement of particularist ethical theory, and will be required reading for all those working on moral philosophy and ethical theory.

Demian Whiting HYMS: Deserves a mention because it outlines an alternative to a principles based approach to moral theorising! But be warned: not an easy book to read!

Publisher: Clarendon Press
Year: 2006)

(access via eBooks at York >here<)

(access via eBooks at Hull >here<)

Goldsworthy, Peter. This Goes With That

An Australian writer and medical practitioner. Peter Goldsworthy has won awards for his short stories, poetry, novels, and opera libretti.
The Poetry Archive describes his poetry as follows:
“There’s a pressing sense of mortality in his work and a desire to ask the big questions, even as he satirises them. Drawn to the discipline of science, Goldsworthy’s poems are full of the language of the laboratory —matter, evidence, elements, chemicals— the stuff we are made of, but at the same time frustrated by these limitations into asking what else we might be. He’s interested in ‘The Dark Side of the Head’, the things we can only know in flashes, like glimpsing a skink, but he also retains a rationalist’s scepticism of the ecstatic – that “thoughtlessly exquisite” evening sky in ‘Sunset’ won’t fool him into rapture”.

Publisher: Leviathan
Year: 2001
ISBN-10: 1903563119


Peeters, Frederick. Blue Pills a positive love story

One summer night at a teenage house party, Fred met Cati.Though they barely spoke, he vividly remembers her gracefulness juxtaposed with a wonderful, wild abandon. They meet again at a New Year’s Party in 1999, and this time their connection is instantaneous. A few weeks later, when it looks like things might get serious, a very nervous Cati tells him that she and her three-year-old son are both HIV positive. With great beauty and economy, Peeters’ traces the development of their emotional and sexual intimacy. The silver lining in their lives is the wonderful, down-to-earth doctor whose affection and frankness allow them to confront their fears about sex and fully realize their passionate connection. But when Cati’s son gets sick and they have to administer a gruelling treatment (including the blue pills of the title), Fred comes face to face with death. His questions about life, love and illness are played out in a Socratic dialogue with a (very wise) mammoth who ultimately helps him to recognize that living with illness is also a gift; it has freed him to savour his life with Cati.
Publisher: Jonathan Cape
Year: 2008
ISBN-10: 0224082396

Viewer Comments:

I enjoyed this graphic novel. Frank and insightful in it’s handling of relationships against the background of HIV in the age of HAART. I do like the way graphic novels allow new ways of expressing inner thoughts.

Lycan, William. Prinz, Jesse (eds). Mind and Cognition: an anthology


First published in 1990, Mind and Cognition:An Anthology is now firmly established as a popular teaching apparatus for upper level undergraduate and graduate courses in the philosophy of mind. This collection of classic and contemporary articles in philosophy of mind and cognition provides the reader with an overview of the complex, sophisticated, and sometimes conflicting developments in theories of mind that have taken place over the last 50 years, making available to students, teachers, and researchers the very best and most influential contributions to the discipline.

Demian Whiting HYMS: a useful collection of articles by leading philosophers of mind, which gives a sense of how the discipline has evolved over the last 50 years or so. Some papers more accessible than others!

Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell
Year: 2008
ISBN-10: 1405157852

Quinn, Marc. Alison Lapper Pregnant

Here’s how Marc Quinn described the sculpture:

The sculpture is a portrait of Alison Lapper when she was 8½ months pregnant. It is carved out of
one block of white marble and stands 3.55 metres high. At first glance it would seem that there are few if any public sculptures of people with disabilities. However, a closer look reveals that Trafalgar Square is one of the few public spaces where one exists: Nelson on top of his column has lost an arm. I think that Alison’s portrait reactivates this dormant aspect of Trafalgar Square. Most public sculpture, especially in the Trafalgar Square and Whitehall areas, is triumphant male statuary. Nelson’s Column is the epitome of a phallic male monument and I felt that the square needed
some femininity, linking with Boudicca near the Houses of Parliament. Alison’s statue could represent a new model of female heroism.

‘In the past, heroes such as Nelson conquered the outside world. Now it seems to me they conquer their own circumstances and the prejudices of others, and I believe that Alison’s portrait will symbolise this. I’m not physically disabled myself but from working with disabled sitters I realised how hidden different bodies are in public life and media. Her pregnancy also makes this a monument to the possibilities of the future.’

Armstrong, L. It’s not about the bike: my journey back to life.

People around the world have found inspiration in the story of Lance Armstrong–a world-class athlete nearly struck down by cancer, only to recover and win the Tour de France.

Author: Armstrong,

Yellow Jersey Press

Year: 2001
ISBN: 0224060872

Viewers Comments:

Perhaps an even more interesting book to read in 2013 than it was in 2001 – it clearly was indeed not all about the bike.

Happy to donate my copy of this book to anyone who might want it!

Kington, M. How shall I tell the Dog?

Perhaps the antidote to John Diamond and Ruth Picardie? This is another dying journalist – but this time the emphasis is definitely on humour, except of course …. he is dying. The book is a sequence of letters by the humourist Miles Kington to his literary agent suggesting book titles that he could write, to make ‘…cancer work for its living‘. Written after his diagnosis with pancreatic cancer, this is a very funny book and although it doesn’t set out to pass on deep messages about life and death, I sort of feel it does.

Publisher: Profile Books
Year: 2008
ISBN: 1846681979

Viewer Comments:


I thought I’d share a chapter in full….

The Will to Live

Dear Gill

Here’s an idea…

One of the cancer specialists at the hospital told me that statistically my chances of getting through another year were not great.

‘But statistics are misleading,’ he said. ‘You could be the exception who goes on and on. I have seen it happen. It all depends on your will to live.’

‘How’s my will to live?’ I said.

‘I’ve no idea,’ he said. ‘That’s up to you.’

I was amazed.

I was so used to having tests done on everything that I assumed there’d be a test for that as well.

If they take blood from you they can test the blood for almost everything – iron level, genes, bilirubin, whatever the man needs to know.

Why not the will to live?

So, Gill, Test Your Own Will to Live! Why not?



Helman, C. Suburban Shaman: Tales from Medicine’s Frontline

‘To be a good doctor you have to be a compassionate chameleon, a shape shifter – a shaman. Even if your adaptation to your patients’ world happens at an unconscious level you should always work within their system of ideas, never against it…’ So writes Cecil Helman after 27 years as a family practitioner in the suburbs of North London interlaced with training and research as a medical anthropologist, comparing a wide variety of health systems.

Publisher: Hammersmith Press Limited
Year: 2006
ISBN: 1905140088

Guthrie, W. The Dust Pneumonia Blues


I had always thought the ‘Dust Pneumonia’ referred to in this song was related
to occupational exposure. However, it was a term used to describe a much more acute
reponse to the dust storms that affected the mid-western states during the 1930’s.
This song is taken from Woody Guthrie’s album ‘Dust Bowl Ballads’ which was recorded in

I got that dust pneumony, pneumony in my lung,
I got the dust pneumony, pneumony in my lung,
An’ I’m a-gonna sing this dust pneumony song.

I went to the doctor, and the doctor, said, “My son,”
I went to the doctor, and the doctor, said, “My son,
You got that dust pneumony an’ you ain’t got long, not long.”

Now there ought to be some yodelin’ in this song;
Yeah, there ought to be some yodelin’ in this song;
But I can’t yodel for the rattlin’ in my lung.

My good gal sings the dust pneumony blues,
My good gal sings the dust pneumony blues,
She loves me ’cause she’s got the dust pneumony, too.

It it wasn’t for choppin’ my hoe would turn to rust,
If it wasn’t for choppin’ my hoe would turn to rust,
I can’t find a woman in this black ol’ Texas dust.

Down in Oklahoma, the wind blows mighty strong,
Down in Oklahoma, the wind blows mighty strong,
If you want to get a mama, just sing a California song.

Down in Texas, my gal fainted in the rain,
Down in Texas, my gal fainted in the rain,
I throwed a bucket o’ dirt in her face just to bring her back again.

Hahn, R. (Editor) Anthropology in Public Health: Bridging differences in culture and Society

The 15 case studies of this book illustrate anthropological concepts and methods that can help us understand and resolve diverse public health problems around the world.

