Daily Archives: October 7, 2009

Reading Round Up: Health, Holocaust Survival and Social Change.

Andrew Weil's latest is one of the books I've read recently.

Andrew Weil's latest is one of the books I've read recently.

My reading’s been a bit all over the place these days, which has been fun, if a bit scattered.

Today I’m going to give quick summaries of books I’ve read recently that each deserve, and will later receive,  their own posts.

1. A Lucky Child: A Memoir of Surviving Auschwitz As A Young Boy, by Thomas Buergenthal. 

Buergenthal currently is the American judge at the International Court of Justice, and his commitment to human and international rights was forged on the crucible of his experience during the Second World War.  He survived life in a Polish ghetto, stints in Sachenshausen and Auschwitz camps, and a death march that cost him two of his toes.  His mother survived, but his father did not. 

The book has a foreword by Elie Wiesel, who writes among other things about the different amounts of time survivors took to record their experiences.  Wiesel concludes the foreword by saying that it is impossible to know whether Buergenthal would have written the same book 50 years, but what matters is that he has written it.  “And the reader must surely be thankful to him for it,” Wiesel says. 

He is right, and I am also grateful to my uncle Ralph Lowenstein, who, like my father, escaped from Germany on the Kindertransport.

2. Social Change 2.0: A Blueprint for Changing Our World, by David Gershon

Gershon has done mass mobilizations for causes as diverse as climate change, averting nuclear war and reducing violence in inner-city neighborhoods.  In this engaging work, he draws on that experience and articulates a method for how people can do the same and how the planet can avert catastrophe and end war. 

The charge may sound grandiose, and the language is a bit jargon-laden-we read a lot about “transformative leadership” and “unitive visions,” for example-and I found the book stimulating, hopeful and useful.

3. Why Health Matters: A Vision of Health That Can Transform Our Future, by Andrew Weil.  This is my first book by Weil, who has written several other bestsellers.  In it, he argues against what he sees as three myths of healthcare-among them, the idea that technology leads to better care and more money to better research-as part of his argument that our current health care system is badly broken and in need of radical reform. 

His solution is to focus more on preventive medicine and healthy living, and to rely less on pricey specialists and more on general practitioners who spend meaningful time with their patients. 

This may not sound radical, and implementing his vision would lead to major changes in how health care is administered and who receives it.  A timely read, given the current heated and protracted political debate.