Top 12 Books for Healthcare Providers: Psst! They’re Not About Healthcare

Education offers countless benefits, but if there is one negative, it’s that the focused pursuit of a goal or specialty can detract from a global perspective. Now when I read for pleasure, I want a good story, and I want to read something that expands my world and my point of view.

Here is a list of some of the books that have done just that for me. It’s an eclectic list, but if you read on and remember that health encompasses the body, mind, and spirit, I think you’ll understand why these books made my list.

Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl. Worldwide and with more than 12 million copies sold, Man’s Search for Meaning  is one the most-read books in history. For many years it has been second only to The Bible in popularity—read it, and you’ll understand why. Frankl, a psychiatrist imprisoned  in a World War II death camp, observed the behaviors of fellow concentration camp detainees. Frankl’s work after the War, a form of psychotherapy calleIMG_2693 2d logotherapy, developed from these observations. The foundation of Frankl’s writing and his work is that an individual is capable of rising above and transcending the most horrific of circumstances, and that he or she need not acquiesce to the circumstances in which one finds oneself be it the horror of war, the indignity of abuse, or the antagonism of personal conflict.  The text can be read in a few hours, but its effect can last a lifetime.


A Whole New Mind by Daniel Pink. This is one of the few books I’ve  listened to in audio format then purchased multiple copies of the text for me and for friends and colleagues. Pink asserts that in the “Information Age” those with strong right brain capabilities-design, story, symphony, empathy, play, and meaning-will not only succeed, but flourish. Humans will always require “inventiveness, empathy, and meaning,” skills that cannot be Screen Shot 2015-05-26 at 9.01.12 PMautomated and delegated to machines. Pink discusses several occupations that can never be replaced by machines including professional nursing.

The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell. Some call it pop psychology, I call it a mind-expanding read. In great detail and with examples from many fields, Gladwell examines the importance of outliers, statistical and human, often dismissed in social science and inferential research; and small, seemingly inconsequential changes that carry profound and far reaching effects. I wouldn’t call this hard science, but I wouldn’t dismiss it either. It’s worth the read.

Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell. In this book Gladwell explores decision-making and the decision-making process: rapid or long, thought out and well-reasoned. Gladwell also explores the benefits, pitfalls , and consequences of both IMG_2629methods. Like Tipping Point,  this is not hard science, but it raises important questions about our thought processes and our often-dismissed instincts. Have you ever had a feeling that something is not right despite evidence that says otherwise?

Justice: What’s the Right Thing To Do? by Michael J. Sandel. Justice is a course taught by Sandel at Harvard University. The course, the book, and the public television broadcast delve into the concept and theory of justice versus what is right and wrong, and examines what is fair to the individual and to society. Sandel explores the most controversial and IMG_2628complex of yesterday’s and  today’s issues in search of justice.

Why We Can’t Wait by Martin Luther King Jr. Without belittling the significance of Dr. King’s work and his sacrifice to this country, his writing is both guttural and lyrical. Without profanity and without anger, King’s words paint the picture of a divided nation, the scars of segregation, and the search for illusive justice in a country founded on principles of “liberty and justice for all.”

Perhaps it is with ease for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, ‘Wait.’ But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers, at whim…when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an air tight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six-year-old daughter why she can’t go to the public amusement park that has just advertised on television, and see the tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is Why we Can't Waitclosed to colored children, and see the ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky… when you take a cross-country drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you…when…your wife and mother are never given the respected title ‘Mrs.’ …when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of ‘nobodiness’−then you will understand  why we find it difficult to wait. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair.

The End of Poverty: Economic Possibilities for Our Time  by Jeffrey Sachs. Sachs The End of Poverty not only hypothesizes about the end of worldwide poverty, but he develops  strong and seemingly reliable plans for regions of the world based on his past work. Sachs discusses poverty, its multifactorial causes, and the multidisciplinary methods required to relieve the poorest nations of economic hardship and burden, establish economic growth and development, and promote health.

Buddha by Karen Armstrong. This is not an attempt to convert. Buddha combines history with in-depth discussions about the search for mindfulness. Buddha teaches us one of the tenets of life: IMG_2658Strip away the things to which we have enslaved ourselves, and we will find that everything we need to survive spiritually and to succeed lies within us.

The search for a place apart, separate from the world and yet marvelously within it, that is impartial, utterly fair, calm, and which fills us with the faith that, against all odds, there is value in our lives, is what many seek in the reality we call “God.” 


The Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell with Bill Moyers. When I was a child there was one type of book you could bet I would checkout from the library: a book on mythology, preferably Greek or Roman. Imagine my delight when I got to college and found university level courses on mythology, and years later discovered Campbell’s work, and then watch him discuss it IMG_2640on public television. Part mythology, part philosophy, Campbell’s The Power of Myth examines the power and influence of mythology in our daily lives from entertainment, to art, to religion: over and over mythological themes play out before our eyes. The book is a revelation of things we see and experience in every day life.

Who Cooked the Last Supper? The Women’s History of the World by Rosalind Miles. History is written by two types of beings-survivors, victors, or champions—and by men. Consequently, women have been given little attention in world events throughout history, and despite the positive teaching and portrayal of women in major religions, a paradoxical negative image of women has existed as inferior beings to men, or even worse than inferiority, invisibility. Miles demonstrates IMG_2656the influence of women in history and the roles they have played in major historical events and time periods. By the way, consider the ratio of male to female writers of historical books, or for
that matter, the ratio of male to female writers of Wikipedia content.

The Audacity to Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream by Barack Obama. This is the real Barack Obama, not the politically correct guy we see on the evening news who struggles not to offend either side of the aisle, although one may argue, good or bad, he’s not trying that hard anymore. InIMG_2657 this book, Obama discusses what’s wrong with politics on both the Democratic and Republican sides of the aisle and boldly states that nothing in Washington or in this nation will or can be fixed until politicians look at the big picture, the American people. Yes, he’s an idealist, but idealism is necessary lest we stick to what we’ve done for years that still doesn’t work, and yet we continue in the same cycle. Didn’t Einstein call that insanity? Can you see why this is important to healthcare?

And finally, nothing is as pure as a view of the world through the eyes of a child and so I praise authors and illustrators of children’s books who retain that special point of view.  A friend, Kara Winslow, gave this book, my final selection, to me and wrote in it that I am the red crayon. The book, The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt and illustrations by Oliver Jeffers, has elevated itself to the near top of my list for its humor and its insight: it remains witty and entertaining after numerous read throughs. If you ever have the opportunity, please read it, and then ask yourself, “Which crayon am I?” If you’re a nurse, I think I can guess your answer.

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