Rest Your Eyes and Your Mind – It’s the ASC Summer Reading List!

Hooray for summer — time to think about things other than cytopathology, like vacations at beaches, lakes, mountains, or wherever you find relaxation!  It’s a chance to rest our eyes and our minds, and squint into the sunshine rather than the microscope for a change.  And for lots of us, summer also means summer reading – bringing along good books to our favorite vacation spots (or maybe to a lounge chair in our own backyards) to take our minds away from work and bring us to different places with different issues and problems in order to find a little relaxation.

I love to read, but its often not until the quieter time of summer that I really let myself indulge  — if a book is really good, I can get too obsessed with it and then I can’t think of anything else, and that really isn’t a very good thing for my department, or the patients behind my cases, or for my ASC presidential duties!!  I noticed that at this time of year a lot of publications – like my local newspaper, the ladies’ magazines that I browse through at my hairdresser’s, and others — publish their recommendations for good summer reading.  This made me think that our leadership team at the ASC might have some good picks to share, too.   I figured that, like me, ASC members might also be looking for something good to read this summer.  And who better to make recommendations than members of your own profession who know the stresses and joys of your work and who share your need for escape, too??

I therefore asked a few of the ASC leaders to give us their suggestions for good summer reads – and their picks might even help you to get to know them a bit better, too, since favorite reading can provide a window into a side of an individual you might not otherwise have known about.  One of the department chairs at UC Davis recently told me that one of his favorite interview questions is to ask candidates what books they are reading.  He says that it helps get to know a candidate in a different way, and if someone says they don’t read, that can raise a flag to him, too.  I haven’t tried out this question yet myself, but it might be worth considering next time you do interviews for a position in your lab!

As the list below demonstrates, we obviously have lots of inquiring minds and interesting personalities in our leadership group!   I was surprised at the wide variety of books suggested, so there’s bound to be something for everyone – maybe that shows what eclectic and interesting members we have in the ASC!!  Interestingly, the hot title Fifty Shades of Grey was not suggested by anyone — I don’t know if that’s because cyto folks aren’t into that sort of thing or if no one is actually willing to admit in writing that they read it. (I, for one, am too embarrassed to even download this to my IPad, let alone actually read it……that probably says a lot about me…..!)  Anyway…..take a look at our list of recommendations, and blog back about what you think! And please share your favorite reads on this blog, too, so that we get more good recommendations!!!

Our Picks for Good Summer Reading

Lydia Howell, president:  To fulfill my presidential leadership obligation, I’m kicking off the list!!  One of the things I love about having the Kindle app on my IPad is that I can easily store all the books that I want to read and have them ready to go for vacation time.   And I like to read more than one book at one time – I like having options available to suit to my mood.  I’m almost done with the novel The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides, winner of a Pulitzer Prize for his previous novel MiddlesexThe Marriage Plot doesn’t quite live up to Middlesex (probably hard to write a Pulitzer Prize winner twice in a row), but I’m enjoying it and I find it to be a good seasonal choice since this is graduation time and the plot revolves around a love triangle between three new college grads.   Lots of you may have recent graduations in your own lives – those of your children or your own – so you might find this to be a good fit for you, too.    I’ve also been reading Gail Collins’ new book, When Everything Changed:  The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 to the Present  — in fact, I just nominated this book for UC Davis’ next campus community book project since the upcoming theme is gender equity.  It is amazing to see the evolution described in this book, even for someone like me who lived through and remembers this era —  i.e, a time when women couldn’t get a credit card of their own, when there were quotas for women accepted into medical school, when a bank might not wait on a woman if she was wearing pants rather than a skirt.  This will likely be eye-opening  to the younger generation (women and men) and inspiring, too.  A portion of the book is also devoted to the significant role of African American women in the Civil Rights movement and how they were not necessarily treated well by the men in that movement.  This book is therefore a story of gender, race and social class with important lessons for today – plus, it is well-written and easy to read!!

Donna Russell, Executive Board’s senior cytotechnologist :  After hearing Dr. Paul Farmer speak at the American Society of Clinical Pathlogy’s annual meeting last fall,  Donna was inspired to read Tracy Kidder’s Pulitzer Prize winning book Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World.  As many of you probably know, Dr. Farmer is famous for his work on health and human rights, including the role of social inequalities in the distribution and outcome of infectious diseases.   Dr. Farmer serves as the United Nations Deputy Special Envoy to Haiti to assist in improving the economic and social conditions of the Caribbean nation, and is professor and chair of Harvard Medical School’s Department of Global Health and Social Medicine.  Tracy Kidder’s book shares Dr. Farmer’s volunteer work in some of the poorest regions of the world.  Donna describes Dr. Farmer as a truly gifted physician and found this to be a thought–provoking book that she thinks will prompt readers to think about their own volunteer work and perhaps inspire them to do a little more.   This book should appeal to lots of our ASC members since many are interested in global health and participate in global advocacy activities supported by the ASC, such as the CerviCusco’s project, and others.

Andy Renshaw, president-elect: If you like to use books to vicariously travel to distant places, you’ll like Andy’s recommendation, A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush by Eric Newby.  Andy describes this book as the story of two completely unqualified British gentlemen in the 1950s (one of whom was Newby) who decided to go mountain climbing in Afghanistan.  Newby went on this trip rather precipitously after abandoning a career in the women’s fashion business and had never climbed a mountain before.  This chronicle of his adventure started him on the path to become one of the most outstanding travel writers of our time, ultimately receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award from the British Guild of Travel Writers in 2001.  Plus Andy says the humor is very British!

Dan Kurtycz, secretary-treasurer:  If you are a military history buff, you’ll enjoy Dan’s recommendations.  One thing that you may not know about Dan is that he is a serious Hellenophile – i.e, a  lover of Greek culture – and an incredible student of Greek history and the classics, so his choices therefore reflect this interest.  Dan recommends Lords of the Sea: The Epic Story of the Athenian Navy and the Birth of Democracy by archeologist John Hales.   The Athenian navy’s success is considered key to the Golden Age of Greece and the rise of democracy from which we all benefit today.  And according to Amazon, the audio version of this book is really great, so that might be an interesting way to enjoy this book.  Dan also recommends Gates of Fire and Tides of War by Stephen Pressfield.  He says that the first book is a superbly told story of Thermopylae, a battle which has become synonymous with the power of a patriotic army defending native soil and a symbol of courage over overwhelming odds.  The second book is a history of Alcebiades, an supremely talented amoral Athenian nobleman and student of Socrates, who because of his narcissism ensured the defeat of Athens by Sparta and was probably the real reason that Socrates was put to death.   These books are also an interesting opportunity to learn more about Dr. Papanicolaou’s homeland and culture, but of course, long before Dr. Pap’s time!

Beth Jenkins, executive director:  Beth thinks that in a past life she must have been in law enforcement since she really likes mysteries and thrillers.   Beth particularly likes books by James Patterson and just finished up the 10th Anniversary, the most recent book in Patterson’s Women’s Murder Club series. One of the women characters in the “club” is a chief medical examiner, so there is also a pathology connection to this book!  Beth is also reading Standing Next to History: An Agent’s Life Inside the Secret Service by Joseph Petro.  She enjoys learning the Secret Service’s opinion of our presidents and how each president acts when they aren’t in front of the camera.  If only we could get this kind of info before the election!!

Hope you enjoy this list!   Feel free to add more!!  And have a fun and relaxing summer!

Lydia Pleotis Howell MD, ASC President