100 books like Impure Science

By Steven Epstein,

Here are 100 books that Impure Science fans have personally recommended if you like Impure Science. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of The Logic of Care: Health and the Problem of Patient Choice

David Healy Author Of Children of the Cure: Missing Data, Lost Lives and Antidepressants

From my list on how medicine should be.

Who am I?

I’ve been researching treatment harms for 3 decades and founded RxISK.org in 2012, now an important site for people to report these harms. They’ve been reporting in their thousands often in personal accounts that feature health service gaslighting. During these years, our treatments have become a leading cause of mortality and morbidity, the time it takes to recognize harms has been getting longer, and our medication burdens heavier. We have a health crisis that parallels the climate crisis. Both Green parties and Greta Thunberg’s generation are turning a blind eye to the health chemicals central to this. We need to understand what is going wrong and turn it around.   

David's book list on how medicine should be

David Healy Why did David love this book?

Every book by Annemarie Mol is good but The Logic of Care is simply the best book on what medicine should be. It is short, deceptively simple but leaves no hiding places. Everyone will be able to understand it in the same way from a teenager up through a Professor of Medicine to a Minister for Health but don’t expect any Ministers to admit to reading it any time soon. Mol outlines a relationship-based rather than technology-based medicine. How do we ensure medical techniques help us to live the lives we want to live rather than force us to live lives that suit the companies that make the technologies want us to live? How do we care for people rather than service them?

By Annemarie Mol,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Logic of Care as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

**Shortlisted for the BSA Sociology of Health and Illness Book Prize 2010**

What is good care? In this innovative and compelling book, Annemarie Mol argues that good care has little to do with 'patient choice' and, therefore, creating more opportunities for patient choice will not improve health care.

Although it is possible to treat people who seek professional help as customers or citizens, Mol argues that this undermines ways of thinking and acting crucial to health care. Illustrating the discussion with examples from diabetes clinics and diabetes self care, the book presents the 'logic of care' in a step by…


Book cover of Fighting for Life

David Healy Author Of Children of the Cure: Missing Data, Lost Lives and Antidepressants

From my list on how medicine should be.

Who am I?

I’ve been researching treatment harms for 3 decades and founded RxISK.org in 2012, now an important site for people to report these harms. They’ve been reporting in their thousands often in personal accounts that feature health service gaslighting. During these years, our treatments have become a leading cause of mortality and morbidity, the time it takes to recognize harms has been getting longer, and our medication burdens heavier. We have a health crisis that parallels the climate crisis. Both Green parties and Greta Thunberg’s generation are turning a blind eye to the health chemicals central to this. We need to understand what is going wrong and turn it around.   

David's book list on how medicine should be

David Healy Why did David love this book?

Medicine loves stories about heroic men who made breakthroughs that have saved lives and given us the life expectancies we have today. It has never celebrated women and yet it was a woman, Josephine Baker, who in two decades starting in 1908, by focusing on antenatal and postnatal care, laid a basis for saving lives that has given us the life expectancies we have today. She did so against fierce opposition from doctors who argued that creating conditions that make infants and children healthy would be bad for medical business. Now that life expectancies are falling, and were falling before Covid, we desperately need to recover Baker and her insights. Her book written in 1939 gives clear hints of how unimpressed she would likely be with today’s medical business.

By S. Josephine Baker,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Fighting for Life as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An “engaging and  . . . thought-provoking” memoir of battling public health crises in early 20th-century New York City—from the pioneering female physician and children’s health advocate who ‘caught’ Typhoid Mary (The New York Times)
 
New York’s Lower East Side was said to be the most densely populated square mile on earth in the 1890s. Health inspectors called the neighborhood “the suicide ward.” Diarrhea epidemics raged each summer, killing thousands of children. Sweatshop babies with smallpox and typhus dozed in garment heaps destined for fashionable shops. Desperate mothers paced the streets to soothe their feverish children and white mourning cloths…


Book cover of The Hour of Our Death: The Classic History of Western Attitudes Toward Death Over the Last One Thousand Years

David Healy Author Of Children of the Cure: Missing Data, Lost Lives and Antidepressants

From my list on how medicine should be.

Who am I?

I’ve been researching treatment harms for 3 decades and founded RxISK.org in 2012, now an important site for people to report these harms. They’ve been reporting in their thousands often in personal accounts that feature health service gaslighting. During these years, our treatments have become a leading cause of mortality and morbidity, the time it takes to recognize harms has been getting longer, and our medication burdens heavier. We have a health crisis that parallels the climate crisis. Both Green parties and Greta Thunberg’s generation are turning a blind eye to the health chemicals central to this. We need to understand what is going wrong and turn it around.   

