The best books about health care

5 authors have picked their favorite books about health care and why they recommend each book.

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Birthing Justice

By Julia Oparah (editor), Alicia Bonaparte (editor),

Book cover of Birthing Justice: Black Women, Pregnancy, and Childbirth

A crucial read not only for understanding the unique obstacles facing Black birthing parents but also for celebrating the work of organizers who have fought for our reproductive justice. This book explains how key moments in history have led to where we are today and fills gaps of understanding that many have when it comes to Black maternal health.


Who am I?

Anna Malaika Tubbs is the author of the critically acclaimed book The Three Mothers: How the Mothers of MLK Jr., Malcolm X, and James Baldwin Shaped a Nation. She is also a Cambridge Ph.D. candidate in Sociology and a Bill and Melinda Gates Cambridge Scholar. After graduating Phi Beta Kappa from Stanford University with a BA in Anthropology, Anna received a Master’s from the University of Cambridge in Multidisciplinary Gender Studies. Outside of the academy, she is an educator and DEI consultant. She lives with her husband, Michael Tubbs, and their son Michael Malakai.


I wrote...

The Three Mothers: How the Mothers of Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and James Baldwin Shaped a Nation

By Anna Malaika Tubbs,

Book cover of The Three Mothers: How the Mothers of Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and James Baldwin Shaped a Nation

What is my book about?

Much has been written about Berdis Baldwin's son James, about Alberta King's son Martin Luther, and Louise Little's son Malcolm. But virtually nothing has been said about the extraordinary women who raised them. In her groundbreaking and essential debut The Three Mothers, scholar Anna Malaika Tubbs celebrates Black motherhood by telling the story of the three women who raised and shaped some of America's most pivotal heroes.

These three mothers taught resistance and a fundamental belief in the worth of Black people to their sons, even when these beliefs flew in the face of America’s racist practices and led to ramifications for all three families’ safety. The fight for equal justice and dignity came above all else for the three mothers. These women, their similarities and differences, as individuals and as mothers, represent a piece of history left untold and a celebration of Black motherhood long overdue.

Dr. Fauci

By Kate Messner, Alexandra Bye (illustrator),

Book cover of Dr. Fauci: How a Boy from Brooklyn Became America's Doctor

This picture book biography does so many things at once—and does it all with a masterful, lyrical storytelling voice. Of course, the primary thing this book does is tell the story of a real person’s life: Dr. Anthony Fauci, the Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. In this story, we learn about his ordinary childhood, his personal interests, and the ways his family inspired and encouraged him. It shows that even people we see on the news were once children, just like the kids reading this book. More than that, this book is a celebration of science and the excitement of scientific discoveries.

It reminds kids (and grown-ups) that science is a creative endeavour. So once the urgency of learning about the COVID virus wanes, this book will be still valuable as a primer on how scientists do their work. Additionally, though the narrative part of…


Who am I?

I'm an author of books for young readers. These days, there’s nothing more important than having conversations about the Coronavirus disease. It can be hard for grown-ups to start a conversation about Covid with their kids. But they can read a book about the subject and invite the kids to respond to what they heard and saw. My book COVID-19 Helpers was the first place winner of the Emery Global Health Institute’s e-book contest back in May 2020. Through the pandemic, I’ve been reading and talking about the virus with kids from around the world. If you're interested in having me read one of my books to your school, clinic, or your daycare center feel free to get in touch. 


I wrote...

Helping Our World Get Well: Covid Vaccines

By Beth Bacon, Kary Lee (illustrator),

Book cover of Helping Our World Get Well: Covid Vaccines

What is my book about?

After months of wearing masks, washing hands, and social distancing, kids can now help reduce the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic by getting a vaccine. It’s a tiny task that not only gives kids their own protection from the virus, it also helps protect their family, their friends, and their whole community. In straightforward language, this book explains to kids how vaccines will help us rid the world of COVID-19 and how they have a role to play in that mission.

This book helps kids and grown-ups talk about their own experiences, questions, thoughts, and concerns that have arisen during the pandemic. 

Never Pay the First Bill

By Marshall Allen,

Book cover of Never Pay the First Bill: And Other Ways to Fight the Health Care System and Win

Ever hear of MLR or Medical Loss Ratio? I had, but it didn’t click why it was a cruel joke on American healthcare consumers until I read Marshall’s book. His give a kid a bowl of ice cream analogy is so spot on that I asked for and received his permission to quote it in my book. My dad used to say that a sure sign of genius is making a complex subject understandable to an eighth grader. Marshall’s a genius. His insights stem from over 15 years of investigative reporting on the healthcare industry are critical to combatting a downright evil billing system. Whenever a friend mentions they’ve been in the hospital, or will be, I tell them to read this book. 