Author: Hahn, Robert A. (Editor)
Title: Anthropology in Public Health: Bridging differences in culture and Society
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Year: 2009
ISBN: 0195374649

Hammond, P. Trust Me, I’m (still) a Doctor

Why is healthcare (still) no safer than bungee jumping?
Dr Phil Hammond has spent 20 years as a health service whistleblower, exposing the dark side of medicine on stage and in the pages of Private Eye. Trust Me, I’m (Still) a Doctor is his story of the NHS and how we can all help to make it better. Dr Phil has done the rounds in hospital medicine, exposed the Bristol Heart Scandal, dabbled in sexual health and been threatened at a Public Inquiry for not revealing his sources.
He still works as a GP, and tries to do more good than harm in under ten minutes.
Dr Phil urges us all to help fix the NHS, stop mindless reform and start asking terribly
un-British questions like: ‘Have you done one like me before?’, ‘When did you last
wash your hands?’ and ‘Where’s all the money gone?’ Only then will healthcare stop
being dangerous and unaccountable. Trust me…

Stephen Bradley HYMS: Not to
be confused with the junior doctor book, this is
a compilation of the medical related columns from private eye. Much sharper reporting
than the mainstream press, amongst the stories he broke was the bristol baby scandal.
The main theme is his assertion that patient choice has been a misguided and expensive
agenda (since they don’t care) whilst patient safety is an issue nhs staff could unite

Publisher: Black and White Publishing
Year: 2009
ISBN-10: 1845022610


Haddon, M. The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is a murder mystery novel like no other. The detective, and narrator, is Christopher Boone. Christopher is fifteen and has Asperger’s, a form of autism. He knows a very great deal about maths and very little about human beings. He loves lists, patterns and the truth. He hates the colours yellow and brown and being touched. He has never gone further than the end of the road on his own, but when he finds a neighbour’s dog murdered he sets out on a terrifying journey which will turn his whole world upside down.

Jonathan Lloyd HYMS: themes
autism and family, a relatively easy read written from the autistic sons persepctive.

Publisher: Vintage
Year: 2004
ISBN-10: 0099450259

Guterson, D. East of the mountains

When he discovers that he has terminal cancer, retired heart surgeon Ben Givens refuses to simply sit back and wait. Instead he takes his two beloved dogs and goes on a last hunt, determined to end his life on his own terms.
But as the people he meets and the memories over which he lingers remind him of the mystery of life’s endurance, his trek into the American West becomes much more than a final journey.

Author: Guterson, David
Title: East of the mountains
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
Year: 2000
ISBN: 0747545081

 (spoiler alert)

Greenlaw, L (ed). Signs and Humours: The Poetry of Medicine.

The anthology brings together 100 poems written over the last 2,000 years to show how one of the most basic human concerns – the body – has continued to fascinate and agitate poets. Whether it’s Horace complaining about garlic playing havoc with his digestive system, Grey Gowrie recovering from a heart transplant or Jo Shapcott demonstrating – a lack of – latent inhibition, the anthology explores the questions that arise when we are forced to stop and consider our physical selves….The 22 specially commissioned poems include deliberations on the pathologies of our time, from autism and infertility to pancreatitis and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, but often take the subject matter in unexpected directions.

Title: Signs and Humours: The Poetry of Medicine
Editor: Greenlaw, Lavina
Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation
Year: 2007
ISBN: 1903080096

Goffman, E. Stigma

The dwarf, the disfigured, the blind man, the homosexual, the ex-mental patient and the member of a racial or religious minority all share one characteristic: they are all socially “abnormal”, and therefore in danger of being considered less then human. Whether ordinary people react by rejection, by over-hearty acceptance or by plain embarrassment, their main concern is with such an individual’s deviance, not with the whole of his personality. “Stigma” is a study of situations where normal and abnormal meet, and of the ways in which a stigmatized person can develop a more positive social and personal identity.

Author: Goffman, Ernest

Title: Stigma

ISBN: 0140124756

Glover, Jonathan. Humanity: A Moral History of the Twentieth Century

A unique and compelling study of history and morality in the twentieth century, this book examines the psychology which made possible Hiroshima, the Nazi genocide, the Gulag, the Chinese Cultural Revolution, Pol Pot’s Cambodia, Rwanda and Bosnia. In modern technological war, victims are distant and responsibility is fragmented. The scientists making the atomic bomb thought they were
only providing a weapon: how it was used was the responsibility of society. The people who dropped the bomb were only obeying orders. The machinery of political decision-taking was so complex that no one among the politicians was unambiguously responsible. No one thought of themselves as causing the horrors of Hiroshima.One topic of the book is tribalism: about how, in Rwanda and in the former Yugoslavia, people who once lived together became trapped into mutual fear and hatred. Another topic is how, in Stalin’s Russia, Mao’s China and in Cambodia, systems of belief made atrocities possible. The analysis of Nazism looks at the emotionally powerful combination of tribalism and belief which enabled people to do things otherwise unimaginable. Drawing on accounts of participants, victims and observers, Jonathan Glover shows that different atrocities have common patterns which suggest weak points in our psychology.

Publisher: Pimlico
Year: 2001
ISBN-10: 0712665412

Gaarder, J. Sophie’s World

When 14-year-old Sophie encounters a mysterious mentor who introduces her to philosophy, mysteries deepen in her own life. Why does she keep getting postcards addressed to another girl? Who is the other girl? And who, for that matter, is Sophie herself? To solve the riddle, she uses her new knowledge of philosophy, but the truth is far stranger than she could have imagined.

Author: Gaarder, Jostein
Title: Sophie’s World
Publisher: London : Phoenix House
Year: 1995
ISBN: 1897580428

Gawande, A. Complications: a Surgeon’s Notes on an Imperfect Science

Gently dismantling the myth of medical infallibility, Dr Atul Gawande’s Complications: A Surgeon’s Notes on an Imperfect Science is essential reading for anyone involved in medicine–on either end of the stethoscope. Medical professionals make mistakes, learn on the job and improvise much of their technique and self-confidence. Gawande’s tales are humane and passionate reminders that doctors are people, too.

Title: Complications:a Surgeon’s notes on an imperfect science.

Author: Gawande, Atul

Publisher: Profile books

Year: 2008

ISBN: 1846681324

Frutiger, Adrian. “The NHS typeface”

These letters may look familar, this is Frutiger Regular the typeface of the NHS – it is in use in signs, patient leaflets, reports. It was originally designed in 1968 for signage at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris – it is named after its creator the Swiss typeface designer Adrian Frutiger. This is truly form and function in art.

(The colour is, of course, ‘NHS Blue’.)

 Viewer Comments:


If you are into typography you might be interested to know that the ‘HYMS typeface’ is Gill Sans (created 1926) – named after its creator the brilliant (but seriously strange) sculptor and artist Eric Gill.

The typeface for eLearning@HYMS is a relative newcomer – Bauhaus – designed in 1975.

Fowles, J. The French Lieutenant’s Woman.

Of all John Fowles’ novels The French Lieutenant’s Woman received the most universal acclaim and today holds a very special place in the canon of post-war English literature. From the god-like stance of the nineteenth-century novelist that he both assumes and gently mocks, to the last detail of dress, idiom and manners, his book is an immaculate recreation of Victorian England. Not only is it the epic love story of two people of insight and imagination seeking escape from the cant and tyranny of their age, The French Lieutenant’s Woman is also a brilliantly sustained allegory of the decline of the twentieth-century passion for freedom.

Dr Jonathan Lloyd HYMS: themes obsession, love, honour, dishonour, duty.

Publisher: Vintage Classics
ISBN: 0099478331

Faulks, S. Birdsong

Set before and during the great war, Birdsong captures the drama of that era on both a national and a personal scale. It is the story of Stephen, a young Englishman, who arrives in Amiens in 1910. His life goes through a series of traumatic experiences, from the clandestine love affair that tears apart the family with whom he lives, to the unprecedented experiences of the war itself.

Dr Jonathan Lloyd HYMS: themes loss, grief, bereavement , one of the most moving accounts of love and war.

