Summer is a time for barbecues, the beach, and reading lists. That’s right, reading lists. But not the kind your high school English teacher might have assigned. We asked a number of SPHHS deans and faculty members to recommend one public health-related read and one “for fun” book. Whether you’re looking for a book to help you unwind on your beach vacation or want to use your lunch break to deepen your knowledge of the field, you’ll find some great suggestions in the list below.
Melissa Perry, Chair of the Department of Environmental and Occupation Health, recommends The Fever: How Malaria Has Ruled Humankind for 500,000 Years by Sonia Shah. This is a fantastic historical and authoritative account of how we have tried to rid the earth of malaria and the many times we have failed in doing so. She also recommends The Unwinding: An Inner History of a New America by George Packer, which is an insightful political analysis of how freedom of choice has influenced where the United States is today in its tendency toward political stand off.
Kimberly Horn, Associate Dean for Research, recommends Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg. (Did you know that Sandberg started her career doing public health projects with the World Bank?)
Alan Greenberg, Chair of the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, recommends And The Band Played On, by Randy Shilts, an important book in the field of HIV/AIDS which chronicles the early and tumultuous days of the US HIV epidemic. He also “wholeheartedly” recommends My Beloved World by Sonia Sotomayor. Speaking of Sotomayor, Dr. Greenberg says, “She is a wonderful and brilliant role model and I found her autobiographical account of the personal and professional issues that influenced her career to be highly educational as well as inspirational.”
Rajiv Rimal, Chair of the Department of Prevention and Community Health, recommends Bryn Barnard’s Outbreak! Plagues that Changed History. He says, “When we think about factors that have changed society, we often think about technology. We think about the hardware that made it possible for people to commute and therefore live far apart from each other (the internal combustion engine), to print books inexpensively (the Gutenberg press), to communicate instantly with people across the world (the Internet), or to control family size (the Pill). We seldom think about the role that diseases have played in shaping human history. This book changes that. It makes a compelling case for us to think about, and learn from, the role that pandemics have played in our history. It is well-written, accessible, and well researched.” Dr. Rimal also recommends “two books that changed my thinking and my view of the world when I read them (in my adolescence). The first is Robert Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and the second is Fritjof Capra’s The Tao of Physics. Both books question epistemology — how do we know what we know — and they blend the East and the West quite seamlessly for new insights and perspectives.”
Pierre Vigilance, Associate Dean for Public Health Practice, recommends The Medici Effect: What Elephants & Epidemics Can Teach Us About Innovation by Frans Johansson. This book explores the role of diversity in creating innovation and is “critical for all public health thinkers and doers.” Dr. Vigilance also recommends Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point: How Little Things Make a Big Difference, which “uses public health examples to demonstrate the huge impact small, seemingly unrelated inputs can have on major problems.”