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Summer of Public Health: Reading Recommendations

Representatives from ASPPH member institutions have put together a recommended Summer of Public Health reading list. The diverse list will help those looking to enrich their minds while enjoying the summer months.

Dean Robert F. Meenan (BU) has two summer reading suggestions: The Troubles Trilogy by Adrian McKinty: How could an Irish-American guy who loves police procedurals not recommend this trilogy about an Irish policeman who likes rock music and pints of Guinness?!?  The trilogy consists of three books – The Cold Cold Ground, I Hear the Sirens in the Streets and In the Morning I’ll Be Gone – the last of which was published in 2013. The books focus on the life and work of Detective Sean Duffy, a member of the Royal Ulster Constabulary in Carrickfergus, Northern Ireland just outside of Belfast.  A key context for the novels is that they are set in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s during the worst of The Troubles that divided Northern Ireland along religious and class grounds.

His second recommendation is The Way of the Knife by Mark Mazzetti This is a must-read book for anyone who wants to understand the new face of American warfare.  Written by a Pulitzer Prize-winning national security correspondent from the NY Times, it has received unanimously positive reviews and has been on the NYT best-seller list.  The author describes how the CIA has become  the new face of American warfare in the 21st century by following “the way of the knife” – a style of warfare that focuses on close-quarter tactics aimed at individuals and small groups rather than on large military operations aimed at nations and populations.  While “the way of the knife” seems like a more efficient and less traumatic way to pursue our national interests, as practiced by the CIA it has numerous downsides.  This book is a solid, sobering work of non-fiction that will help the reader become a more informed and insightful citizen with a deeper appreciation for the double-edged sword of American exceptionalism.

Dean Linda Fried (Columbia) shared with faculty the report by the Vitality Institute, Investing in Prevention: A National Imperative. Under the leadership of Derek Yach, the Institute convened a national group of scholars to analyze obstacles and identify recommendations to tackle rising rates of obesity and high rates of “noncommunicable” diseases in the U.S. for working-age adults.

As both the National Research Council and Institute of Medicine reported last year, Americans’ health status is falling far behind peer nations. All year, the Mailman School explored this topic in Grand Rounds to determine a clear path to address multiple disturbing trends and establish what the School’s contribution would  be. In the same spirit, this report offers solutions to this growing set of problems. It is particularly relevant to schools of public health in advocating for the strengthening of prevention science, increasing funding, and educating leaders outside of public health. Further, the report’s call for increased translational attention to workplace health and to metrics for corporations’ responsibilities are areas we can consider together and amplify our impact in bringing its goals to action. Read the report: “Investing in Prevention: A National Imperative” by the Vitality Institute.

Dean Julio Frenk (Harvard) has been reading the novel Inferno, by Dan Brown. He said, “I was attracted to the topic—a fictional case of bioterrorism. In addition to the usual fast-paced thriller material by Brown, the novel contains mind-boggling speculations about the potential effects of deliberate release of organisms that could alter the human genome. One of the main characters is the director of the World Health Organization. I found it fascinating to see the image of WHO as an all-powerful agency with global policing capabilities—a far cry from the ongoing debate about ways to address the many factors that constrain the effectiveness of WHO.”

Dean Michael G. Perri (Florida) recommends: Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America,” by Mr. Gilbert King. The book received the Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction in 2013, and is a “must-read” for public health professionals and academics. The book conveys the reality of Jim Crow laws in the South in a context that includes U.S. policy, state policy, the activity and inactivity of the FBI, the development of the NAACP, corruption in local government, the Ku Klux Klan, and the effects of all of these forces on African Americans in the South in the 1940s and 1950s. Readers should be sure to read the epilogue, entitled “About the book.” This is easily lost because it follows an extensive reference list and a Q&A with the author. The content is an important capstone to the book that the author leaves for readers to interpret.

Dean Paul Brandt-Rauf (UIC) has put together his annual Summer of Public Health reading list. At the top of his list is The Better Angels of Our Nature by Stephen Pinker.  “We are a violent species but definitely improving,” says Dean Brandt-Rauf. Another book on his list is The Price of Inequality by Joe Stiglitz  “because it explains why wealth inequality is bad for everyone.” Death and the Afterlife by Samuel Scheffler is a favorite of Dean Brandt-Rauf’s because it “shows us why we are indebted to future generations.”

Rounding out the rest of his summer reading recommendations are: Enhancing Evolution by John Harris, Would You Kill the Fat Man by David Edmonds, Degrees of Inequality by Suzanne Mettler, Our Mathematical Universe by Max Tegmark, and Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty.

Dean Barbara K. Rimer (UNC) recommends these books for summer: Astoria by Peter Stark,  Choosing Civility by P. M. Forni, Social Networks and Popular Understanding of Science and Health: Sharing Disparities by Brian G. Southwell, and Several Mysteries by Donna Leon.