Who am I?

Born and raised in the Chicago area, I worked in the automotive industry as a car salesperson and racing team manager, financial services as a Registered Representative, and a member of the Chicago Board Options Exchange. An expat in Panama since 2004, I worked in business development for several healthcare products and co-founded an air medical transport service. Over the last decade, I’ve represented two businesses delivering protective medical care to high-net-worth individuals where I learned care’s gold standard from former White House physicians. My research included the books I recommend here and inspired me to write the Expat Health Guide for current and future expats. 


I wrote...

Expat Health Guide: Five steps to securing outstanding expat healthcare

By Hunter N. Schultz,

Book cover of Expat Health Guide: Five steps to securing outstanding expat healthcare

What is my book about?

Trained by former White House physicians on what outstanding care is, and how they deliver it, Hunter Schultz sets the benchmarks to measure your future expat care. More importantly, how to get as close to those benchmarks as possible, no matter where you are.

From one Expat to another, this book covers everything you need to know before packing up and leaving the comforts of home for another country. While Expat guides exist, many don’t go into detail on topics such as how to get outstanding healthcare; which is where this handbook shines. Learn everything you need to know to have a safe, successful experience.

The Price We Pay

By Marty Makary,

Book cover of The Price We Pay: What Broke American Health Care--And How to Fix It

Dr. Makary begins with an almost unreal story of a French citizen who had the unfortunate luck of having a heart attack in the US. I won’t give it away, but used car dealers come out smelling like roses, and I did that for a while, back in my youth. Such a lesson. Americans sorely need perspective on what great care is and how to pay for it. Dr. Makary does a fantastic job outlining two little-known middlemen sucking money out of American wallets. Pharmacy Benefit Managers, and Group Purchasing Organizations. Both use tactics that would make Tony Soprano smile.

What I love about this book, and why I recommend it, is while spotlighting problems, he offers solutions, and spotlights people making a difference.


Who am I?

Born and raised in the Chicago area, I worked in the automotive industry as a car salesperson and racing team manager, financial services as a Registered Representative, and a member of the Chicago Board Options Exchange. An expat in Panama since 2004, I worked in business development for several healthcare products and co-founded an air medical transport service. Over the last decade, I’ve represented two businesses delivering protective medical care to high-net-worth individuals where I learned care’s gold standard from former White House physicians. My research included the books I recommend here and inspired me to write the Expat Health Guide for current and future expats. 


I wrote...

Expat Health Guide: Five steps to securing outstanding expat healthcare

By Hunter N. Schultz,

Book cover of Expat Health Guide: Five steps to securing outstanding expat healthcare

What is my book about?

Trained by former White House physicians on what outstanding care is, and how they deliver it, Hunter Schultz sets the benchmarks to measure your future expat care. More importantly, how to get as close to those benchmarks as possible, no matter where you are.

From one Expat to another, this book covers everything you need to know before packing up and leaving the comforts of home for another country. While Expat guides exist, many don’t go into detail on topics such as how to get outstanding healthcare; which is where this handbook shines. Learn everything you need to know to have a safe, successful experience.

Home Before Morning

By Lynda Van Devanter,

Book cover of Home Before Morning: The Story of an Army Nurse in Vietnam

I’m going to jump historical genres slightly and recommend Lynda Van Devanter’s Vietnam memoir which reads like historical fiction and is every bit as engaging as the great novels and memoirs of the Vietnam War written by such men as Robert Stone, Larry Heinemann, Michael Herr, Tim O’Brien, Philip Caputo, and Karl Marlantes. As an Army nurse, Devanter gave it her all to save others. This book is her effort to learn to live with what she witnessed in Vietnam, to get the truth down as honestly as she can by using all the narrative techniques of the novelist. Of the great books written about that horrific time in our country’s (and Vietnam’s) history, this one grabbed me from start to finish like no other. A powerful voice is telling us what we too readily forget now—that war is a criminal activity, no matter how justified or how much the…


Who am I?

I’m the author of ten books, including fiction, memoir, collected journalism, and criticism. My novels are historical fiction, hence my decision to make my recommendations within that genre, mostly. My own historical novels comprise a tetralogy beginning with The Strange Death of Mistress Coffin and ending with The Turner Erotica, so the series takes the reader roughly from 1648 to 1900. The second book chronologically in the series, Rebecca Wentworth’s Distraction, won the 2003 Langum Prize for historical fiction. Retired now, I was the founding director of the MFA in Fiction and Nonfiction at Southern New Hampshire University.


