Health & Medicine

The Health & Medicine Collection showcases hand-picked fiction and nonfiction titles that focus on the physical and mental health of the human body. This diverse Collection represents the breadth of literature examining human health throughout history, from nonfiction accounts of historical epidemics to novels whose protagonists face mental health conditions.

Publication year 2014Genre Book, NonfictionThemes Values/Ideas: Religion & Spirituality, Identity: Mental Health, Emotions/Behavior: HopeTags Self Help, Psychology, Health / Medicine, Religion / Spirituality, Philosophy

Publication year 2002Genre Novel, FictionThemes Relationships: Family, Life/Time: Coming of Age, Identity: DisabilityTags Realistic Fiction, Coming of Age / Bildungsroman, Historical Fiction, Grief / Death, Depression / Suicide, Health / Medicine, Mental Illness, American Literature

Hattie Owen’s life changes the summer she turns 12 and meets the young uncle she never knew existed in Ann M. Martin’s middle-grade novel, A Corner of the Universe (2002). Uncle Adam has been kept a secret because of his mental problems. Adults have trouble handling his emotional extremes, but shy Hattie finds a true friend in her exuberant uncle. Adam teaches Hattie to explore life beyond the safety of her front porch. As Hattie... Read A Corner of the Universe Summary

Publication year 1933Genre Short Story, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Fear, Relationships: Fathers, Relationships: Daughters & Sons, Identity: Masculinity, Values/Ideas: FateTags Classic Fiction, Health / Medicine

Publication year 2010Genre Novel, FictionThemes Life/Time: Coming of Age, Relationships: Family, Emotions/Behavior: Grief, Identity: DisabilityTags Realistic Fiction, Health / Medicine, Grief / Death

After Ever After is a young adult novel written by American author Jordan Sonnenblick and published in 2010. It is the sequel to Sonnenblick’s debut novel, Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie, which came out in 2004 but focused on a different protagonist. While the first book revolves around Steven Alper, After Ever After explores his younger brother Jeff’s perspective as he navigates eighth grade alongside his best friend, Tad, and his girlfriend, Lindsey. Sonnenblick, who... Read After Ever After Summary

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Megan Wagner Lloyd, Illustr. Michelle Mee Nutter
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Publication year 2021Genre Graphic Novel/Book, FictionThemes Relationships: Family, Emotions/Behavior: Fear, Emotions/Behavior: Loneliness, Emotions/Behavior: Gratitude, Life/Time: Childhood & Youth, Life/Time: Coming of AgeTags Realistic Fiction, Coming of Age / Bildungsroman, Animals, Health / Medicine, Education

Publication year 2003Genre Novel, FictionTags Realistic Fiction, Health / Medicine, Disability

A Mango-Shaped Space is a 2003 middle-grade novel by American author Wendy Mass. It tells the story of Mia Winchell, a 13-year-old girl living in Illinois in the early 2000s. Mia has a secret. She associates all letters and numbers with distinct colors, and when she hears sounds, she sees bursts of color across her field of vision. It turns out that Mia has synesthesia, an uncommon but harmless neurological condition where an individual’s senses... Read A Mango-Shaped Space Summary

Publication year 1990Genre Biography, NonfictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Memory, Life/Time: Birth, Relationships: Family, Society: Community, Values/Ideas: Religion & SpiritualityTags History: U.S., Health / Medicine, Gender / Feminism, Women's Studies (Nonfiction)

A Midwife’s Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard, Based on her Diary, 1785-1812 is a 1990 nonfiction biography of midwife Martha Ballard by American historian Laurel Thatcher Ulrich. Using Martha Ballard’s diary as a primary source, Ulrich utilizes a microhistorical approach to evaluate the life of Ballard, the history of Maine’s Kennebec River region, and the themes of social medicine, women’s role in the economy, and religion’s place in everyday life. A Midwife’s Tale won... Read A Midwife's Tale Summary

Publication year 2014Genre Book, NonfictionThemes Identity: Race, Society: Politics & Government, Values/Ideas: Science & TechnologyTags Health / Medicine, History: U.S., Politics / Government, Race / Racism, American Revolution