Publisher: Vintage
ISBN: 0099387913

Dawkins, R. The selfish gene

Inheriting the mantle of revolutionary biologist from Darwin, Watson, and Crick, Richard Dawkins forced an enormous change in the way we see ourselves and the world with the publication of The Selfish Gene. Suppose, instead of thinking about organisms using genes to reproduce themselves, as we had since Mendel’s work was rediscovered, we turn it around and imagine that “our” genes build and maintain us in order to make more genes. That simple reversal seems to answer many puzzlers which had stumped scientists for years, and we haven’t thought of evolution in the same way since.

Publisher: Oxford University Press
Year: 1989
ISBN: 0192177737

Forster, M. Have the men had enough?

What do men run away from? Not war, not physical hardship, but the day-to-day emotional demands of impossible domestic situations. That’s women’s work. This is a story of female courage, where black comedy turns to disturbing pathos revolving around the rights of an indomitable woman.

Author: Forster, Margaret
Title: Have the men had enough?
Publisher: London : Vintage
Year: 2004
ISBN: 0099455641

Dury, Ian. “Spasticus Autisticus”

Banned from airplay on the BBC in 1981 this song retains some of Dury’s enormous capacity to both provoke and entertain. ‘Spastic’ is apparently (watch out wiki-fact coming)  “the second most offensive term in the UK relating to disability” (pipped by “retard”) here it is being thoroughly ‘reclaimed’.

Spasticus Autisticus

I’m spasticus, I’m spasticus
I’m spasticus autisticus
I’m spasticus,
I’m spasticus
I’m spasticus autisticus
I’m spasticus, I’m spasticus
I’m spasticus autisticus

I wiggle when I piddle
‘Cos my middle is a riddle

I’m spasticus, I’m spasticus
I’m spasticus autisticus
I’m spasticus, I’m spasticus
I’m spasticus autisticus
I’m spasticus, I’m spasticus
I’m spasticus autisticus

I dribble when I nibble
And I quibble when I scribble

Hello to you out there in Normal Land
You may not comprehend my tale or understand
As I crawl past your window give me lucky looks
You can read my body but you’ll never read my books

I’m spasticus, I’m spasticus
I’m spasticus autisticus
I’m spasticus, I’m spasticus
I’m spasticus autisticus
I’m spasticus, I’m spasticus
I’m spasticus autisticus

I’m knobbled on the cobbles
‘Cos I hobble when I wobble


So place your hard-earned peanuts in my tin
And thank the Creator you’re not in the state I’m in
So long have I been languished on the shelf
I must give all proceedings to myself

I’m spasticus, I’m spasticus
I’m spasticus autisticus
I’m spasticus,
I’m spasticus
I’m spasticus autisticus
I’m spasticus, I’m spasticus
I’m spasticus autisticus

54 appliances in leather and elastic
100,000 thank you’s from
27 … spastics

Spasticus, spasticus
Spasticus autisticus
Spasticus autisticus
Spasticus, spasticus
Spasticus autisticus

Widdling, griddling, skittling, diddling, fiddling, diddling, widdling, diddling, spasticus

I’m spasticus, spasticus
Spasticus autisticus
Spasticus, spasticus
Spasticus autisticus
Spasticus, spasticus
Spasticus autisticus

Spasticus, spasticus
Spasticus autisticus

I’m spasticus!
I’m spasticus!
I’m spasticus!
I’m spasticus!
I’m spasticus!
I’m spasticus!
I’m spasticus!

Garcia Marquez, G, Love in the time of cholera

Gabriel Garcia Marquez‘s Love in the Time of Cholera is a brilliantly crafted, beautifully written story of love and the love-sick. Spurned as a young man, Florentino Ariza has a half century of waiting to fill before a chance to redeclare his love for Fermina Daze comes, when her husband is killed  retrieving a parrot from a mango tree.

Author: Garcia Marquez, Gabriel
Title: Love in the time of cholera
Publisher: Penguin
Year: 1989
ISBN: 014012389X

 (spoiler alert)

 (spoiler alert)

Viewer Comments:


There’s a lot more love than cholera in this book (although the vibrio does turn up at critical points in the story).

Many reasons to read this book, from the vivid sense of place, the humour and absurdity, the longest drawn-out ‘will they won’t they?’ I can remember reading. From a ‘medical perspective’ one of the central characters, Juvenal Urbino, is a doctor and you get a strong feel for his position in the society of that time. (I liked the following quote [Having just met the other main male character, Florentino Ariza, and been told he was his wife’s only sweetheart before she married]…‘Dr Urbino replied ….: “I did not know that fellow was a poet.” And then he wiped him from his memory, because among other things, his profession had accustomed him to the ethical management of forgetfulness.’)

The thing I took away from the book though was the enduring importance of sexuality right across the lifespan. The book takes its characters from teenagers to very old age, and in this time they (and you) encounter a whole fantastic catalogue of ‘loves’: romantic, manic, platonic, suicidal, carnal. Although only a minority of doctors have sexual health and wellbeing as the central focus of their work, it is a vital part of the ‘backdrop’ to all medical practice – and this book certainly reminds you that there isn’t an age limit to it!

Garcia Marquez, G. One Hundred Years of Solitude

The novel tells the story of the rise and fall of the mythical town of Macondo through the history of the Buendi family. It is a rich and brilliant chronicle of life and death, and the tragicomedy of humankind.

Author: Garcia
Marquez, Gabriel

Title: One Hundred Years of Solitude
Publisher: New York : HarperCollins
Year: 1991
ISBN: 0060919655

Goldacre, B. Bad Science

How do we know if a treatment works, or if something causes cancer? Can the claims of homeopaths ever be as true – or as interesting as the improbable research into the placebo effect? Who created the MMR hoax? Do journalists understand science? Ben Goldacre masterfully dismantles the dodgy science behind some of the great drug trials, court cases and missed opportunities of our time, but he also goes further: out of the bulls***, he shows us the fascinating story of how we know what we know, and gives us the tools to uncover bad science for ourselves.

Emma Mironska (HYMS): I’d like to recommend ‘Bad Science’ By Dr Ben Goldacre. I reread it over the Summer and it is both hilarious and shocking at the same time. It goes through why it is essential that medicine has a reliable evidence base. Should be standard reading for any doctor. He also has a website which is definately worth a look He puts into words everything i’ve ever wanted to say to a homeopathist…

Publisher: Fourth Estate
Year: 2008
ISBN: 0007240198

Viewer Comments:


Agree with that; this is TCC material which makes you laugh aloud; can’t be bad

Anonymous. The four forms of the doctor

These four images show an interesting progression in the perception of a doctor – from saint to satan.

  • In the first picture the doctor is heaven sent – there are broken bones to mend, patients in extremis
  • In the second he is hard at work – seen as a ministering angel
  • By picture number three his work is done, his patients restored to health
  • But in picture four we discover how he is seen when the bills are due – the devil incarnate

These pictures, painted in the early 1600’s, are part of the collection of the Museum Boerhaave in Leiden in the Netherlands (the Dutch National Museum of Science and Medicine) – you can visit the website here  (or click on any of the pictures.)

Viewer Comments:

These pictures form the frontispiece of Kenneth Calman’s book ‘Medical Education Past Present and Future’, I thought they were fabulous and a great reminder that the image of ‘the doctor’ is never fixed and not always positive!

Gunn, T. The Man with Night Sweats

Thom Gunn’s The Man With Night Sweats shows him writing at the height of his powers… The book ends with a set of poems about the deaths of friends from AIDS. With their unflinching directness, compassion and grace, they are among the most moving statements yet to have been provoked by the disease.

Author: Gunn,Thom
Title: The Man with Night Sweats
Publisher: Faber and Faber
Year: 1992
ISBN: 0571162576

Crane, Tim. Elements of Mind: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Mind

Demian Whiting HYMS: An accessible introduction to philosophy of mind by a leading contemporary theorist

This accessible and lively introduction considers the main problems and debates in contemporary philosophy of mind. The central theme of the book is that intentionality, or the mind’s direction upon its objects – sometimes described as the mind’s power to represent or be ‘about’ things – is the essential feature of all mental phenomena. Crane engages in a subsidiary theme, the mind-body problem, asking to what extent a physicalist reductive account of mental phenomena is possible, or even necessary. Proposing an original and unified theory of all the phenomena of mind, Crane opposes those currently popular conceptions of the mind which divide mental phenomena into two very different kinds, the intentional and the qualitative. In the light of his theory, Crane gives an account of the main problems of the philosophy of mind: the mind-body problem, the problem of intentionality (or mental representation), the problem of consciousness, and the problem of perception. He also attempts to give solutions to these problems. This book provides an fresh and engaging exploration of those questions at the centre of the philosophy of mind in an accessible and lucid style which will appeal to all students, including those new to the subject.

