Summer Reading and Movie Recommendations from the Deans of ASPH

I am out of town this week at the ASPH Dean’s retreat. I wanted to share the full list of Summer Reading and Movie Recommendations from the Deans of the ASPH from the June 18th ASPH Friday Letter. There are some really interesting selections listed! Please see the excerpt below for the full list. Happy Wednesday. Barbara

For those looking for ways to fill their summer days while also enriching their minds, the deans of the ASPH-member Schools of Public Health have offered a number of interesting and thought-provoking readings and movies to help pass the time. A list of the deans’ recommendations is compiled below:

Dean Pat Wahl (Washington) says one of the best books she has read lately is “The Black Swan” by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. “It’s particularly appropriate given the recent events such as volcanoes, oil spills, financial meltdown, etc. which were all unexpected and unlikely, but happened” said Dean Wahl.

Dean Richard Hamman (Colorado) has offered the two suggestions “to take one’s mind off public health (administration)!” Razor’s Edge by W. Somerset Maugham is a “superbly well written novel about 50 years of the life of a family overtaken by the Great Depression. Maugham himself is a central character; for those who enjoy dreaming of the expatriate life in Europe of a bygone era in the best of English language prose.” War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy is “a book on everyone’s ‘someday I’ll read it’ list—it should be read. Contemporary and historical, psychological and superficial, the events of the early 19th century speak to us today of convoluted politics, emotions and intrigues. It is easier to carry on a kindle! An excellent translation by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky (Hardcover -2007 – Deckle Edge) is a real joy to read.”

Dean Robert Meenan (BU) recommends:

  • coverPredictably Irrational by Daniel Ariely. This book explores some of the insights and implications of behavioral economics, a field that is helping us understand how people think and make decisions.  It shows that we as individuals are far less “rational” as decision makers than we would like to believe.
  • The Limits of Power by Andrew Bacevich. The author, a retired U.S. Army colonel, describes both the depths and limits of exceptionalism as a fundamental tenet of American culture and policy.  It shows that we as a nation are engaged in a collective and dangerous delusion.
  • The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga. A remarkable novel about India and the devastating effects of its caste system and its underlying poverty.  It is a cautionary tale for those engaged in global health, and it is an inspiring reminded of the power of fiction.

posterLike Dean Meenan, Dean Barbara Rimer (UNC) also recommends the book Predictably Irrational—Dan Ariely, as well as Getting Organized in the Google Era by Douglas Merrill and James Martin; Half the Sky—Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn; and Mysteries by Jacqueline Winspear (about a heroine was a nurse in WW1). Currently, she is reading The Black Swan. For those looking for shorter publications, Dean Rimer suggests MIT’s Technology magazine, Harvard Business Review and the “usual suspects” such as the New England Journal of Medicine, Public Health Reports, New York Times and more. Her movie recommendation is “Up in the Air,” which she says provides “gut wrenching insight into what it means to lay people off.” (2009; Director: Jason Reitman; Cast: George Clooney, Vera Farmiga, Anna Kendrick, and Jason Bateman)

coverDean Richard Kurz (North Texas) recommends The Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and How It Changed America by John M. Barry. Dean Kurz says, “The book provides an interesting account of how politics and the environment have had detrimental effects on southern Louisiana and the long standing feelings of folk in that area about the Federal government and the likelihood that help will be coming.  Also, if you are watching ‘Treme’ on HBO, it is great background for that as well. “

posterDean Marla Gold (Drexel) suggests Wrong Place, Wrong Time by John Rich, which offers “a different look at acts of violence and how we might interrupt the cycle.” If you are planning an outing to a local movie theater, Dean Gold says that Please Give, is “a wonderful movie about how we can impact the lives of others, and hence ourselves.” (2010; Director: Nicole Holofcener; Cast: Catherine Keener, Amanda Peet, Thomas Ian Nicholas, Rebecca Hall, Kevin Corrigan)

Dean John Finnegan (Minnesota) sent in the following:

  • The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries are Failing and What Can Be Done About It by Paul Collier (2007). This is a well written analysis that avoids “political doctrine” and focuses on strategies and solutions.  In other words, it is sure to offend everyone in its iconoclasm.
  • coverThe Decision Tree by Thomas Goetz (2010). Former Minnesotan and Berkeley School of Public Health alum Tom Goetz, executive editor of Wired Magazine, puts together a compelling “how to” approach by which people can use digital technology to enhance control of their own health in the world of personal medicine. While this may seem “medico-centric,” it is really about scalable technologies that can shift some of the power over personal health from the medical-industrial complex to people themselves.
  • The Globalization of Higher Education, editors Luc Weber, James Duderstadt (2008). From the Glion Colloquium of Switzerland, this is a very useful and provocative set of essays and presentations in the role of higher education in shaping our global future.

coverDean Lynn Kozlowski (SUNY Buffalo) says of The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right by Atul Gawande, “Although the title might bring to mind a popular self-help guide, this book is a fascinating account of how well-designed checklists can help us cope, individually or in teams, with dynamic and often dangerous complex systems. Dr. Gawande is a surgeon, writer and MacArthur Fellow. He describes his role in an international project to reduce surgical problems—across surgical environments ranging from the primitive to the advanced.  I was reminded of Coleridge’s definition of poetry, ‘the best words in their best order.’ These checklists are empirically wrought creations of the best steps in their best order. And you will also learn about their role in the prevention of disasters involving the flying of airplanes and the building of skyscrapers.  You will find the book stimulating, and you may find yourself—as patient—asking your surgical team if they do know each other and do know what everybody’s job is that day.”

coverDean Roberta Ness (UTexas) would like to recommend Thomas Kuhn’s book, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, which she has been using as part of the new Innovating Thinking course she has begun teaching at the University of Texas School of Public Health.  One of the reviews states, “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions is indeed a paradigmatic work in the history of science. Kuhn’s use of terms such as ‘paradigm shift’ and ‘normal science,’ his ideas of how scientists move from disdain through doubt to acceptance of a new theory, his stress on social and psychological factors in science—all have had profound effects on historians, scientists, philosophers, critics, writers, business gurus and even the cartoonist in the street.”

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