Being Mortal | Book Review

Since this is Non-fiction Month, and since I don’t read non-fiction nearly often enough, I’ve decided to try to review every book I read this month. It won’t be more than four or five books, but I think that’s still a big deal because reviewing non-fiction is hard, especially non-fiction I’ve enjoyed and want you guys to want to read.

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Look at this beautiful cover, representing the fragility of life.

The second book I read this month (not including Bird by Bird) is Being Mortal by Atul Gawande. It was voted one of the top 10 non-fiction books by Amazon, and it was a great bestseller. I didn’t pick it up because of that though.

This is a book one of my friends went nuts about in college, and recommended to everyone. She wants to go into medical policy research, especially policy about equal opportunities for the differently-abled. She gifted the book to our Medicine and Public Health Law teacher when we left college.

She and I, we had this tradition where we’d go places like coffee houses, or restaurants, or anywhere really, with books in our bags, sit quietly and read together. I remember sitting with her at the little shack where we used to get coffee and instant noodles and she grabbed a pen and wrote all over the margins of this book. She couldn’t stop smiling and staring up at the sky like she’d had a revelation. Her obvious love and excitement for the book got me excited about it too.

The author Atul Gawande, is a doctor. He writes about the one topic doctors seem to hesitate to talk about; mortality and death. He says that people are living longer enjoying better qualities of life than ever before. However, people’s bodies still fail. He felt like the entire process of death has shifted from the home to hospitals and nursing homes, has become medicalised, in other words, and that the medical fraternity and society and large is unprepared for the enormous elderly population that exists today and for the concept of terminality and certain death as a whole.

This book talked about so many concepts like elder care, hospice care, euthanasia and the responsibility of doctors towards patients and the patients’ family. He opines that our priorities of safety over  autonomy for our loved ones may deteriorate their quality of their lives rapidly.  He brings in philosophy, sociology and psychology. And he still makes it understandable to people with no knowledge or experience in any of these fields.

It isn’t all academic though. He talks about his own failures and learning processes as a general surgeon. He talks about his interviews and interactions with people faced with mortality, both because of age and because of illnesses. He talks about his own personal experiences with death and disease.

I never expected it from what I thought of as an academic/ medico-legal philosophical book, but this book made me tear up at the end.  Loss of a loved one is always a painful thing, but today’s lifespans mean that generations of family members need to learn to cope better. I haven’t been coping or handling it very well in my own life. I’ve been feeling really helpless, actually. This book made me realise that I’m not alone in feeling like the situation should be better. It also made me realise that it can be better with just a few changes, and that it’s a goal that’s achievable during my own lifetime. The wisdom, accessibility, lack of judgment and and new perspective of the book just made me think of things that had never occurred to me before.

Sadly, my sensitive, small brain has now had an over-large dose about the bleak state of affairs pertaining to our bodies and health, and will not be able to digest another eye-opening, mind-altering book for a while.

The book I was originally going to read after this is Our Moon has Blood Clots but I need to break it up with something lighter first, so I’ll pick up Writing Down the Bones for my NaNoWriMo prep now, and read something heavy after. I really, really want to just give up and read a novel right now, but I won’t. I’m sticking to my guns!

That’s all for now, guys!

Here are my social media links:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/owlishwriter
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/8681585-sindhu
Twitter: @sindrao22
Email: owlishreader@gmail.com
Instagram: owlishphotographer

Happy stalking! 🙂 And happy reading. 😀

Hoot,

Sin

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