Publisher: OUP Oxford
Year: 2001
ISBN-10: 0192892975

Kaplan J. The Dressing Station: A Surgeon’s Odyssey

Surgeon Jonathan Kaplan has flown around the world on medical assignments, but as his debut book suggests, he never feels more engaged with life than when among the dying.

Stephen Bradley HYMS: Experiences of a surgeon who worked in various conflicts and disasters including amongst the kurds during the first gulf war

Publisher: Picador
Year: 2002
ISBN-10: 0330480790

(spoiler alert)

Chang, J. Wild swans: three daughters of China

Blending the intimacy of memoir and the panoramic sweep of eyewitness history,Wild Swans has become a bestselling classic in thirty languages, with more than ten million copies sold. The story of three generations in twentieth-century China, it is an engrossing record of Mao’s impact on China, an unusual window on the female experience in the modern world, and an inspiring tale of courage and love. Jung Chang describes the life of her grandmother, a warlord’s concubine; her mother’s struggles as a young idealistic Communist; and her parents’ experience as members of the Communist elite and their ordeal during the Cultural Revolution.

Author: Chang, Jung
Title: Wild swans: three daughters of China
Publisher: London : Harper Collins
Year: 1991
ISBN: 0006374921

Viewer Comments:


Like quite a few books on this site this is a story that encompasses terrible experiences and also documents what seems easiest to describe, but not explain, as inhumanity. The destructive chaos of the cultural revolution sits at the heart of this memoir …  “the more books you read, the more stupid you become,” doctors become peasants, untrained school girl becomes ‘barefoot doctor’ with some acupuncture needles and a book to follow. I found the most interesting character in the book was Chang’s father – a convinced communist who is ready to sacrifice family ties, struggling to come to terms with the direction the revolution has taken and then swallowed up in Mao’s nightmare. I sometimes found myself a bit swamped by the relentless stream of events (but the book does cover 70 years or so), but it was a fascinating read.

Carson, Ben. Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story

Gifted hands, an autobiographical glimpse into the life of one of the top American Neurosurgeon who went from being a “common black boy” in the inner-city Detroit, Michigan to being the director of paediatric neurosurgery. M.D., Ben Carson mother Sonya Carson, one of 24 children and a third grade school dropout, married at the age 13 and later divorced when Ben was young.  As an uneducated single parent, Sonya found it difficult to raise her children and as a result Ben resorted into being a “Ghetto Boy” full on uncontrollable temper tantrums.  However, somehow along the way his mother managed to motivate Ben under strict rules of study before play – a strategy that led to the development of M.D Ben Carson, a leader in paediatric neurosurgery.   One of his famous works includes performing separating a pair of seven-month-old German conjoined twins in 1987, who were joined at the head; he also lead team that lead to the separation of and Luka Banda, infant boys from Zambia in 1997.

Author: M.D., Ben Carson
Title: Gifted Hands
Publisher: Grand Rapids, Mich. : ZondervanPublishingHouse
Year: 1996, ©1990.
ISBN:  ISBN 0-310-21469-6

Viewer Comments:


A “common” black boy from an impoverished and single parenthood home to become a top American neurosurgeon, and the Director of Paediatric Neurosurgery at John Hopkins Hospital??? What? Are you dreaming??!! Who would have thought this would happen in America especially in the 70s – an era of the turmoil of social and race distinctions?

This is a truly motivating and inspiring well paced autobiography for anyone.  For me, after reading this book, my faith in God was re-affirmed. I assure you that after reading this book, you’ll walk away a changed person.


Other Books by M.D., Ben Carson

Think Big: Unleashing your Potential for Excellence

Take the Risk: Learning to Identify, Choose and Live with Acceptable Risk

The Big Picture: Getting Perspective on What’s really Important in Life

I was given a copy of this book whilst living in Michigan and finally got round to reading it this summer. Inspiring story, especially as a Christian, who like Ben Carson, attributes any gifts or skills i may possess as a gift from God and not of myself.

Cassidy, S. The Loneliest Journey

Sheila Cassidy is a British doctor and is known for her work in the hospice movement, as a writer and as someone who, by publicising her own history as a torture survivor, drew attention to human rights abuse in Chile in the 1970s.

Author: Cassidy, Sheila
Title: The Loneliest Journey
Publisher: Athena Press Ltd
Year: 2008
ISBN: 1847482309

Bulgakov, M. A country doctor’s notebook (The notes of a young doctor)

With the ink still wet on his diploma, the twenty-five-year-old Dr Mikhail Bulgakov was flung into the depths of rural Russia which, in 1916-17, was still largely unaffected by such novelties as the motor car, the telephone or electric light. How his alter-ego copes (or fails to cope) with the new and often appalling responsibilities of a lone doctor in a vast country practice – on the eve of Revolution – is described in Bulgakov’s delightful blend of candid realism and imaginative exuberance.

Publisher: Vintage Classics
Year: 2010
ISBN: 0099529564

Bronte, E. Wuthering Heights

Wuthering Heights is a gothic novel, and the only novel by Emily Brontë.  The narrative tells the tale of the all-encompassing and passionate, yet thwarted, love between Heathcliff and Catherine Earnshaw, and how this unresolved passion eventually destroys them and many around them.

Author: Bronte, Emily
Title: Wuthering Heights
Publisher: London : Penguin Books
Year: 2003
ISBN: 0141439556

Bartlett, Elizabeth. Strange Territory

Steven Oliver HYMS: Elizabeth Bartlett spent time working both as a receptionist in General Practice and in the home-care services, she died in 2008 in her mid 80’s. I’ve only just discovered her poetry – and I would recommend both this collection and also her earlier book ‘A Lifetime of Dying’.

Publisher: Peterloo Poets
Year: 1983
ISBN-10: 0905291492

Barry, Sebastian. The Secret Scripture.

Roseanne McNulty may (or may not) be on the point of nearing her 100th birthday — but there is little certainty about this fact. In her twilight years, her destiny is uncertain, as the Roscommon Mental Hospital — her home for so many years of her life — is on the point of closing. As the fateful hour approaches, Roseanne spends her time of talking to her psychiatrist of many years, Dr  Grene. The relationship between the two is strangely interdependent, and the doctor is also attempting to come to terms with the death of his wife. As we learn more about the two principal protagonists, we are presented with a rich and subtle picture of human relationships — and the (often unintentional) damages that we all do to each other

Prof Una Macleod HYMS: Don’t be put off by the accolades for this book. It is worthy of them. A beautifully written, moving story about an old lady, a psychiatrist, the Catholic church in Ireland. Useful to reflect on the power of religion in the lives of doctors and the role of doctors on bearing witness when that power is misused. Reflect on Dr Grene’s analysis: ‘As I do not seem able much to heal, then maybe I can simply be the responsible witness to the miracle of the ordinary soul’.

Publisher: Faber and Faber
Year: 2009
ISBN-10: 0571215297

Berger, J. A fortunate man: the story of a country doctor

In 1966 John Berger spent three months in the Forest of Dean shadowing an English country GP, John Sassall.

Sassall is a fortunate man – his work occupies and fulfils him, he lives amongst the patients he treats, the line between his life and his work is happily blurred.

In A Fortunate Man, Berger’s text and the photography of Jean Mohr reveal with extraordinary intensity the life of a remarkable man. It is a portrait of one selfless individual and the rural community for which he became the hub. Drawing on psychology, biography and medicine A Fortunate Man is a portrait of sacrifice. It is also a profound exploration of what it means to be a doctor, to serve a community and to heal.

Author: Berger, John
Title: A fortunate man: the story of a country doctor
Publisher: Random House USA Inc
Year: 1997
ISBN: 067973726X

Viewer Comments:

Comment (Prof John Cookson – HYMS)

Set in the Forest of Dean and a world away from General Practice now.  Some wonderful photographs.  Sadly, the protagonist committed suicide

Ayer, A. Language, Truth and Logic

Language, Truth, and Logic is a work of philosophy by Alfred Jules Ayer, published in 1936 when Ayer was only 26 (though it was in fact completed by age 24). It was crucial in bringing some of the ideas of the Vienna Circle and the logical empiricists to the attention of the English-speaking world.  This book defines, explains, and argues for the verification principle of logical positivism, sometimes referred to as the “criterion of significance” or “criterion of meaning”. It explains how the principle of verifiability may be applied to the problems of philosophy.

