Three Books Worth Reading!

As the year closes, I have taken a moment to reflect on the many things I’ve accomplished over the past 12 months, and to forgive myself for what I never quite got to. (It’s true: forgiveness is a wonderful thing, and my sanity thanks me for it pretty much every day.) I am pleased to say, however, as someone who spends countless hours mining data for truth, that the one true thing revealed by my “Accomplished” v. “Didn’t Accomplish” list is that I did manage to read a fair number of interesting books. In the interest therefore of checking off one more accomplishment (just because the Type A demon in me can’t help it), here is a final newsletter for 2014. In it I recommend a few new titles and a perennial favorite. Perhaps you’ll want to add one of these to your holiday wish list!

Who would ever believe that anyone could write in such an engaging, entertaining, sometimes laugh-out-loud funny way about healthcare evidence, statistics, and visualization? Well, Howard Wainer has (once again) done just that. In this little charm of a book, Wainer explores some of the most pressing issues facing healthcare providers, regulators, and users today, including what it would take to change the practice of medicine, and how data and evidence empower both patients and clinicians to make better, more fully informed decisions. One of the chapters I loved best was “Communicating with the Public: Improving Graphic Displays by Controlling Creativity.” Here, from the book’s “Annotated Contents,” is a description of what it covers.

There is a constant tension in graphic design between new, innovative designs and older, imperfect, but well understood figurations. In this chapter I discuss some graphical solutions to communicate problems and try to assess whether the value of an innovative solution is great enough to overcome the comfort and ease of a conventional one. The principal subject of this chapter is the Center for Disease Control’s Atlas of Mortality, which in many ways should be a model for others to follow.

The chapters are short, smart, and filled with color graphs and examples, so you can easily see and understand the information Wainer presents. I highly recommend this little gem for yourself, or-in keeping with the season-as a great gift for a boss or a co-worker.

Atul Gawande has done it again-written, that is, a deeply moving and important book about the limits of medicine and end-of-life care, one that will inspire his readers to reflect upon what it means to live and die well. As in his previous books, Dr. Gawande uses true stories-of a hospice nurse on rounds, a geriatrician in his clinic, families making end-of-life decisions — to draw his readers in and lead them to think deeply about mortality and what truly matters at the last. Dr. Gawande is a gift to us all, and his newest book is not a “should read”; it is a “must read.”

If I could give just one book to every person who has ever slowly tortured an audience to death with a PowerPoint presentation, this would be it. I have little to add other than “Please buy this classic book, read it from cover to cover, and (while you’re at it), buy a few more copies to give as ‘Secret Santa’ gifts.” And remember, the life you save may be your own.

Finally, as the year ends, I want thank all of my dedicated newsletter subscribers, the purchasers of The Best Boring Book Ever series, and the greatest clients one could have for the chance to work together as we endeavor to “show and see” new opportunities to improve healthcare. We look forward to visualizing even more healthcare with you in 2015!

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