What Are You Reading?

Books.AugBlogAugust is a popular vacation month – though here in Northern California, we are lucky that beautiful weather stretches into the fall, so maybe you have vacation yet to come.  Vacation is a time when many choose to bury themselves in a good book at the beach, on the lake, or on a long plane ride to somewhere exotic.  Reading is a great form of relaxation and also a source of wellness – pediatricians encourage reading not just as a source of lifetime learning, but for lifetime wellness, too.  Reading therefore fits with Vice Chancellor/Dean Freischlag’s 2016-2017 theme of wellness for our health system.

I thought you’d find it fun to get great recommendations for good reads from members of our own department.  The New York Times and others publish their favorite book lists – but nothing is better than suggestions from people you know and trust.   When I was president of the American Society of Cytopathology, I did a list of book recommendations from society members as part of my president’s blog – the ASC members really enjoyed it, so I thought you all would enjoy something similar, too.

Finding out what people like to read is also a way to get to know others better which is why I think the ASC book list was so popular.  In fact, another department chair at UCDHS once commented that he always asks candidates interviewing for positions what they are reading so that he gets to know them beyond just the usual questions – this has become a standard part of the panel interview in that department.

So here’s a list of good books that members of our department are reading – I hope you find some tips for books you’d like to read and enjoy new insights into the people you cross paths with every day.  I was a little surprised at how many books – fiction and non-fiction – have a bit of a pathology or science theme.  I take that to mean that our department members love their work and their discipline – they don’t necessarily read to escape, but love the connection to what they do!   I also hope you’ll be inspired to share books that you love at the end of this blog.  Or start a conversation with your colleagues and ask what they are reading!

Book recommendations from your colleagues:

Lydia Howell, Department Chair (me!):  Reading is my favorite form of relaxation since only a good book can turn off my brain from the everyday demands and stresses of work and life.  I read mostly on vacation – if a book is too good, I find it hard to come to work since I want to keep reading!   Here are two of my most recent reads:  The Nightingale by Kristen Hannah, recommended by my daughter – this is a World War II story set in Nazi-occupied France which follows two women from a small village who supported the French resistance.  Loosely based on real people and events, I found it inspiring to think of the heroism of everyday people in the face of terrible oppression.  Now I’m reading a non-fiction book, Lab Girl by Hope Jahren – I’m just loving it!  It is the beautifully written memoir of an academic geobiologist who describes her path to a career science and her love of her field – the New York Times called it “engrossing” (and it is)!  Dr. Jahren relates the excitement of making new discoveries and the joy of sharing knowledge with the next generation.  Inspiring to all of us in academics, and also insightful to those who aren’t in science who can hear first-hand of the struggles behind discovery and the importance of supporting science in our country.

Sabrina Okimura, Quality Assurance and Operations Manager:  Sabrina enjoyed She’s Come Undone by Wally Lamb so much that she has read it twice!  The book follows’ the life of a woman from the age of four until about 40 who faces many obstacles and issues, but Sabrina says that the way the story is told made her root for the heroine.  Sabrina also recommends James Patterson’s Women’s Murder Club Series — it is set in San Francisco and the main characters are a trio of women that solve murder mysteries: a detective, a reporter and a medical examiner. All the books are fast reads and a nice escape from reality, but have believable plots.  Interestingly, this book series showed up in the recommendations from the American Society of Cytopathology, too, so it must be popular among laboratorians — maybe it’s the forensic science connection??

Don York, cytology supervisor:  Don recommends a book by Mary Roach titled Stiff – The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers which he describes as a lay person’s commentary on the use and history of cadavers for research, education, and a few other strange things.  Don says it’s an easy read and interesting to view cadavers from a scientific, ethical, and historical perspective.   Chapters include “Decapitation, reanimation, and the human head transplant”, “When the bodies of the passengers must tell the story of a crash”, and “Body snatching and other sordid tales from the dawn of human dissection”.  Don shares the thought-provoking  question:  how do we decide that a crash dummy will respond to injury the same as a human if we don’t use human bodies as the measure of comparison? Then again, who wants to donate their body, or the body of a family member, if it’s going to be subjected to crushing forces, shot, blown up, or eaten by critters?  I have also read this book and found it very helpful last year when I served as a speaker at UCDHS’ annual memorial service for the generous individuals who donated their bodies to medical education.  Our former CAO Darrell O’Sullivan had recommended it to me – clearly another popular book among folks in pathology and laboratory medicine.

Hooman Rashidi, associate professor and residency program director:  Since it is an election year and we’ll soon be choosing the next president and leader of the free world, world politics are likely on everyone’s mind.  Hooman therefore suggests All the Shah’s Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror by Stephen Kinzer.  First written in 2003 and updated in 2008, this was a national bestseller and reviewed as one of the best books of the year by the Washington Post.  Hooman says the book provides fascinating insights into events that have led to the terrorism we continue to experience today.

Dorina Gui, assistant professor and grossing room director:   Dorina is reading music, rather than words, this summer since she is trying to teach herself to play the piano – she therefore says her reading is basic music books.  But learning to play the panflute is actually Dorina’s ultimate goal – she was told that she needs to blow 10,000 hours into her panflute before being able to produce anything that would make sense – and at the time of this writing she was still far from 10,000 hours!  And if you are wondering what the panflute is, go ahead and ask Dorina!!

Catherine Diaz-Khansefid, academic chief administrative officer:  Catherine claims she doesn’t get to read much because she spends all of her non-working time taking care of her Dorper sheep and their lambs  — yes, she lives on a ranch, and many department members have visited to check out her cute and fluffy flock.  (Note: they are as source of gourmet meat, so don’t get too attached, if you do visit!)  Nonetheless, Catherine did say that she recently enjoyed Sick Puppy by Carl Hiassen, a Florida reporter whose writing is loosely based on the many bizarre stories he’s covered.  Catherine says his stories are witty, ironic, and full of inappropriate humor and shady story lines that make you laugh and blush at the same! Catherine also said she just started reading Unaccountable: What Hospitals Won’t Tell You and How Transparency Can Revolutionize Health Care by Marty Makary MD.  Dr. Makary is a surgeon at Johns Hopkins and was a nominee for surgeon general in 2009.  I’ve heard this book is terrific, too – I just downloaded it onto my Kindle!

Clearly, our reading list reflects what a diverse group we are with many wide-ranging tastes and interests.  Please share your favorite books, too – or comment on one of these.   We are all looking for a source of relaxation, distraction, wellness, and inspiration!

By | 2017-06-03T01:43:30+00:00 August 5, 2016|3 Comments


  1. Leonor Fernando August 7, 2016 at 6:44 pm - Reply

    Hi, I very seldom have time to seat with a good book, so I substitute by listening to books on tape. Many of the Women’s murder club series are available on tape.
    I belong to a book club in my building. Recentle we read (They read I listened) “A marriage of opposites” by Alice Hoffman. I recommend it. One of my favorite authors ( other than Isabel Allende) is Gail Tsukiyama. She is a Chinese woman married to a Japanese man and writes of the China-Japan war. The first of her books I read was “The Samurai Gardens” -I actually read it in the late 90’s- I could not see through my tears. She has many more: Women of the silk, The street of a thousand blossoms, and the most recent one, Night of Many dreams. That’s the next I would get…

  2. emmanuel anasonye August 6, 2016 at 1:30 am - Reply

    nice article,really enjoy reading

  3. Sarah Barnhard August 5, 2016 at 9:12 pm - Reply

    These are great book suggestions – thanks everyone!

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