David's book list on how medicine should be

David Healy Why did David love this book?

Modern medicine has dramatically extended life expectancies. But as our life spans extend, our fear of death grows. As our hope of living a long life and seeing our children survive grew, we became more rather than less anxious about losing out. We might have expected the opposite. Aries vividly illustrates how people viewed death as a part of life before the nineteenth century and how they reconciled themselves to it. He picks out 1886 as the point where Tolstoy in The Death of Ivan Illych recognized that medical advances were creating anxiety rather than hope. This book may make you less fearful of death. It will ask you whether you can now achieve serenity half as well as those before us did and whether medicine is bad for our sanity? 

By Philippe Aries,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Hour of Our Death as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An “absolutely magnificent” book (The New Republic)—the fruit of almost two decades of study—that traces the changes in Western attitudes toward death and dying from the earliest Christian times to the present day.

A truly landmark study, The Hour of Our Death reveals a pattern of gradually developing evolutionary stages in our perceptions of life in relation to death, each stage representing a virtual redefinition of human nature.

Starting at the very foundations of Western culture, the eminent historian Phillipe Ariès shows how, from Graeco-Roman times through the first ten centuries of the Common Era, death was too common to…


Book cover of A Calculus of Suffering: Pain, Professionalism and Anesthesia in Nineteenth-Century America

David Healy Author Of Children of the Cure: Missing Data, Lost Lives and Antidepressants

From my list on how medicine should be.

Who am I?

I’ve been researching treatment harms for 3 decades and founded RxISK.org in 2012, now an important site for people to report these harms. They’ve been reporting in their thousands often in personal accounts that feature health service gaslighting. During these years, our treatments have become a leading cause of mortality and morbidity, the time it takes to recognize harms has been getting longer, and our medication burdens heavier. We have a health crisis that parallels the climate crisis. Both Green parties and Greta Thunberg’s generation are turning a blind eye to the health chemicals central to this. We need to understand what is going wrong and turn it around.   

David's book list on how medicine should be

David Healy Why did David love this book?

Most of us figure doing evil, even if good results, is not ethical but without this, there would be no medicine. Martin Pernick covers the discovery of anesthesia and the ethical dilemmas this new ability to save lives by poisoning people posed. Anesthesia is a technique and techniques are amoral. How do we ensure they enhance rather than diminish us? How do we avoid seduction into a sleep during which we can be cosmetically enhanced? Is there a limit to how many drugs we give children to manage their behaviour – just because we can? Treating and stopping are not the same as not treating. Pernick doesn’t tell us how to manage this calculus, but he makes us aware modern life involves more of a calculus than we might have thought.   

By Martin S. Pernick,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Calculus of Suffering as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Analyzes the impact of anesthesia on nineteenth-century medicine, discusses the advantages and disadvantages of anesthesia, and explains how rules for its use were developed


Book cover of Flexible Bodies: Tracking Immunity in American Culture from the Days of Polio to the Age of AIDS

Andrea Kitta Author Of The Kiss of Death: Contagion, Contamination, and Folklore

From my list on reads before the next pandemic.

Who am I?

I’ve been interested in medicine and how stories influence the decisions that people make for as long as I can remember. Watching family and friends make choices about their own healthcare was always fascinated to me and I was always curious as to why some narratives had more staying power than others. After getting my BA in history, I was lucky enough to talk to someone who suggested that I study folklore. I ended up with both a MA and PhD in folklore and became a professor who studies the intersection of folklore and how it affects the medical decisions we all make in our own lives and the lives of others. 

Andrea's book list on reads before the next pandemic

Andrea Kitta Why did Andrea love this book?

Emily Martin’s work was some of the first things I read when I wanted to understand how we understand medicine.

There’s such a gap between the health information we’re given and what we actually believe and Martin really covers how Americans have understood the concept of immunity and how we’re influenced by popular culture and the media.

This book is absolutely crucial for understanding both how we look at immunity and understanding how doctors are not free of bias. 

By Emily Martin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Flexible Bodies as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Argues that changing attitudes towards sickness and immunity are reflected in other views, such as the trend towards temporary employees who can be let go when no longer needed


Book cover of Explaining Epidemics

Pamela K. Gilbert Author Of Mapping the Victorian Social Body

From my list on how epidemics relate to bigger narratives.

