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Loads of great reading & viewing for summer and 2015

’Tis the season for reading, relaxing, and reflecting.

Thanks to Croakey contributors for sharing below their suggestions for recommended reading and viewing. Enjoy!

***

Q: What is the best book that you read in 2014 and why would you recommend it to Croakey readers?

Laurie Garrett’s ebook on the 1995 Ebola outbreak in Kikwit, Zaire – originally published as a chapter in her 2000 book ‘Betrayal of Trust’, but now available separately, together with a contemporary introduction.
Tarun Weeramanthri, WA Chief Health Officer

Caged: Memoirs of a Cage-Fighting Poet, by Cameron Conaway.
If there is one book the can convince people that men are thoughtful and open about how they feel and love, this is that book.
Dameyon Bonson, Indigenist – Advocate of Indigenous Genius, Indigeneity and Wellbeing

Legal but Lethal, by Nicholas Freudenberg
Oxford university Press
A well-researched book which demonstrates the dirty tactics used by trans-national corporations to undermine our collective health.
Fran Baum, Flinders University

Speechless by James Button
I worked as a public servant in health for many years, and I recognise the public service he is describing as true. He talks about what motivates and what frustrates public servants with warmth, intelligence and astuteness. He’s also great on language (I was particularly taken by him grappling with the word “implementation”. He tried to find an alternative for it, and finally gave up, accepting that sometimes that clunky five-syllable word is the only one that will do justice to a particular situation. And, finally, he writes with beauty and honesty.
Lea McInerney, writer, facilitator, strategic planner

Atul Gawande’s Being Mortal.
Because it reminds us that medicine has technical limits that mean that non-technical humane approaches and professional behaviour are needed to handle these matters near the end of life and that medicine had better wake up if it wishes to retain its nominal commitment to humane concern.
Stephen Leeder, Emeritus Professor, University of Sydney

The Narrow Road to the Deep North, By Richard Flanagan
Marie Bismark, public health physician and health lawyer, University of Melbourne

This House of Grief by Helen Garner.
Because it’s so beautifully written.
Amanda Wilson, University of Newcastle 

Sum by David Eagleman
Although its apparent subject is the afterlife, it has profound and funny insights on how we live day to day.
Ginny Barbour, PLOS medicine editorial director

I re-read Primo Levi’s If this is a man. It’s without parallel. I also got a lot out of Night Games by Anna Krien, though, as with Helen Garner’s The First Stone, wonder about such stories without the women’s voices.
Marie McInerney, Croakey moderator, journalist

Incomplete Nature, by Terence Deacon.
A rigorous attempt to explain how complex systems arise from simple systems, and ultimately how life might have emerged. It’s a beautiful example of sustained thought, based on a lifetime of scientific research.
Gawaine Powell Davies, University NSW

‘The World in 2050: Four Forces Shaping Civilization’s Northern Future’ by Laurence C Smith.
Scientific insights into the impacts of climate change on our planet in the foreseeable future.
Cat Street, health promotion practitioner

This Changes Everything by Naomi Klein.
I was gripped by this book, and found it by turns deeply depressing and deeply inspirational. Depressing because the scale of change required to avert climate change is huge, probably unprecedented, and worldwide, our political leaders are locked into a death-spiral of neo-liberal policies despite the wishes of the people; and inspiring because across the world people do care, and alliances are forming between indigenous peoples, farmers, activists, financiers and a wide section of the public. Klein is right that climate change is not an issue of itself, but one that frames and affects everything else. The campaign for human rights, equality, justice, fairness in whatever you believe converges in the fight for a climate that allows life. The final chapter linking Klein’s personal struggles with her own fertility and pregnancy with changes to life-cycles in nature is quite extraordinary. In short, you must read this book. It does change everything.
Tim Senior, GP and Wonky Health columnist

‘Ecological Public Health’ by Geof Rayner and Tim Lang
It’s a refreshing new take on public health policy and practice while referencing our history and heroes.
Jeanette Ward, public health consultant, Adjunct Professor, University of Ottawa

The Peripheral by William Gibson
This is a near future book which is quite challenging to read but rewarding. Great insight into the contrasts between societies – an allegory for contrasts between first and third worlds today.
Mark Harris, University NSW

The Consequences of Modernity by Anthony Giddens
For anyone trying to better understand trust in science and medicine and why it is shifting.
Julie Leask, School of Public Health, University of Sydney

Global Health Law by Larry Gostin
It provides some interesting insights on what the big health issues will be in the future while providing context for some of the pressing global health issues currently.
Michelle Hughes, Croakey moderator

Merchants of Doubt by Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway
Peter Miller, Principal Research Fellow / Commissioning Editor Addiction, School of Psychology, Deakin University

The Magic Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton
I read this with my daughter throughout the year. It’s nice to tap into your inner child every once in a while!
Ross Green, Health communicator, Melbourne

Dan Kahneman’s Thinking fast and slow
Such an insight into who we are as a species and how we work. And how to make changes.
Peter Tait, GP, ANU lecturer

One I’m reading at the moment, Warning by Sophie Cunningham. I am talking eagerly to people who were alive when Cyclone Tracy happened as it was clearly extraordinary and something I (sadly) don’t know much about. Also a really good read.
Eliza Metcalfe, health communicator, Melbourne

Simon Chapman and Becky Freeman’s ‘Removing the emperor’s clothes: Australia and tobacco plain packaging’.
I haven’t read it yet but it is on my sideboard to read over the Christmas New Year break.  How better to recharge than to read a public health success story of Australia leading the world.  (No such book about Australia and climate change in the wind!). As with the best public health stories, many many lives will be saved, while no one was harmed except the profits of those from the tobacco industry who have been responsible for a century of mass murder (although the Centralian Advocate reported that some smokers said their fags in the new poo-brown packs tasted now like shit).  I did read the acknowledgements when it arrived and noticed that Simon wrote much of it in Bellagio overlooking the lakes, so it sounds like it was a pleasure to write as it will be a pleasure to read.
David P Thomas, Menzies School of Health Research
(NB from Croakey: a review of this book will be published shortly). 

