Saturday, March 05, 2011

BC2011: How Doctors Think

It's weird that I ever bought this book. It's not like I have much interest in medicine or interaction with doctors. Heck, I haven't even had a physical in the current millennium (cue hypochondriac wife's nagging here). I bought How Doctors Think (shockingly subtitle-less) by Jerome Groopman, M.D. when I was in an I have to find something to buy here mood in December at Borders in Wilmette (now my "local" Borders since the bankruptcy). What's even weirder is that instead of letting it languish on my sagging "unread book" shelves for years or at least many months, I decided to read it. Maybe I chose it because my Grandma was in the hospital, although she was beyond the point where understanding how doctors think would make any difference.

For a subject I don't have much interest in, this was at least a mildly interesting book. I was rather proud of myself for figuring out the correct diagnosis for the patient in the introduction before Groopman revealed it, but fortunately the rest of the book wasn't so obvious. The doctor is also a staff writer at The New Yorker, which means he knows how to make the field of medicine understandable and accessible to laypeople.

While I found How Doctors Think worthwhile, I might have been content with a magazine article that just spelled out what patients need to know and ask to prevent doctors from falling into the various cognitive traps described in the book, something a little like the epilogue. In fact, I will make this bizarrely backward suggestion: if you're not sure whether you want to read this book, read the epilogue first. If that leaves you begging for more, you'll probably like this book a lot. If not, then at least you've learned something useful while saving your time and money. Had I read the epilogue first, I suppose I would have fallen somewhere in the middle, and that's about how I feel about this book -- I didn't love it, but I didn't think it was a waste of time or money either (granted, I only paid $5.99).


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