Publisher: Penguin
Year: 1990
ISBN: 0140136592

Viewer Comments:


To be honest, I don’t understand the description of this book so to actually read it might be a bit of a mission.

Dick Philip K. The Man in the High Castle

Imagine the world if the Allies had lost the Second World War… Philip K Dick trips the switches of our minds with his vision of the world as it might have been: the African continent virtually wiped out, the Mediterranean drained to make farmland, the United States divided between the Japanese and the Nazis…In the neutral zone that divides the rival superpowers in America lives the author of an underground best-seller. His book – a rallying cry for all those who dream of overthrowing the occupiers – offers an alternative theory of world history. Does ‘reality’ lie with him, or is his world just one among many others?

Mike Hardy HYMS: It is 1962, fourteen years after the end of the Second World War (1939–1948 in this history) which the Fascists won. Germany had the nuclear bomb and used it on the Japan. I Ching plays a role in the novel and there is abook-within-a-book that imagines a world where Allies won World War II. A complex and entertaining novel that is full of characters  and ideas.  Never been a film unlike much of Dick’s work for example, The Matrix, Blade Runner, The Adjustment Bureau, Minority Report and so forth.

Penguin Classics
ISBN-10: 0141186674

Doyle, Arthur Conan. The Complete Sherlock Holmes

It is more than a century since the ascetic, gaunt and enigmatic detective, Sherlock Holmes, made his first appearance in A Study in Scarlet. From 1891, beginning with The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, the now legendary and pioneering Strand Magazine began serialising Arthur Conan Doyle’s matchless tales of detection, featuring the incomparable sleuth patiently assisted by his doggedly loyal and lovably pedantic friend and companion, Dr Watson. The stories are illustrated by the remarkable Sydney Paget from whom our images of Sherlock Holmes and his world derive and who first equipped Holmes with his famous deerstalker hat. The literary cult of Sherlock Holmes shows no sign of fading with time as each new generation comes to love and revere the penetrating mind and ruthless logic which were the undoing of so many Victorian master criminals.
John Cookson HYMS: Holmes was of course modelled on one of Doyle’s Edinburgh teachers but the stories are full of the need for careful observation and the importance of drawing the correct conclusions. for example…
‘you see but you do not observe’
‘it is a capital mistake to theorise before one has data’
‘when a fact appears opposed to a long train of deductions it invariably proves to be capable of bearing some other interpretation’

Publisher: Wordsworth Editions Ltd

ISBN-10: 1840220767

Isherwood, Christopher. Goodbye to Berlin

“I am a camera with its shutter open, quite passive, recording, not thinking,” are the famous lines on the first page. This a semi-autobiographical account of Isherwood’s time in 1930s Berlin.

Written as a connected series of six short stories the book, first published in 1939, is a brilliant evocation of the decadence and repression, glamour and sleaze of Berlin society. Isherwood shows the lives of people at threat from the rise of the Nazis: Natalia Laundauer, the rich, Jewish heiress, Peter and Otto, a gay couple andthe “divinely decadent” Sally Bowles, a young English woman who was so memorably portrayed by Liza Minnelli.

Jonathan Lloyd HYMS: The original book on which “Cabaret” was based, on the surface it is about the disintegration of society and the rise of fascism, underneath it is also about hedonism, repression, love, sexuality and growing up etc etc ….. I think you could read the book then watch the film!

Publisher: Vintage Classics
ISBN-10: 0749390549

Wooton, D. Bad Medicine: Doctors Doing Harm Since Hippocrates

Stephen Bradley HYMS: Not to be confused with Ben Goldacre’s book, this is by a York academic and gives a revisionist take on the history of medicine. Particularly interesting is the way he demonstrates how Doctors have often been quite reactionary and slow to adopt new techniques when it threatened their professional identity (e.g. surgeons reluctance to use anaesthetic for 50 years because tradition dictated that a good surgeon was someone who could work fast and endure the patient’s screams). Also shows how in statistical terms health services and doctors make a fairly marginal difference to public health.

For a link to the authors university website click here – there is also an excellent website dedicated to the book with reviews, debate and further links
Publisher: OUP Oxford; 1 edition
Year: 2007
ISBN-10: 0199212791

Viewer Comments:


Just finished this – its a good read and full of surprises (like ‘who’ discovered penicilin), along with some old friends (whole chapter on Dr John Snow). The section that made me think most was probably the chapter on vivisection, and the harm doctors have caused to animals in the past. Whilst on a personal level I have always seen experimentation on animals as justfiable, it is good to have those ideas challenged and tested.

I also liked the fact that the book is better received by doctors than by historians, some of whom apparently baulk at the idea of a history of ‘progress’.

Winterson Jeanette. Why be Happy when you could be Normal?

This book is the story of a life’s work to find happiness. It is a book full of stories: about a girl locked out of her home, sitting on the doorstep all night; about a tyrant in place of a mother, who has two sets of false teeth and a revolver in the duster drawer, waiting for Armageddon; about growing up in an northern industrial town now changed beyond recognition, part of a community now vanished; about the Universe as a Cosmic Dustbin. It is the story of how the painful past Jeanette Winterson thought she had written over and repainted returned to haunt her later life, and sent her on a journey into madness and out again, in search of her real mother. It is also a book about other people’s stories, showing how fiction and poetry can form a string of guiding lights, a life-raft which supports us when we are sinking.

Publisher: Jonathan Cape
Year: 2011
ISBN-10: 0224093452

Winterson, J. Oranges are not the only fruit

This is the story of Jeanette, adopted and brought up by her mother as one of God’s elect. Zealous and passionate, she seems destined for life as a missionary, but then she falls for one of her converts. At sixteen, Jeanette decides to leave the church, her home and her family, for the young woman she loves. Innovative, punchy and tender, “Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit” is a few days ride into the bizarre outposts of religious excess and human obsession.

Author: Winterson,Jeanette

Publisher: Vintage
Year: 1991
ISBN: 0099935708

Welsh, I. Trainspotting

“Choose us. Choose life. Choose mortgage payments; choose washing machines; choose cars; choose sitting oan a couch watching mind-numbing and spirit-crushing game shows, stuffing fuckin junk food intae yir mooth. Choose rotting away, pishing and shiteing yersel in a home, a total fuckin embarrassment tae the selfish, fucked-up brats ye’ve produced. Choose life.”

Stephen Bradley HYMS: Probably Welsh’s only good book and gives some insight into life as an addict

Publisher: Vintage;
ISBN: 0099465892

Wilkinson R, Pickett K. The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better

Large inequalities of income in a society have often been regarded as divisive and corrosive, and it is common knowledge that in rich societies the poor have shorter lives and suffer more from almost every social problem. This groundbreaking book, based on thirty years’ research, demonstrates that more unequal societies are bad for almost everyone within them – the well-off as well as the poor.

Stroud, M. Survival of the Fittest

Paul Scott (HYMS): Mike Stroud, polar explorer and practising doctor recounts his inspirational feats of endurance and explores the extremes the human body can operate at. An excellent and informative read.

Title: Survival of the Fittest

Author: Stroud, Mike

Publisher: Vintage

Year: 1999

ISBN: 0099272598

Steinbeck, J. The grapes of wrath

Shocking and controversial when it was first published in 1939, Steinbeck’s Pulitzer prize-winning epic remains his undisputed masterpiece. Set against the background of dust bowl Oklahoma and Californian migrant life, it tells of the Joad family, who, like thousands of others, are forced to travel West in search of the promised land. Their story is one of false hopes, thwarted desires and broken dreams, yet out of their suffering Steinbeck created a drama that is intensely human, yet majestic in its scale and moral vision; an eloquent tribute to the endurance and dignity of the human spirit.