Published in 2003, Jim Murphy’s An American Plague: The True and Terrifying Story of the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793 is a historical nonfiction book for young adults that provides a detailed look into Philadelphia’s yellow fever epidemic of 1793. As Murphy documents how yellow fever emerged and spread throughout the city, he demonstrates how society operated in what was then the nation’s capital and largest city in the late 1700s. He focuses on urban... Read An American Plague Summary

Publication year 2017Genre Book, NonfictionThemes Society: Economics, Society: Politics & Government, Values/Ideas: Justice & InjusticeTags Health / Medicine, Business / Economics, History: U.S.

An American Sickness: How Healthcare Became Big Business and How You Can Take It Back is physician and journalist Elisabeth Rosenthal’s overview and critique of the American healthcare system. It was initially published in April 2017, arriving during a time in which healthcare reform became a prominent cornerstone of both Democratic and Republican political campaigns. The book offers a mixture of testimonials from a myriad of people impacted by the health industry, including medical professionals... Read An American Sickness Summary

Publication year 1995Genre Book, NonfictionThemes Natural World: Appearance & Reality, Identity: Disability, Identity: Mental HealthTags Health / Medicine, Science / Nature

Publication year 1987Genre Book, NonfictionThemes Society: CommunityTags Health / Medicine

And The Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic is a work of investigative reporting by Randy Shilts, a reporter with the San Francisco Chronicle. Shilts covered the AIDS epidemic from 1982 for the only newspaper willing to give its full attention to the epidemic. Shilts examines the roots of AIDS beginning in 1976 to two events and focuses on the mysterious illness of a Danish physician working in Africa, Dr. Grethe Rask. Before... Read And The Band Played On Summary

Publication year 2000Genre Biography, NonfictionThemes Natural World: Nurture v. Nature, Values/Ideas: Trust & DoubtTags Health / Medicine

John Colapinto’s 1999 book As Nature Made Him is an expansion of his award-winning 1997 Rolling Stone article on the medical scandal surrounding David Reimer. David, raised as Brenda under the auspices of famous sexologist and child psychiatrist Dr. John Money, transitions back to a male gender identity during his teenage years. After Dr. Milton Diamond reveals the failure of Money’s theory of gender neutrality at birth, David’s story raises serious questions in the medical... Read As Nature Made Him Summary

Publication year 1999Genre Book, NonfictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: courage, Emotions/Behavior: Determination / Perseverance, Emotions/Behavior: Gratitude, Natural World: Animals, Natural World: Climate, Natural World: Environment, Values/Ideas: Safety & Danger, Values/Ideas: Science & TechnologyTags History: U.S., Health / Medicine, Animals, Action / Adventure

Publication year 2014Genre Book, NonfictionThemes Life/Time: Mortality & DeathTags Health / Medicine

Surgeon and author Atul Gawande is on a quest to determine what truly compassionate end-of-life care looks like and how to make that possible in an era of modern medicine. The writer acknowledges all the astounding breakthroughs that have made previously life-threatening illnesses manageable and childbirth safer. Infant mortality is down, clearly a gain, but human mortality is still an essential fact of life. Combatting death has been the business of modern medicine, Gawande asserts... Read Being Mortal: Illness, Medicine and what Matters in the End Summary

Publication year 2007Genre Book, NonfictionTags Health / Medicine

Harvard-educated Dr. Atul Gawande is a staff writer for The New Yorker, a surgeon at Brigham and Women's Hospital, and founder of two nonprofits aimed at innovating surgical practices around the world. He wrote Better: A Surgeon’s Notes on Performance to explore the attributes that make a good doctor. Published in 2007 as a follow-up to his 2002 National Book Award Finalist Complications: A Surgeon's Notes on an Imperfect Science, Better explores “how situations of... Read Better Summary

Publication year 2021Genre Autobiography / Memoir, NonfictionThemes Life/Time: Mortality & Death, Emotions/Behavior: Fear, Emotions/Behavior: Determination / PerseveranceTags Travel Literature, Health / Medicine