Haven’t quite finished it but enjoying reading The Wife Drought. It is easy to read, well written, thought provoking and has lots of great statistics and information on gender inequality – all in the inimitable style of Annabel Crabb.
Kristine Olaris, CEO, Women’s Health East, Melbourne

Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-first Century.
The growing inequality of wealth and income underpins so many of our public health issues, and this French economist has “captured the moment” in his lengthy analysis of what’s been going wrong.  An economics book has never been so powerful or so engaging.
Don Perlgut, Executive Officer, The Bright Alliance, Prince of Wales Clinical School, UNSW

The Accursed Kings series by Maurice Druon.
George RR Martin has said that Game of Thrones books are heavily inspired by Druon.  The frightening thing about Druon’s books, which are set in 13th and 14th century France and start with the run up to the Hundred Years war with England, is that they are heavily influenced by real events. At least Game of Thrones characters have the excuse of being fictional for their inexcusable behaviour!
Tom Symondson, Acting Chief Executive of the Victorian Healthcare Association

The Orphan Masters Son by Adam Johnson
Teaches you never to make jokes about North Korea.
Margaret Faux, a lawyer, the founder and managing director of one of the largest medical billing companies in Australia and a registered nurse. She is a research scholar at the University of Technology Sydney

****  ****  ****

Q: What was the best movie/docco/TV series that you saw in 2014 dealing with a public health issue?

Utopia
For all its polarising lens – truths needed to be told. Lies exposed and failings challenged.
Dameyon Bonson, Indigenist – Advocate of Indigenous Genius, Indigeneity and Wellbeing

I liked Treme, which is a few years old now, and documents the lives of people living in New Orleans post Hurricane Katrina. Portrays aspects of disaster ‘recovery’ that are rarely spoken about. Available on DVD.
Tarun Weeramanthri, WA Chief Health Officer

The Men Who Made Us Fat, The Men Who Made Us Thin
Fran Baum, Flinders University

Transparent – brilliant series about an older man finally admitting to his adult children, and the world, that he has always been a woman living in a man’s body, and his family each investigating their own understandings of gender, sexuality and identity.
Kristine Olaris, CEO, Women’s Health East, Melbourne

The normal heart 
Marie Bismark, public health physician and health lawyer, University of Melbourne

Have failed to come up with honest public health focus for True Detective, The Killing, Borgen, House of Cards and The Bridge, going to go for a couple of ‘feel good’ movies: not brilliant, but good and kind. Pride, about a group of gay and lesbian activists supporting the miners’ strike in the UK in the 80s, and Healing, starring Hugo Weaving and Don Hany, about a minimum security prison set in Victoria’s Yarra Ranges. Bit cliched, but great to see a prison movie without Nicholas Cage and with a curiosity of how people got there.
Marie McInerney, Croakey moderator, journalist

Coming home on PTSD first aired at the end of 2013 but available online and then a subsequent interview with reporter Sally Sara about her own experience.
Mark Harris| UNSW Scientia Professor and Executive Director Centre for Primary Health Care 

Dead Drunk 
Peter Miller, Principal Research Fellow / Commissioning Editor Addiction, School of Psychology, Deakin University

Black Comedy because I think it’s hilarious and a great example of Indigenous mob being empowered by making their own fun of stereotypes…
Cat Street, health promotion practitioner

Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012) – a creative movie looking at the impacts of environmental change on a young girl. This movie takes you in all different directions and inadvertently tackles a number of public health issues.
Yotti Kingsley, University of Melbourne

Rise of the Planet of the Apes  (He laughs)
Luke van der Beeke, Managing Director, Marketing for Change.

Dallas Buyers Club
Inspired by a true story in the 1980s about a man with HIV, who questions the medical treatment he’s getting, as well as the authority of the FDA. It’s an interesting comment on patient rights, Big Pharma, HIV stigma and what good medical care is.
Ross Green, health communicator, Melbourne

ANZAC Girls would be my pick – not only was it an incredibly moving take on the great war, which managed to avoid a lot of the clichés of the genre, but it highlighted the massive contribution of those dedicated nurses.  Their contribution to the war effort is often forgotten because of the horrific losses of fighting men on all sides.
Tom Symondson, Acting Chief Executive of the Victorian Healthcare Association

House of Cards.
Education on how all public issues are being managed by our great democracies. I predict Claire will be the last person standing.
Margaret Faux, a lawyer, the founder and managing director of one of the largest medical billing companies in Australia and a registered nurse. She is a research scholar at the University of Technology Sydney

Ridley Scott’s “Exodus:  Gods and Kings”, worth it for the ten plagues alone.  Speak of public health problems!
Don Perlgut, Executive Officer, The Bright Alliance, Prince of Wales Clinical School, UNSW

Jabbed – Love Fear and Vaccines.
It re-screened on SBS in July and takes viewers into the lives of families affected by diseases like whooping cough and measles and those affected by vaccines. It communicates the science in a clever and nuanced way and shows in narrative terms how the benefits of vaccines outweigh their risks.
Julie Leask, School of Public Health, University of Sydney

 

 

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