Author: Steinbeck, John
Title: The grapes of wrath
Publisher: London : David Campbell
Year: 1993
ISBN: 1857151542

Springsteen, Bruce. The Streets of Philadelphia

Released in 1994 as part of Philadelphia soundtrack


I was bruised and battered and I couldn’t tell
What I felt
I was unrecognizable to myself
I saw my reflection in a window I didn’t know
My own face
Oh brother are you gonna leave me
On the streets of Philadelphia

I walked the avenue till my legs felt like stone
I heard the voices of friends vanished and gone
At night I could hear the blood in my veins
Black and whispering as the rain
On the streets of Philadelphia

Ain’t no angel gonna greet me
It’s just you and I my friend
My clothes don’t fit me no more
I walked a thousand miles
Just to slip the skin

The night has fallen, I’m lyin’ awake
I can feel myself fading away
So receive me brother with your faithless kiss
Or will we leave each other alone like this
On the streets of Philadelphia

Simon, D. The Wire

The Wire is an HBO series  that for many is the best TV for a decade or two. It is not the Bill !

Set in Baltimore the main writer   spent 12 years police reporting for the Baltimore Sun.  Early episodes focused on  the drug trade in the West Baltimore projects but later the series moves onto city politics, the education system and international crime and the media. Many of the actors came from the streets.The ‘star’ of the show is the city – a simulated post-industrial every town – within which the interactions between the drugs economy, race, the criminal justice system take place. ‘The Wire has been described as the  best ethnographic text on the and a Dicken’s ‘novel’ for the C20.

Great characters – it will make you laugh, cry and think – probably change your mind about drug policy and you will never trust what you read and hear on the news again.  Hmm perhaps you should not see – stick to those Bill DVDs or Inspector Morse….

DVDs series 1-5

Schnabel, Julian (dir). The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

Director: Julian Schnabel
Produced by Kathleen Kennedy, Jon Kilik
Year: 2007

Mike Hardey HYMS: The true story of Elle editor Jean-Dominique Bauby who suffers a stroke and has to live with an almost totally paralysed body…

There’s also a page for the original book here

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mind_on_film (spoiler alert)

Wright, Aneurin. Things to do in a Retirement Home Trailer Park …*when you are 29 and unemployed*

Nye’s father has been certified for hospice care, but Nye would rather move into his father’s trailer and take care of him himself. In this masterful, graphic portrayal of a father and son dealing with home care, Wright’s mastery allows the reader to witness the deepest emotions on many levels, where what is said is only half the story.The graphic vocabulary, in a palette of blue, red and black, is carefully planned. Flights of visual fancy express genuine emotion rooted in reality.

Year: 2012
ISBN-10: 1908434104

Viewer Comments:

I really enjoyed this graphic novel. It is funny and inventive and deals (I think very movingly and honestly) in the relationships within families and the tensions and challenges that caring for someone at the end of life brings. This is a book I have already started to lend (which I never do), and I would recommend it as a thought provoking read for students at any part of the course. You can find out more about the backstory to the book and the writer at the dedicated website.

Asimov, Isaac. Foundation Series

John Lewis HYMS: As an ice-breaker with PBL groups I sometimes ask the students which is the best book they have ever read, I always select the original three books of the Foundation trilogy. Why? I hope that most readers appreciate the two levels. It is a rip-roaring galaxy and time spanning  mystery with twists and turns aplenty. I make no apologies for the fact that it is a great and fun read, never mind that it is science fiction. It is also a commentary on how social development can be derailed by statistical anomalies, and how subtle changes result in cataclysmic effects. I wonder, are we all subject to the ‘Seldon Plan’ at this very time?

ISBN-10: 0586010807

Foundation and Empire
ISBN-10: 0586013555

Second Foundation
ISBN-10: 0586017135

Anderson, Lindsay (dir). Britannia Hospital

Mick Travis is a reporter who is about to shoot a documentary on Britannia Hospital, an institution which mirrors the downsides of British Society. It’s the day when Her Royal Highness is to visit the hospital to inaugurate a new wing, where advanced (and sinister) scientific experiments led by Prof. Millar will take place. Everybody in the hospital, from the cooks who refuse to cook, to the painters who couldn’t care less to get their job done, to an African cannibalistic dictator (a la Amin Dada) whom demonstrators want expelled from the hospital and tried, will contribute to making HRH’s visit (and Mick Travis’s life) a true nightmare.

Mike Hardey HYMS: A NHS comedy follows a local hospital preparing for a visit from the Queen Mother. A cannibalistic dictator threatens to eat a patient and countless obstacles threaten to divert the Queen’s visit.

Production: EMI Films
Year: 1982
Director: Anderson, Lindsay
Writer: Sherwin, David

Flaubert, Gustave. Madame Bovary.

Janine Henderson HYMS: Considered by many to be one of the greatest novels ever written, the French government brought an action against the publisher and author on the charge of immorality, as it deals with themes of infidelity and adultery. It subsequently became immensely popular.
The title character, Emma Bovary, is a narcissistic, histrionic personality, driven to despair by her husband`s dullness, eventually committing suicide when her life unravels around her. Some really wonderful turns of phrase in this book.

Publisher: Penguin Classics
ISBN-10: 9780140449129

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Sacks, O. The man who mistook his wife for a hat (and other clinical tales)

A 1985 book by neurologist Oliver Sacks describing the case histories of some of his patients. The title of the book comes from the case study of a man with visual agnosia

Author: Sacks, Oliver

Title: The man who mistook his wife for a hat (and other clinical tales)

Publisher: Chester Music

Year: 1996

ISBN: 0711960836

Fitzgerald, F Scott.Tender is the Night


To the French Riviera come Dick and Nicole Diver. Handsome, rich and glamorous, their dinners are legendary, their atmosphere magnetic. But something is wrong – Nicole has a secret and Dick a weakness. Together they head towards the rocks on which their lives crash – and only one of them really survives. Fitzgerald worked on seventeen versions of this novel, the obsessions of which consumed his marriage and his life.

Stephen Bradley HYMS: One of  Fitzgerald’s best, about the descent into dissapation of a psychiastrist, from his  promising youth to obscurity and disgrace.

Publisher: Penguin Classics
ISBN-10: 0140622608

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Viewer Comments:


It’s not clear to me in the book whether Nicole gains in health at Dick’s cost, or in fact what really leads to his apparent dissolution, but I thought this quote rings true about the affect that caring for a family member can have. (Topsy is Dick and Nicole’s daughter and second child, the quote comes at a point when Nicole has ‘relapsed’)

Having gone through unprofessional agonies during her long relapse following Topsy’s birth, he had, perforce, hardened himself about her, making a cleavage between Nicole sick and Nicole well. This made it difficult now to distinguish between his self-protective professional detachment and some new coldness in his heart.


From what I remember it seemed that by compromising his ethics and getting involved with a patient Diver begins his decline. Fitzgerald seemed to be fascinated by failure and people doing what they want to do rather than what they should do. The beautiful & the damned is another other striking example. They all drink too much and lead dreadful lives not having the discipline to avoid any temptation that comes their way. There is almost a whole genre of books about wealthy americans being obnoxiously aimless in post war europe. Hemmingways ‘sun also rises’ is the best other example I can think of, highsmiths the talented mr ripley is an interesting variation. Fitzgerald &  hemmingway are probably guilty of romanticising a fairly silly attidude but they’re enjoyable books.

Not sure why but 2 points are very memorable for me on diver’s trajectory: maybe his lowest ebb when he acts like a bigot and when a colleague’s wife condems him, noting that he is ‘no longer a serious man’.

Interestingly much of this book seems to have been based on Fitzgerald’s wife, Zelda, and her experiences of mental illness. She has written about this herself elsewhere.

Fildes, L. The Doctor

Fildes’s painting was inspired by the death of his son and the professional devotion of Dr Gustavus Murray who treated him. But this work shows the moment when a child shows the first sign of recovery. The redeeming light of dawn is shining on the child.In order to make the picture convincing Fildes constructed a cottage interior in his studio. He began work at dawn each day to catch the exact light conditions. The image of an ordinary doctor’s quiet heroism was a huge success with the late-Victorian public. It can be seen in the Tate Britain Gallery.