Publication year 2000Genre Poem, FictionThemes Life/Time: Aging, Life/Time: Mortality & DeathTags Health / Medicine

Publication year 2009Genre Book, NonfictionThemes Identity: Race, Values/Ideas: Win & LoseTags Sports, Health / Medicine, Science / Nature, Action / Adventure, Travel Literature, Anthropology, Finance / Money / Wealth

Publication year 2019Genre Book, NonfictionThemes Society: Globalization, Values/Ideas: Power & Greed, Society: Economics, Values/Ideas: Science & Technology, Values/Ideas: Truth & LiesTags Science / Nature, Health / Medicine, Business / Economics

Publication year 2020Genre Book, NonfictionTags Health / Medicine, Self Help

Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art, by James Nestor, is a comprehensive treatise on breathing. It combines a journalistic approach with studies in anthropology, biochemistry, human physiology, psychology, and pulmonology to unpack the different techniques of inhaling and exhaling throughout human history and in different societies. With its first publication in 2020, Breath was a bestseller in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal, and Sunday London Times and will... Read Breath Summary

Publication year 1987Genre Book, NonfictionThemes Values/Ideas: Order & Chaos, Natural World: Appearance & Reality, Natural World: Space & The Universe, Values/Ideas: Science & TechnologyTags Science / Nature, Philosophy, Business / Economics, Animals, Health / Medicine, Technology

Publication year 2015Genre Book, NonfictionThemes Society: Community, Values/Ideas: Justice & InjusticeTags Sociology, Health / Medicine, Politics / Government, Social Justice

Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs is a 2015 work of investigative nonfiction by British-Swiss author Johann Hari. Hari explores the so-called international war on drugs by looking deeply into its historical roots, its legal and social implications, and the possibility for reform. He examines addiction and the consequences of past and present drug laws across nine continents and 30,000 miles. A major focus is the criminalization and... Read Chasing the Scream Summary

Publication year 2015Genre Book, NonfictionThemes Identity: Femininity, Identity: Sexuality, Relationships: Marriage, Emotions/Behavior: Shame & Pride, Emotions/Behavior: Guilt, Emotions/Behavior: JoyTags Gender / Feminism, Science / Nature, Health / Medicine, Relationships, Self Help, Love / Sexuality

Publication year 2002Genre Essay Collection, NonfictionThemes Values/Ideas: Truth & LiesTags Health / Medicine

Atul Gawande’s Complications: A Surgeon’s Notes on an Imperfect Science is a collection of essays that weaves narratives from Gawande’s personal experience as a surgical resident together with research, philosophy, and case studies in medicine. Published in 2002, Complications became a 2002 National Book Award Finalist for Nonfiction. Gawande, a Rhodes Scholar and MacArthur Fellow, is a surgeon at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, a professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management at... Read Complications Summary

Publication year 2009Genre Novel, FictionThemes Society: Immigration, Values/Ideas: Religion & Spirituality, Relationships: SiblingsTags Historical Fiction, Health / Medicine, African Literature

Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese was published in 2009. Verghese, an Indian American doctor born in Ethiopia, interrupted his medical career to attend the University of Iowa’s Writing Workshop and wrote two memoirs before publishing this novel. The book is notable for its incorporation of medical knowledge and its intimate portrayal of the lives of medical doctors. The novel spans several decades, weaving a deeply personal story with the complex 20th-century history of Ethiopia... Read Cutting for Stone Summary

Publication year 1989Genre Book, NonfictionTags Depression / Suicide, Health / Medicine, Mental Illness

In December 1985, prominent novelist William Styron, in the depths of severe depression, found himself at a crossroads. Prepared to commit suicide, Styron opted instead to seek treatment. After seven weeks in a psychiatric ward, Styron reentered the world with a renewed sense of self and a will to live. When Primo Levi, a prominent Italian scientist, writer, and Holocaust survivor, killed himself in 1987, Styron responded to the widespread criticism of Levi’s suicide with... Read Darkness Visible Summary