I wrote...

The Strange Death of Mistress Coffin

By Robert J. Begiebing,

Book cover of The Strange Death of Mistress Coffin

What is my book about?

The first novel of an historical tetralogy, Mistress Coffin is based on the unsolved, brutal murder of a strong woman in 17th century New England. The novel follows actual court records from 1640s New Hampshire Province (then under Massachusetts rule) where the case was tried and dropped by the woman’s husband for mysterious reasons. The settlement’s elders call on Richard Browne, a young Englishman, to discover what happened. But the more he learns, the more puzzling the crime becomes, and the more Browne finds himself attracted to the wife of the missing suspect.

Medical Apartheid

By Harriet A. Washington,

Book cover of Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present

Medical Apartheid is the one book that I urge all of my medical students to read. In a compelling narrative laced with shocking details, Washington reveals the way various forms of racial segregation and bias have shaped the American medical system – from the ghastly 19th century experiments of surgeon J. Marion Sims to the systemic exploitation of the government’s MK-ULTRA program in the 1950s to ongoing discrimination today.  


Who am I?

As a physician and attorney, I’ve always been fascinated by the nexus where my two professions meet.   During the course of my career, I have been asked to advise colleagues on topics as far-reaching as whether a death row inmate should receive an organ transplant to how to offer psychotherapy ethically to a conjoined twin. Although questions like these do not arise every day, even the everyday questions in my field – on such topics as confidentiality, boundaries, and informed consent – never grow old.


I wrote...

Who Says You're Dead? Medical & Ethical Dilemmas for the Curious & Concerned

By Jacob M. Appel,

Book cover of Who Says You're Dead? Medical & Ethical Dilemmas for the Curious & Concerned

What is my book about?

Drawing upon the author’s decades teaching medical ethics and his work as a practicing physician, this book of challenging ethical dilemmas asks readers, What would you do?

A daughter gets tested to see if she’s a match to donate a kidney to her father. The test reveals that she isn’t the man’s biological daughter. Should the doctor tell them? A deaf couple prefers a deaf baby. Should they be allowed to use medical technology to ensure they have a child who can’t hear? Who should get custody of an embryo created through IVF when a couple divorces? Or, when you or a loved one is on life support, Who says you’re dead? In short, engaging scenarios, Dr. Appel takes on hot-button issues in medical ethics.

Medicalizing Blackness

By Rana A. Hogarth,

Book cover of Medicalizing Blackness: Making Racial Difference in the Atlantic World, 1780-1840

This groundbreaking book takes the reader into the forgotten world of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century medicine, especially as it relates to the enslaved peoples of the New World (from the Southern United States to the wider Caribbean). One cannot help but hear the first examples of “race norming” or “adjusting” in Hogarth’s study of how white doctors saw pathology, treatment, and various diseases themselves as affecting different categories of people in different ways. Medicalizing Blackness allows us to see how doctors transformed the New World into an enormous laboratory that not only generated new knowledge, but created structures of surveillance and control that became part and parcel of medical literature and practice.


Who are we?

Henry Louis Gates Jr. is the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and Director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University. He is an award-winning filmmaker, literary scholar, journalist, cultural critic, and institution builder, and has authored or co-authored twenty-two books; he's also the host of PBS’s Finding Your Roots. Andrew Curran is a writer and the William Armstrong Professor of the Humanities at Wesleyan University. His writing on the Enlightenment and race has appeared in The New York Times, The Guardian, Newsweek, and more. Curran is also the author of the award-winning Diderot and the Art of Thinking Freely and The Anatomy of Blackness.


We wrote...

Who's Black and Why? A Forgotten Chapter in the Eighteenth-Century Invention of Race

By Henry Louis Gates Jr. (editor), Andrew S. Curran (editor),

Book cover of Who's Black and Why? A Forgotten Chapter in the Eighteenth-Century Invention of Race

What is my book about?

Who’s Black and Why? recounts the birth of the concept of race and anti-black racism during the Enlightenment era. We tell this story by looking back to 1739, the year when the Royal Academy of Sciences in Bordeaux announced that it would give a gold medal to the author of the best essay on the sources of “blackness.” Sixteen essays were ultimately dispatched to the Academy from all over Europe. Some of the contestants affirmed that Africans had fallen from God’s grace; others that blackness had resulted from a brutal climate; still others emphasized the anatomical specificity of Africans. This book, in short, is designed to be a compelling, albeit distressing, gateway to the origins of race and racism – as well as their inextricable links to African chattel slavery.