The Doctor  exhibited 1891

Oil on canvas
support: 1664 x 2419 mm frame:
2075 x 2875 x 210 mm

Presented by Sir Henry Tate 1894


Viewer Comments:


Steven Oliver HYMS: Sure many doctors would continue to relate to this image and the way in which it captures a clinician intently watching a sick patient, waiting to see ‘which way things will turn’. Of course the treatment in the bottle on the table was probably ineffective – and in reality the artist’s child died – so perhaps it also highlights how much ‘caring’ was valued, even when ‘curing’ was the rare exception.


I was looking for some examples of poetry by UA Fanthorpe (I’ll put some up more when I get round to it) and discovered that one of her books ‘A Watching Brief‘ had ‘The Doctor’ as it’s cover art and the following poem as it first, commissioned by the Tate Gallery. I’m not sure I can keep up with all of the references to art and artists in the middle section, but like the last stanza.

The Doctor

Sir Luke Fildes: The Doctor, Tate Gallery

‘That Jackson, he’s another one.
If he goes on opening windows we’ll all
Die of pneumonia.’

The native obsessions:
Health and the weather. Attendants have
The dogged, grainy look of subjects. Someone,
Surely, is going to paint them?

‘You don’t have a bad heart yet, do you?’

‘Not that I know of.’

‘They can examine you.’

‘But they don’t really know.’

The painters knew.
Gainsborough eyed his lovely, delicate daughters
And rich fat brewers: Turner his hectic skies.
They brooded on death by drowning (Ophelia, in real water);
Cloud without end; storm; storm coming on;
Bright exophthalmic eyes, consumptive colours,
And gorgeous goitred throats; the deluge,
The end of the world, and Adam’s
Appalling worm-wrapped birth.

Such patient watchers
Have eyes for those who watch. The child
Frets in its fever, the parents
Grieve in the background gloom. But the doctor,
Who has done all he can, and knows nothing
Will help or heal, sits raptly, raptly,
As if such absorbed attention were in itself
A virtue. As it is.

Eliot, G. Middlemarch

This panoramic work–considered the finest novel in English by many critics–offers a complex look at English provincial life at a crucial historical moment, and, at the same time, dramatizes and explores some of the most potent myths of Victorian literature.

Author:  Eliot, George
Title: Middlemarch
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Year:  1998
ISBN: 0192834029

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Viewer Comments:


An incredible book, certainly one of the most sophisticated and finely crafted novels i’ve ever come across. Eliot creates an entire (albeit small) society during the 19th century’s great changes in politics & economics (the emergence of middle class wealth and political liberalism) and also in Science. One of the main characters is Lydgate a Doctor who arrives in Middlemarch full of the spirit of evidence based inquiry acquired from the then pioneers of medicine in Paris. He soon comes in to conflict with traditional practitioners who feel threatened by the new knowledge and science they do not understand.

Cronin, A. The Citadel

This novel by Dr A.J. Cronin (1896-1981) is an excellent entrée into the world of British medicine in the 1920s and `30s, a world in which a character in his 50s can be described as “elderly,” and in which doctors specializing in lung diseases are regularly portrayed cigarette in hand.

Dr Jane Adam HYMS: I have just finished re-reading The Citadel, and it has given me enormous pleasure. I must have been in my early twenties when I first read it, and so – although I thought it was a marvellous read then – I was unaware of just how prophetic it was too, particularly about medical education and training. I also have taken great delight in reading a straightforward and romantic narrative novel (ie a story with a beginning, middle, end); made me realise that these ‘post-modern’ novels are so complex nowadays

Author: Cronin, A.J.
Title: The Citadel
Publisher: Gollancz
Year: 1937

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Galgut, D. The Good Doctor

When Laurence Waters arrives at his rural hospital posting, Frank is instantly suspicious. Laurence is everything Frank is not – young, optimistic and full of new schemes. The two become uneasy friends, while the rest of the staff in the deserted hospital view Laurence with a mixture of awe and mistrust. The town beyond the hospital is also coping with new arrivals, and the return of old faces. The brigadier – a self-fashioned dictator from apartheid days – is rumoured still to be alive. And down at Mama’s place, a group of soldiers have moved in with their malign commandant, a man Frank has met before and is keen to avoid. Laurence wants to help – but in a world where the past is demanding restitution from the present, his ill-starred idealism cannot last. In gleaming prose Damon Galgut has created a literary thriller out of an unlikely friendship.

Stephen Bradley HYMS: Set in post apartheid south africa, about niaviety and cynicism and the problems of both in situations of great scarcity and civil conflict

Publisher: Atlantic Books
Year: 2003
ISBN-10: 1843542013

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Roth, Philip. Nemesis

Summer, 1944. In the ‘stifling heat of equatorial Newark’, a terrifying epidemic is raging, threatening the children of the New Jersey city with maiming, paralysis, life-long disability, even death. Vigorous, decent, twenty-three year old playground director Bucky Cantor is devoted to his charges and disappointed with himself because his weak eyes have excluded him from serving in the war. As polio begins to ravage Bucky’s playground, Roth leads us through every inch of emotion such a pestilence can breed: the fear, the panic, the anger, the bewilderment, the suffering and the pain.

Publisher: Vintage
Year: 2011
ISBN-10: 0099542269

Viewer Comments:


I found this description of the experience and responses of communities and individuals to a polio epidemic quite fascinating, just recent enough for ‘living memory’ but still very much a different world. In particular the response of the main character to the random nature of disease and death and the challenge this lays down to individual’s ideas of meaning and purpose in life. If I read it right the ‘nemesis’ of the title is Bucky Cantor’s need to take on responsibility for ‘chance’ and the harm this subsequently does to himself and others – something I have certainly found myself doing and seen other doctors do too. This isn’t a long read but there is a lot in it – including beautiful lyrical passages and a deep sense of place and people in Roth’s description of the Jewish community in Newark.

Roth, P. Everyman

Philip Roth’s twenty-seventh book takes its title from an anonymous fifteenth-century English allegorical play whose drama centres on the summoning of the living to death and whose hero, Everyman, is intended to be the personification of mankind. The fate of Roth’s Everyman is traced from his first shocking confrontation with death on the idyllic beaches of his childhood summers and during is hospitalisation as a nine-year-old surgical patient through the crises of health that come close to killing him as a vigorous adult, and into his old age, when he is undone by the death and deterioration of his contemporaries and relentlessly stalked by his own menacing physical woes.

Stephen Bradley HYMS: A very painful depiction of a man with terminal disease contemplating his life and impending death. Often difficult and even unpleasant to read, but excellent. Quite similar in tone and themes to Tolstoy’s Ivan Illyich

Publisher: Vintage
ISBN-10: 0099501465

Rothko, M. Various

Jonathan Lloyd HYMS: Why did he change from painting an image that might have graced the cover of Vogue…

Underground Fantasy” c1940

…to images of dark colour

Mark Rothko No 4” 1964

…or the

Rothko Chapel Murals?

…and why Cornwall?

Reid, C. A Scattering

Lucinda Gane, Christopher Reid’s wife, died in October 2005. A Scattering is his tribute to her and consists of four poetic sequences, the first written during her illness, and the other three at intervals after her death.

Publisher: Arete Ltd
Year: 2009
ISBN: 0955455367

Reading, Peter. C

“The whole book is an extremely grim sequence of pieces concerned with terminal disease and death”

Written in a hundred 100-word ‘units’ as…

Verse is for healthy
The dying

and surgeons use prose.

Publisher: Martin Secker & Warburg Ltd
Year: 1984
ISBN-10: 0436409844

Povey, Meic. Don’t Buy a Winter Coat

This Radio Play is made available via the Education Recording Agency (ERA) licence, as such the following link will only work via a computer on the HYMS network. >click here<

When Megan first tells Anton that she’s afraid something’s wrong, he brushes her fears away. Later, when they’re sitting in the waiting room at the Oncology Department, he still refuses to believe that Megan is ill. Even when the diagnosis of cervical cancer is given, he struggles to accept it. He hopes
against hope for a miracle. But in this story there is no miracle, and Meic Povey’s play traces the journey of a man faced with losing the woman he loves. It’s a searingly honest account, based on his own experience, of facing up to the reality of a partner’s terminal illness

Viewer Comments:


One of the aspects of this drama that I felt was particularly convincing was the tension that often surfaced between the partners. As you just hear the two voices of Anton and Megan, without anything from a ‘professional’ voice – it made me think ‘I wonder what they were saying?’. Where does Megan get her version of the staging of cervical cancer? I think you could stop the play at any number of points and ask, ‘What might a health professional say/do/not do/not say at this point?’

