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Praise for Audiobooks and Audible.com

Five years ago, I thought Audible.com was surely doomed. With the proliferation of free podcasts -- including many medical podcasts -- how could a company selling downloadable audiobooks survive?

I was wrong. A few months ago, I rediscovered Audible. This week alone, on my daily commute, I listened to two audiobooks. (And that's not unusual. I finally purchased a yearly subscription.)

Why am I such a fan of Audible and audiobooks?
  • Quality. Until you regularly listen to audiobooks, it's hard to appreciate the many good books out there that you'd never have time to read otherwise. Podcasts are good, but books are usually better.
  • It's simple to listen to audiobooks anywhere. I use an iPhone, which means I always have an audiobook immediately available in my pocket. (I also usually listen to books on "faster" speed.) No fishing around in your bag for a book. Helpful if you're standing on the bus or subway.
  • If you have a yearly subscription to Audible, you're free to experiment with books you never would have taken a chance with otherwise. (Many of the books I list below fall into this category.)
Here's a selection of books I've listened to in the last 5 months. I recommend them all. I've listed the books on medicine first.

Books on Medicine
How Doctors Think by Dr. Jerome Groopman. Here's the publisher's summary:
A New Yorker staff writer, best-selling author, and professor at Harvard Medical School unravels the mystery of how doctors figure out the best treatments - or fail to do so. This book describes the warning signs of flawed medical thinking and offers intelligent questions patients can ask.

On average, a physician will interrupt a patient describing her symptoms within 12 seconds. In that short time, many doctors decide on the likely diagnosis and best treatment. Often, decisions made this way are correct, but at crucial moments they can also be wrong - with catastrophic consequences.

In this myth-shattering book, Jerome Groopman pinpoints the forces and thought processes behind the decisions doctors make. He explores why doctors err and shows when and how they can, with our help, avoid snap judgments, embrace uncertainty, communicate effectively, and deploy other skills that can have a profound impact on our health.

Groopman draws on a wealth of research, extensive interviews with some of the country's best physicians, and his own experiences as a doctor and patient. He has learned many of the lessons in this book the hard way, from his own mistakes and from errors his doctors made in treating his own debilitating medical problems.

How Doctors Think reveals a profound new view of 21st-century medical practice, giving doctors and patients the vital information they need to make better judgments together.
Complications: A Surgeon's Note on an Imperfect Science by Atul Gawande. Publisher's summary:
Sometimes in medicine the only way to know what is truly going on in a patient is to operate, to look inside with one's own eyes. This book is exploratory surgery on medicine itself, laying bare a science not in its idealized form but as it actually is - complicated, perplexing, and profoundly human.

Atul Gawande offers an unflinching view from the scalpel's edge, where science is ambiguous, information is limited, the stakes are high, yet decisions must be made. In dramatic and revealing stories of patients and doctors, he explores how deadly mistakes occur, why good surgeons go bad. He shows what happens when medicine comes up against the inexplicable: an architect with incapacitating back pain for which there is no physical cause; a young woman with nausea that won't go away; a television newscaster whose blushing is so severe that she cannot do her job. Gawande also ponders the human factor that makes saving lives possible.

At once tough-minded and humane, Complications is a new kind of medical writing, nuanced and lucid, unafraid to confront the conflicts and uncertainties that lie at the heart of modern medicine, yet always alive to the possibilities of wisdom in this extraordinary endeavor.
Better: A Surgeon's Notes on Performance by Atul Gawande. Publisher's summary:
The struggle to perform well is universal: each one of us faces fatigue, limited resources, and imperfect abilities in whatever we do. But nowhere is this drive to do better more important than in medicine, where lives are on the line with every decision. In his new audiobook, Atul Gawande explores how doctors strive to close the gap between best intentions and best performance in the face of obstacles that sometimes seem insurmountable.

Gawande's gripping stories of diligence, ingenuity, and what it means to do right by people take us to battlefield surgical tents in Iraq, to labor and delivery rooms in Boston, to a polio outbreak in India, and to malpractice courtrooms around the country. He discusses the ethical dilemmas of doctors' participation in lethal injections, examines the influence of money on modern medicine, and recounts the astoundingly contentious history of hand washing.

And as in all his writing, Gawande gives us an inside look at his own life as a practicing surgeon, offering a searingly honest firsthand account of work in a field where mistakes are both unavoidable and unthinkable. At once unflinching and compassionate, Better is an exhilarating journey narrated by arguably the best nonfiction doctor-writer around. Gawande's investigation into medical professionals and how they progress from merely good to great provides rare insight into the elements of success, illuminating every area of human endeavor.
Other Books
The Now Habit by Dr. Neil Fiore
Spook Country by William Gibson
The Dip by Seth Godin
Falling Man by Don DeLillo
Against the Day by Thomas Pynchon
It's All Too Much: An Easy Plan for Living a Richer Life with Less Stuff by Peter Walsh
Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In by Roger Fisher and Others
On Writing Well by William Zinsser
The Secrets of Body Language in 30 Minutes by Tony Wrighton
Negotiation Genius: How to Achieve Brilliant Results at the Bargaining Table by Deepak Malhotra and Max H. Bazerman
Consider the Lobster and other Essays by David Foster Wallace
Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq by Thomas E. Ricks
The Bad Beginning, A Multi-Voice Recording: A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket
The Four Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss
The Power of Full Engagement by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz
The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Business Don't Work and What to Do About It by Michael Gerber
The Art of Mindful Living by Thich Nhat Hanh
On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King
Stein on Writing: A Master Editor Shares His Craft, Techniques, and Strategies by Sol Stein
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About the Author


Dr. Schwimmer's blog explores the intersection of medicine, new technologies, and the Internet.