Who am I?

I began college as a science major, but then switched to literature from a minor to my major. In graduate school, as I worked on my dissertation (which became my first book), I found that metaphors of the body and health were everywhere in the literary field in the mid-nineteenth century. Suffice it to say that the sciences, including the rapid development of modern medicine, are both fundamental to this period and deeply shape its literary culture. In Mapping the Victorian Social Body, I became fascinated with the history of data visualization. Disease mapping completely transformed the ways we understand space and how our bodies exist within it.

Pamela's book list on how epidemics relate to bigger narratives

Pamela K. Gilbert Why did Pamela love this book?

This collection of previously published essays by Charles Rosenberg elaborates many of his ideas about how people make meaning out of epidemics, including his famous theory that epidemics are understood in a dramatic tripartite structure (see “What Is an Epidemic? AIDS in Historical Perspective”). Rosenberg shows not only how the history of medicine illuminates larger themes, but why it matters, both to those of us interested in history and those interested in medical science itself. 

By Charles E. Rosenberg,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Explaining Epidemics as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Medicine has always had its historians; but until recently it was a history written by and for practitioners. Charles Rosenberg has been one of the key figures in recent decades in opening up the history of medicine beyond parochial concerns and instead viewing medicine in the rich currents of intellectual and social change of the past two centuries. This book brings together for the first time in one place many of Professor Rosenberg's most important essays. The first two sections of essays, focusing on ideas and institutions, are meant at the same time to underline interactions between these realms. The…


Book cover of Tell the Wolves I'm Home

Shannon Takaoka Author Of The Totally True Story of Gracie Byrne

From my list on totally awesome stories set in the 80s.

Who am I?

My soul still possesses a little of my teenage self, which is why I set my latest book in 1987. Whitney Houston had one of the biggest songs, Dirty Dancing was released, and a little girl nicknamed Baby Jessica was rescued from a well. I’m told this makes The Totally True Story of Gracie Byrne “historical fiction” which, honestly, is a little alarming, because sometimes 1987 doesn’t seem like that long ago. Other times it feels ancient. I picked a few of these books because they’re full of nostalgia for a slower, analog time. But mainly I chose them for the voice, characters, and great writing.

Shannon's book list on totally awesome stories set in the 80s

Shannon Takaoka Why did Shannon love this book?

Tell the Wolves I’m Home is literary and lyrical and it broke my heart into a thousand pieces while simultaneously piecing it back together again.

When June loses her beloved Uncle Finn at the height of the AIDs epidemic, she also loses the person who understands her the most. Then she forms a friendship with the partner he left behind, Toby, and together they help each other through the loneliness they both feel without him.

I liked that this book isn’t afraid to explore complicated relationships – especially between siblings. It also shines a light on a time when ignorance caused so much pain, through characters who are confused, flawed, and deeply human. The writing is beautiful.  

By Carol Rifka Brunt,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Tell the Wolves I'm Home as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • A heartfelt story of love, grief, and renewal about two unlikely friends who discover that sometimes you don’t know you’ve lost someone until you’ve found them

“A dazzling debut novel.”—O: The Oprah Magazine
“Tremendously moving.”—The Wall Street Journal
“Touching and ultimately hopeful.”—People
 
1987. The only person who has ever truly understood fourteen-year-old June Elbus is her uncle, the renowned painter Finn Weiss. Shy at school and distant from her older sister, June can be herself only in Finn’s company; he is her godfather, confidant, and best friend. So when he dies, far too young, of…


Book cover of The Origins of AIDS

David Quammen Author Of Breathless: The Scientific Race to Defeat a Deadly Virus

From my list on rigorously scientific scary viruses.

Who am I?

As a journalist and an author, I’ve been covering the subject of scary viruses for twenty years—ever since I walked through Ebola habitat in a forest in northeastern Gabon, on assignment for National Geographic. I’ve interviewed many of the eminent experts—from Peter Piot to Marion Koopmans to Tony Fauci—and have spent field time with some of the intrepid younger disease ecologists who look for viruses in bat guano in Chinese caves and in gorilla blood in Central African forests. My book Spillover, published in 2012, drew much of that research together in describing the history and evolutionary ecology of animal infections that spill into humans.

David's book list on rigorously scientific scary viruses

David Quammen Why did David love this book?