Publication year 1994Genre Book, NonfictionThemes Identity: Disability, Emotions/Behavior: Memory, Identity: Mental Health, Natural World: Nurture v. Nature, Values/Ideas: Science & TechnologyTags Psychology, Science / Nature, Philosophy, Health / Medicine

Publication year 2021Genre Book, NonfictionThemes Identity: Mental Health, Self Discovery, Emotions/Behavior: Guilt, Emotions/Behavior: Forgiveness, Emotions/Behavior: Shame & Pride, Emotions/Behavior: Gratitude, Relationships: Family, Society: Community, Emotions/Behavior: Apathy, Society: Nation, Values/Ideas: Science & Technology, Values/Ideas: Truth & LiesTags Health / Medicine, Psychology, Science / Nature, Self Help, Addiction / Substance Abuse, Depression / Suicide, Mental Illness

Publication year 2018Genre Book, NonfictionThemes Values/Ideas: Power & Greed, Society: Economics, Society: Politics & Government, Identity: RaceTags History: U.S., Politics / Government, Science / Nature, Health / Medicine, Crime / Legal

Publication year 1992Genre Novel, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Conflict, Emotions/Behavior: courage, Emotions/Behavior: Fear, Emotions/Behavior: Forgiveness, Emotions/Behavior: Grief, Emotions/Behavior: Guilt, Emotions/Behavior: Hate & Anger, Emotions/Behavior: Love, Emotions/Behavior: Determination / Perseverance, Emotions/Behavior: Shame & Pride, Emotions/Behavior: Revenge, Emotions/Behavior: Nostalgia, Emotions/Behavior: Memory, Emotions/Behavior: Hope, Identity: Masculinity, Identity: Gender, Identity: Femininity, Identity: Sexuality, Life/Time: Mortality & Death, Life/Time: The Past, Life/Time: The Future, Natural World: Place, Relationships: Marriage, Society: Nation, Society: Politics & Government, Society: War, Values/Ideas: Fate, Values/Ideas: Justice & Injustice, Society: Class, Values/Ideas: Loyalty & Betrayal, Values/Ideas: Order & Chaos, Values/Ideas: Safety & Danger, Values/Ideas: Trust & Doubt, Values/Ideas: Truth & Lies, Values/Ideas: Win & Lose, Values/Ideas: Religion & SpiritualityTags Historical Fiction, Romance, Fantasy, Science-Fiction / Dystopian Fiction, Action / Adventure, History: European, Health / Medicine

Publication year 2009Genre Book, NonfictionThemes Natural World: EnvironmentTags Food, Philosophy, Animals, Health / Medicine

Eating Animals is a nonfiction book written by Jonathan Safran Foer and published originally in 2009. Foer is an accomplished novelist, and Eating Animals is his first foray into long-form nonfiction writing. The book fits into a genre of criticism of the food industry, specifically factory farming and animal welfare. Eating Animals is a New York Times bestseller, though it met with mixed reviews regarding both the content and style of Foer’s writing. In 2018... Read Eating Animals Summary

Publication year 2021Genre Biography, NonfictionThemes Values/Ideas: Loyalty & Betrayal, Society: Class, Relationships: Siblings, Values/Ideas: Art, Values/Ideas: Trust & Doubt, Society: Economics, Values/Ideas: Justice & Injustice, Values/Ideas: Power & GreedTags Health / Medicine, Politics / Government, History: U.S., Addiction / Substance Abuse, Business / Economics, Crime / Legal, Finance / Money / Wealth

Publication year 2018Genre Book, NonfictionThemes Society: Economics, Society: Class, Society: Education, Society: Globalization, Society: Nation, Society: Politics & Government, Emotions/Behavior: Nostalgia, Values/Ideas: Equality, Values/Ideas: Justice & Injustice, Values/Ideas: Science & Technology, Values/Ideas: Religion & Spirituality, Values/Ideas: Truth & LiesTags Philosophy, Science / Nature, Psychology, Sociology, Politics / Government, Health / Medicine, Agriculture, Business / Economics, Class, Climate Change, Social Justice

