“Great books help you understand, and they help you feel understood”
John Green, author of ‘The Fault in our Stars’
For me the pleasure of reading is self-evident. I can’t imagine life without a novel on the go, a scattering of poetry books to dip into and a weekly newspaper. But do health students read, apart from on-line resources and social media content? Do they devour novels, poetry, non-fiction — actual books?
This was the question that colleagues at Keele Medical School posed, concerned that ‘the value and simple pleasure of reading a book has been lost’. We can all cite possible reasons why this might be: professional training is demanding; modern life is fast paced; we are used to getting entertainment and information audio visually.
The Books of Life website http://keelebooksoflife.com/index.html, created by staff at Keele University, hopes to encourage health students to read for reading’s sake, enriching their lives. Its designers believe that literature, modern and classic, can provide insights into the human condition and space to reflect on the challenges of medicine.
Unlike some Medical Humanities enthusiasts, they do not claim that reading will make students more empathic or better clinicians. The website is purely a resource to dip into and explore, a suggestion rather than a prescription. There are different categories of recommended books — including poetry — with links to student reviews and to the publishers.
Should Leeds Medical School create a similar resource, perhaps asking students and staff for their suggestions? What books would you recommend and why? Contact me at: email@example.com if this project interests you or you see a potential special study project or elective option in the making.
Dr Emma Storr
Honorary Associate Professor, Academic Unit of Primary Care