Orwell, G. Animal Farm (a Fairy Story)

When the downtrodden animals of Manor Farm overthrow their master Mr Jones and take over the farm themselves, they imagine it is the beginning of a life of freedom and equality. But gradually a cunning, ruthless élite among them, masterminded by the pigs Napoleon and Snowball, starts to take control. Soon the other animals discover that they are not all as equal as they thought, and find themselves hopelessly ensnared as one form of tyranny is replaced with another. Orwell’s chilling ‘fairy story’ is a timeless and devastating satire of idealism betrayed by power and corruption.

Jonathan Lloyd HYMS: themes greed, envy, ambition, society, class, equality, democracy, power and corruption.

Publisher: Penguin Classics
ISBN: 0141182709

Orwell, G. Nineteen eighty four

Winston Smith works for the Ministry of Truth in London, chief city of Airstrip One. Big Brother stares out from every poster, the Thought Police uncover every act of betrayal. When Winston finds love with Julia, he discovers that life does not have to be dull and deadening, and awakens to new
possibilities. Despite the police helicopters that hover and circle overhead, Winston and Julia begin to question the Party; they are drawn towards conspiracy. Yet Big Brother will not tolerate dissidence; even in the mind. For those with original thoughts they invented Room 101.  Nineteen Eight-Four is George Orwells terrifying vision of a totalitarian future in which everything and everyone is slave to a tyrannical regime.

Author: Orwell, George
Title: Nineteen eighty four
Publisher: M & S Press
Year: 1984
ISBN: 043635022X

Ondaatje, M. The English Patient

Haunting and harrowing, as beautiful as it is disturbing, The English Patient tells the story of the entanglement of four damaged lives in an Italian monastery as the second world war ends. The exhausted nurse, Hana; the maimed thief, Caravaggio; the wary sapper, Kip: each is haunted by the riddle of the English patient, the nameless, burn victim who lies in an upstairs room and whose memories of passion, betrayal and rescue illuminate this book like flashes of sheet lightning.  In lyrical prose informed by a poetic consciousness, Michael Ondaatje weaves these characters together, pulls them tight, then unravels the threads with unsettling acumen.

Author: Ondaatje,Michael
Title: The English Patient
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Year: 2004
ISBN: 0747572593

Paton, A. Cry, the beloved country

“Cry the Beloved Country” is the deeply moving story of the Zulu pastor Stephen Kumalo and his son Absalom, set against the background of a land and a people riven by racial injustice. Remarkable for its contemporaneity, unforgettable for character and incident, “Cry, the Beloved Country” is a classic work of love and hope, courage and endurance, born of the dignity of man.

Author: Paton, Alan
Title: Cry, the beloved country
Publisher: Scribner
Year: 1951
ISBN: 0140181733

Viewer Comments:


Essential reading for anyone going to Africa.  As a political statement it has long been taken over by events but the themes of forgiveness redemption and restoration remain.  Set not far from the Charles Johnson hospital in Zululand which at one time did much to foster the ideals expressed in the book.  The first couple of pages are classic writing.

Oakley, Anne. Fracture: Adventures of a Broken Body

The starting point of Ann Oakley’s fascinating new book is the fracture of her right arm in the grounds of a hotel in the USA. What begins as an accident becomes a journey into some critical themes of modern Western culture: the crisis of embodiment and the perfect self; the confusion between body and identity; the commodification of bodies and body parts; the intrusive surveillance and profiteering of medicine and the law; the problem of ageing; and the identification of women, particularly, with bodies – from the intensely ambiguous two-in-one state of pregnancy to women’s later transformation into unproductive, brittle skeletons. Fracture mixes personal experience (the author’s and other people’s) with ‘facts’ derived from other literatures, including the history of medicine, neurology, the sociology of health and illness, philosophy, and legal discourses on the right to life and people as victims of a greedy litigation system. The book’s genre spans fiction/non-fiction, autobiography and social theory.
Laura Potts HYMS: Why read this? because it’s short and beautifully written but told in a way that values anecdote and story as well as study and analysis. Hope it will inspire you to think about embodiment and ill-health in a wide social and cultural context and to be able to think and write
coherently yourselves about health and illness.

Publisher: Policy Press
Year: 2007
ISBN-10: 1861349378

O’Malley.E. On Another Man’s Wound

Stephen Bradley HYMS: Experience
of a medical student who abandons his course to take part in the Irish war of independence.
O’Malley quickly became one of the most important leaders of the republic’s army during
the war and later fought against the new state in the civil war.

Publisher: Roberts Rinehart Publishers
Year: 2002
ISBN: 1589790049

Orwell, G. How the Poor Die

‘How the Poor Die’ is a short essay published in 1946 describing Orwell’s experience in 1929 within a Parisian hospital. The essay can be found in a number of collections – or if you are willing to tolerate some typos there is an online version of the text here.

Viewer Comments:


I thought this quote was a nice one about the experience of being ‘teaching material’:

“Later in the day the tall, solemn, black-bearded doctor made his rounds, with an intern and a troop of students following at his heels, but there were about sixty of us in the ward and it was evident that he had other wards to attend to as well. There were many beds past which he walked day after day, sometimes followed by imploring cries. On the other hand if you had some disease with which the students wanted to familiarize themselves you got plenty of attention of a kind. I myself, with an exceptionally fine specimen of a bronchial rattle, sometimes had as many as a dozen students queuing up to listen to my chest. It was a very queer feeling — queer, I mean, because of their intense interest in learning their job, together with a seeming lack of any perception that the patients were human beings. It is strange to relate, but sometimes as some young student stepped forward to take his turn at manipulating you he would be actually tremulous with excitement, like a boy who has at last got his hands on some expensive piece of machinery. And then ear after ear — ears of young men, of girls, of negroes — pressed against your back, relays of fingers solemnly but clumsily tapping, and not from any one of them did you get a word of conversation or a look direct in your face. As a non-paying patient, in the uniform nightshirt, you were primarily a specimen, a thing I did not resent but could never quite get used to.”

Picardie, R. Before I say goodbye

When Ruth Picardie died from complications following the misdiagnosis of breast cancer in September 1997, leaving a young husband and two-year-old twins, thousands mourned who’d never met her. Ruth’s column in “The Observer” recorded with scalding honesty the progress of her illness and her feelings about living with terminal cancer. “Before I Say Goodbye” brings together these pieces, Ruth’s e-mail correspondence with friends, selected letters from readers, and accounts of Ruth’s last days by her sister, Justine, and husband Matt.

Author: Picardie, Ruth
Title: Before I say goodbye
Publisher: Penguin
Year: 1998
ISBN: 0140276300

Peschel, R. When a doctor hates a patient, and other chapters in a young physician’s life

Enid and Richard Peschel have collaborated to create another fine contribution to the new and growing field of medical humanities.In this interesting volume, Richard Peschel, MD, recounts a number of gripping events recollected from his internship and early medical training. Each tale describes a moment of considerable intensity when doctor meets patient. Following each of these short narratives, Enid Peschel, PhD, describes similar encounters drawn from art, music, and literature.

Author: Peschel, Richard E
Title: When a doctor hates a patient, and other chapters in a young physician’s life
Publisher: University of California Press
Year: 1986
ISBN: 0520057554

Pemberton, M. Trust me I’m a (junior) doctor

If you’re going to be ill, it’s best to avoid the first Wednesday in August. This is the day when junior doctors graduate to their first placements and begin to face having to put into practice what they have spent the last six years learning.  Starting on the evening before he begins work as a doctor, this book charts Max Pemberton’s touching and funny journey through his first year in the NHS. Progressing from youthful idealism to frank bewilderment, Max realises how little his job is about ‘saving people’ and how much of his time is taken up by signing forms and trying to figure out all the important things no one has explained yet — for example, the crucial question of how to tell whether someone is dead or not. Along the way, Max and his fellow fledgling doctors grapple with the complicated questions of life, love, mental health and how on earth to make time to do your laundry.

Author: Max Pemberton
Title: Trust me I’m a (junior) doctor
Publisher: Hodder
Year: 2008
ISBN: 0340962054