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Cat Bohannon
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Publication year 2023Genre Book, NonfictionThemes Identity: Femininity, Identity: Gender, Identity: Masculinity, Life/Time: The Past, Natural World: Nurture v. Nature, Relationships: FamilyTags Science / Nature, Gender / Feminism, Women's Studies (Nonfiction), Health / Medicine, Anthropology

Publication year 2018Genre Novel, FictionThemes Relationships: Family, Emotions/Behavior: Forgiveness, Emotions/Behavior: Guilt, Life/Time: Mortality & Death, Values/Ideas: MusicTags Music, Health / Medicine, Realistic Fiction

Publication year 2018Genre Autobiography / Memoir, NonfictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Memory, Society: Community, Values/Ideas: Religion & SpiritualityTags Christian literature, Creative Nonfiction, Relationships, Health / Medicine, Religion / Spirituality

Publication year 2001Genre Book, NonfictionThemes Natural World: Food, Society: Economics, Values/Ideas: Power & Greed, Values/Ideas: Science & TechnologyTags Food, Sociology, Health / Medicine, Agriculture, Business / Economics, Journalism, Politics / Government, Social Justice

IntroductionFast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal is a 2001 nonfiction book by Eric Schlosser that investigates the business practices of the American fast food industry and the associated agricultural industries that supply it. Following the precedent of Upton Sinclair’s famous 1906 work The Jungle, Schlosser provides readers with a glimpse into the questionable ethics of these large food corporations. Schlosser likewise provides brief historical accounts of fast food’s origins and traces... Read Fast Food Nation Summary

Publication year 2022Genre Novel, FictionThemes Relationships: Friendship, Life/Time: Mortality & Death, Life/Time: Aging, Emotions/Behavior: Love, Emotions/Behavior: Memory, Emotions/Behavior: courage, Society: Community, Values/Ideas: Beauty, Natural World: Animals, Natural World: Flora/plants, Natural World: Place, Values/Ideas: Literature, Emotions/Behavior: Determination / PerseveranceTags Historical Fiction, Depression / Suicide, Health / Medicine, Love / Sexuality, Mental Illness, Parenting, Social Justice

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John Edgar Wideman
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Publication year 1989Genre Short Story, FictionThemes Identity: Race, Life/Time: Mortality & Death, Life/Time: The PastTags Race / Racism, Social Justice, Health / Medicine

Publication year 2013Genre Book, NonfictionThemes Society: Immigration, Natural World: Food, Society: Class, Society: Community, Society: Globalization, Society: Economics, Society: Education, Society: Politics & Government, Society: Nation, Emotions/Behavior: Shame & Pride, Emotions/Behavior: Conflict, Values/Ideas: Justice & Injustice, Values/Ideas: Safety & Danger, Values/Ideas: Power & Greed, Values/Ideas: Truth & LiesTags Anthropology, Social Justice, Sociology, Health / Medicine

Publication year 2022Genre Book, NonfictionThemes Self Discovery, Life/Time: AgingTags Self Help, Psychology, Health / Medicine, Philosophy

Publication year 1990Genre Book, NonfictionThemes Identity: Mental Health, Self Discovery, Values/Ideas: New AgeTags Psychology, Self Help, Health / Medicine, Religion / Spirituality

Publication year 2019Genre Novel, FictionThemes Identity: Disability, Life/Time: Mortality & Death, Values/Ideas: Loyalty & Betrayal, Society: Class, Relationships: Friendship, Values/Ideas: Art, Emotions/Behavior: Forgiveness, Natural World: Animals, Values/Ideas: Safety & Danger, Emotions/Behavior: Determination / Perseverance, Emotions/Behavior: Love, Emotions/Behavior: Hate & Anger, Emotions/Behavior: Grief, Emotions/Behavior: Fear, Emotions/Behavior: Conflict, Emotions/Behavior: Loneliness, Emotions/Behavior: HopeTags Romance, Humor, Health / Medicine, British Literature, Disability