Elsie and Mairi Go to War

By Diane Atkinson,

Book cover of Elsie and Mairi Go to War

Atkinson’s book tells the story of Elsie Knocker and Mairi Chisholm who were friends and motorcycle enthusiasts. When war broke out they joined a voluntary medical unit heading for France and set up a first aid post near the frontline. They were fearless, sometimes reckless, and always cheerful as they saved the wounded. I loved the way Atkinson’s book captured their youthful exuberance and gung-ho courage.


Who am I?

Wendy Moore is a journalist and author of five non-fiction books on medical and social history. Her writing has appeared in the Guardian, Times, Observer and Lancet. Her new book is about Endell Street Military Hospital which was run and staffed by women in London in the First World War.


I wrote...

No Man's Land: The Trailblazing Women Who Ran Britain's Most Extraordinary Military Hospital During World War I

By Wendy Moore,

Book cover of No Man's Land: The Trailblazing Women Who Ran Britain's Most Extraordinary Military Hospital During World War I

What is my book about?

No Man’s Land tells the story of the pioneering women who set up and ran a major military hospital in the heart of London in the First World War. Apart from a handful of men Endell Street Military Hospital was entirely staffed by women. The staff treated 24,000 men sent back from the frontline and when war ended the hospital stayed open to care for the victims of the Spanish flu pandemic. I wrote it to give voice to the women who worked there and the men who were treated there.

Women at the Front

By Jane E. Schultz,

Book cover of Women at the Front: Hospital Workers in Civil War America

This volume offers a survey of Civil War nurses in both the North and the South. Not only do readers meet individuals like Clara Barton, but readers get an overview of pioneering women in this field, with detailed statistics not found in memoirs.


Who am I?

Jocelyn Green is the bestselling and award-winning author of eighteen books as of 2021. Her historical fiction has been acclaimed by Publishers Weekly, Booklist, Library Journal, the Historical Novel Society, and the Military Writers Society of America.


I wrote...

Wedded to War

By Jocelyn Green,

Book cover of Wedded to War

What is my book about?

Tending to the army's sick and wounded meant leading a life her mother does not understand and giving up a handsome and approved suitor. Yet Charlotte chooses a life of service over privilege, just as her childhood friend had done when he became a military doctor. She soon discovers that she's combatting more than just the rebellion by becoming a nurse.

Unknown Warriors

By John Stevens, Caroline Stevens,

Book cover of Unknown Warriors: The Letters of Kate Luard RRC and Bar, Nursing Sister in France 1914-1918

Although it’s not as well-known as Vera Brittain’s powerful 1933 memoir Testament of Youth, British military nurse Kate Luard’s letters deserve to be widely read, for the vivid and moving picture they paint of life in a front-line hospital in the last two years of the war. Luard had already worked as a military nurse in the Boer War, and was a confident and highly skilled nurse, but it is clear that four years of nursing seriously ill and wounded soldiers often stretched her to her professional and emotional limits. There are lighter moments, too, and Luard pays tribute not only to the men she nursed, but to the courageous and tenacious women she worked alongside. Make sure you also read nurse historian Christine Hallett and Tim Luard’s excellent introduction.


Who am I?

I’ve been fascinated by the First World War ever since I read Vera Brittain’s Testament of Youth at the age of 19. When I lived in France in my twenties I started to read French nurses’ memoirs and diaries, and for the last fifteen years or so have continued to read and write about women’s experiences during and after the war as a university academic researcher, often from a comparative perspective. Men’s stories and memories of the First World War still dominate our understanding of it, but I believe that women’s perspectives give us a vital and often overlooked insight into the war and its consequences.


I wrote...

Women as Veterans in Britain and France After the First World War

By Alison Fell,

Book cover of Women as Veterans in Britain and France After the First World War

What is my book about?

This is the story of how women in France and Britain between 1915 and 1933 appropriated the cultural identity of female war veterans in order to have greater access to public life and a voice in a political climate in which women were rarely heard on the public stage. The 'veterans' covered by this history include former nurses, charity workers, secret service agents, and members of resistance networks in occupied territory, as well as members of the British auxiliary corps.

What unites these women is how they attempted to present themselves as 'female veterans' in order to gain social advantages and give themselves the right to speak about the war and its legacies. Alison S. Fell also considers the limits of the identity of war veteran for women, considering as an example the wartime and post-war experiences of the female industrial workers who led episodes of industrial action.

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