British neurosurgeon Henry Marsh’s book, Do No Harm Stories of Life, Death, and Brain Surgery (Macmillan/ St. Martin’s; HighBridge Audio, 5/25/15), “gives us an extraordinarily intimate, compassionate and sometimes frightening understanding of his vocation. He writes with uncommon power and frankness,” according to critic Michiko Kakutani in today’s New York Times. The New Yorker also gives the book high marks saying Marsh “writes like a novelist—he thinks in terms of scenes, patterns, and contrasts,” comparing him to Ian McEwan, who provides the book’s cover blurb,
Neurosurgery has met its Boswell in Henry Marsh. Painfully honest about the mistakes that can “wreck” a brain, exquisitely attuned to the tense and transient bond between doctor and patient, and hilariously impatient of hospital management, Marsh draws us deep into medicine’s most difficult art and lifts our spirits. It’s a superb achievement.
Marsh is more interested in his failures than his successes, and therefore, as Kakutani says, the book can make unsettling reading. However, given the number of books by physicians that have found their way to best seller lists recently, that may not be a deter readers. Check your holds.