Publication year 1881Genre Play, FictionThemes Values/Ideas: Truth & Lies, Values/Ideas: Religion & Spirituality, Relationships: Family, Emotions/Behavior: Regret, Emotions/Behavior: Guilt, Emotions/Behavior: Shame & Pride, Identity: FemininityTags Play: Drama, Psychological Fiction, Scandinavian Literature, Realism, Victorian Period, Drama / Tragedy, Health / Medicine, Religion / Spirituality, Finance / Money / Wealth, Love / Sexuality

The play Ghosts (1881) by Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen chronicles the complicated relationship between Helen Alving and her son, Oswald. Ghosts documents a day in the life at the Alving estate as Helen prepares to open an orphanage in honor of her late husband. A three-act play, Ghosts explores the complex social issues of sexually transmitted infections, incest, and euthanasia—topics that made the play highly controversial when it was first produced. Ghosts followed the success... Read Ghosts Summary

Publication year 1990Genre Autobiography / Memoir, NonfictionTags Health / Medicine

Benjamin Solomon Carson, Sr. (b. September 18, 1951) is the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, as well as a 2016 presidential candidate, retired neurosurgeon, motivational speaker, and author of inspirational books. He earned a B.A. from Yale University and an M.D. from University of Michigan School of Medicine.In his memoir, Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story (1990), Carson and coauthor Cecil Murphey explore how Carson’s gifts from God, his mother and older brother’s influence... Read Gifted Hands Summary

Publication year 1993Genre Autobiography / Memoir, NonfictionThemes Identity: Mental Health, Life/Time: The Past, Identity: Femininity, Emotions/Behavior: Shame & Pride, Identity: Gender, Life/Time: Mortality & Death, Emotions/Behavior: Memory, Values/Ideas: Science & TechnologyTags Depression / Suicide, Mental Illness, Psychology, Gender / Feminism, Addiction / Substance Abuse, Health / Medicine, Trauma / Abuse / Violence

Susanna Kaysen’s 1993, Girl, Interrupted, is a memoir that explores Kaysen’s time as a teenage psychiatric patient in McLean Hospital in the late 1960s. Kaysen explores the murky definitions of mental health and illness, as she recounters her experience of being diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder and makes compelling arguments about the subjective nature of personality, behavior, and disorder. Girl, Interrupted is a bestselling book and was adapted into the 1999 film starring Winona Ryder... Read Girl, Interrupted Summary

Publication year 2017Genre Novel, FictionThemes Relationships: Family, Identity: Mental Health, Emotions/Behavior: Memory, Emotions/Behavior: ForgivenessTags Humor, Health / Medicine

Goodbye, Vitamin is Asian American author Rachel Khong’s debut novel. Khong, whose grandmother had Alzheimer’s disease, explores how Alzheimer’s disease affects a family in this work of literary fiction. Written as a series of diary entries, Khong’s protagonist, Ruth Young, meditates on memory, forgiveness, and the challenges inherent in familial relationships as she navigates an adulthood that is not turning out as planned.Published in 2017, Goodbye, Vitamin received positive reviews and was named one of... Read Goodbye, Vitamin Summary

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Maggie O’Farrell
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Publication year 2020Genre Novel, FictionThemes Identity: Femininity, Life/Time: Mortality & Death, Values/Ideas: Order & ChaosTags Historical Fiction, History: European, Gender / Feminism, Health / Medicine, Arts / Culture, British Literature, Elizabethan Era

Publication year 2009Genre Novel, FictionThemes Relationships: Family, Relationships: Mothers, Life/Time: Mortality & DeathTags Realistic Fiction, Drama / Tragedy, Health / Medicine

Publication year 1992Genre Poem, FictionThemes Values/Ideas: Order & Chaos, Values/Ideas: Win & Lose, Emotions/Behavior: Memory, Emotions/Behavior: Guilt, Emotions/Behavior: Love, Emotions/Behavior: Determination / Perseverance, Emotions/Behavior: HopeTags Lyric Poem, Depression / Suicide, Mental Illness, Health / Medicine