Scientists now know that the AIDS virus, HIV-1, entered the human population much earlier than is commonly thought—back around 1908, give or take a margin of error, and via a single spillover from a chimpanzee into a human, probably by blood exposure when a chimp was killed and butchered for food. Pepin’s book illuminates how the virus might then, slowly and quietly at first, have spread from a forest in southeastern Cameroun, down tributaries of the Congo River to major cities such as Brazzaville and Leopoldville (now Kinshasa), and from there to the world. Pepin’s work was vastly helpful to me when I assembled my own account of that story, included in my own books.

By Jacques Pépin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Origins of AIDS as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

It is now forty years since the discovery of AIDS, but its origins continue to puzzle doctors, scientists and patients. Inspired by his own experiences working as a physician in a bush hospital in Zaire, Jacques Pepin looks back to the early twentieth-century events in central Africa that triggered the emergence of HIV/AIDS and traces its subsequent development into the most dramatic and destructive epidemic of modern times. He shows how the disease was first transmitted from chimpanzees to man and then how military campaigns, urbanisation, prostitution and large-scale colonial medical interventions intended to eradicate tropical diseases combined to disastrous…


Book cover of No Time to Lose: A Life in Pursuit of Deadly Viruses

David Quammen Author Of Breathless: The Scientific Race to Defeat a Deadly Virus

From my list on rigorously scientific scary viruses.

Who am I?

As a journalist and an author, I’ve been covering the subject of scary viruses for twenty years—ever since I walked through Ebola habitat in a forest in northeastern Gabon, on assignment for National Geographic. I’ve interviewed many of the eminent experts—from Peter Piot to Marion Koopmans to Tony Fauci—and have spent field time with some of the intrepid younger disease ecologists who look for viruses in bat guano in Chinese caves and in gorilla blood in Central African forests. My book Spillover, published in 2012, drew much of that research together in describing the history and evolutionary ecology of animal infections that spill into humans.

David's book list on rigorously scientific scary viruses

David Quammen Why did David love this book?

Peter Piot was a young microbiologist at a lab in Belgium, in 1976, when he was assigned to analyze specimens in a thermos bottle shipped up from Zaire, where villagers were dying of a horrific and unknown disease. The thermos contained a virus that came to be known as Ebola. This was the event, as his book vividly recounts, that led Piot to a long and distinguished career in infectious viral diseases, from Ebola to AIDS and beyond.

By Peter Piot,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked No Time to Lose as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

When Peter Piot was in medical school, a professor warned, "There's no future in infectious diseases. They've all been solved." Fortunately, Piot ignored him, and the result has been an exceptional, adventure-filled career. In the 1970s, as a young man, Piot was sent to Central Africa as part of a team tasked with identifying a grisly new virus. Crossing into the quarantine zone on the most dangerous missions, he studied local customs to determine how this disease-the Ebola virus-was spreading. Later, Piot found himself in the field again when another mysterious epidemic broke out: AIDS. He traveled throughout Africa, leading…


Book cover of Love from the Pink Palace: Memories of Love, Loss and Cabaret through the AIDS Crisis

David C. Dawson Author Of A Death in Berlin

From my list on historical gay heroes.

Who am I?

I’ve read a lot of books that feature gay characters. These characters often partition into two main groups: angsty men who are victims of oppression or illness, or camp stereotypes who provide the light relief. I prefer to read about heroes who happen to be gay. That’s why I started writing novels. My recent books are historical novels inspired by real gay heroes. The feedback I get from readers indicates that there are a lot of people who want the same as I do.

David's book list on historical gay heroes

David C. Dawson Why did David love this book?

Jill Nalder is one of the great heroes of the AIDS crisis in eighties Britain. Her story features in the TV series It’s A Sin. This is her memoir and it’s an uplifting and heartbreaking read. Jill is one of those miraculous allies for gay men who fought to get more information about AIDS distributed more widely. It’s thanks to people like her that AIDS is no longer a death sentence.

By Jill Nalder,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Love from the Pink Palace as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'I read the book in one go. I laughed and cried like a baby, and was transported back to a time of innocence, clouded by the enormity of the harsh reality . . . Just amazing' CATHERINE ZETA JONES

'As it happens, I was also a Jill in the eighties - but not half as good a Jill as real Jill' DAWN FRENCH

'Jill met the crisis head on . . . She held the hands of so many men. She lost them, and remembered them, and somehow kept going' RUSSELL T DAVIES

A heartbreaking, life-affirming memoir of love, loss…


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