biography

Book Review: Ticker

Ticker: The Quest to Create an Artificial HeartTicker: The Quest to Create an Artificial Heart by Mimi Swartz

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“The person who comes up with a way to replace a failing heart with an artificial one, then, will save countless lives and change the future of humankind, much as Louis Pasteur or Sigmund Freud did, or Jonas Salk or Marie Curie. And, of course, the doctor or engineer (or, more likely, the team) who figures out how to make one will likely become very, very rich.”

This is what we are presented with in Ticker: The Quest to Create an Artificial Heart by Mimi Swartz. The book tells the sordid history of a group of surgeons all vying to become the god-like creator of the first artificial heart. Swartz is a stunning and detailed researcher and the book flows well throughout the decades. She starts with the birth of Michael Debakey and Denton Cooley as the “bad boys: of cardiac surgery in Houston. From there, Swartz takes the reader on the stunning and sometimes vaguely unethical battle to be the best, to beat the competition, and to cash in for as much money as humanly possible. My only disappointment is that the book just seemed to end with no conclusion. That could be due to the unfinished tale of the artificial heart but it still could have wrapped up a bit better in my opinion.

I had some knowledge going into the book as my husband’s uncle was on the ground floor of Baylor’s race to be the best in cardiac care but much of the information was new to me. Readers who have grown up in Houston will know the cast of characters and possibly even the history of the cardiac teams that come into play. This book is not for the faint of heart, however. These are real people that have been used as guinea pigs and sometimes, that’s disheartening and upsetting. Know going into it that the early days of heart surgery were akin to the Wild West and not everyone was on the up-and-up.

*I received an advanced copy of this book in exchange for a fair review.*

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Book Review: One Dumb Guy

The Kids in the Hall: One Dumb GuyThe Kids in the Hall: One Dumb Guy by Paul Myers

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“Individually, I think we’re all very smart. Just together as a group, we’re really just one dumb guy”- Mark McKinney

This official biography of one of the most influential sketch comedy troupes of all time is fascinating and incredibly well written. Let’s be honest, biography/memoir isn’t a genre that everyone loves; it can be dry and lacking but The Kids in the Hall: One Dumb Guy by Paul Myers is a standout in its category.

Paul Myers delves deep into the history of the troupe starting with how Bruce McCulloch, Mark McKinney, Dave Foley, Kevin McDonald, and Scott Thompson were drawn to comedy as children and teens dealing with traumatic and difficult lives. From there, he take the reader through the KITH’s rise in Toronto’s comedy scene and how their eventual discovery lead to a TV show the likes no one had seen before.

Myers does not mince words — as a long time “member” of The KITH, he knows the ins and outs of their history. and is able to lead the reader through the good times and bad, up to the present day. The KITH are a testament to truly loving your craft, and your friends, even when you hate both.

What make this book great is that The KITH were extensively involved in the production, providing interviews and anecdotes that add to the authenticity. My copy was an ARC version and didn’t include photos, though I hope Myers adds some in the future as they would be fantastic throwbacks. This is a must read for any fan of The Kids in the Hall. I consider myself to be one of their biggest fans and even I learned some new stuff! Don’t miss this one!

*I received an advanced electronic copy of this book courtesy of NetGalley.*

Book Review: Patient H.M.

Patient H.M.: A Story of Memory, Madness, and Family SecretsPatient H.M.: A Story of Memory, Madness, and Family Secrets by Luke Dittrich

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book was nothing short of amazing. I’m extremely interested in neuroscience and the history of the lobotomy — this book was the perfect intersection. Having read several books on memory and lobotomies, I was already familiar with the case of H.M. but this book explored who H.M. was as a person which was never allowed to enter into the scientific case studies.

Author Luke Dittrich writes from a very personal place since it was his own grandfather, Dr. Scoville, who performed the lobotomy on Patient H.M. and so many others, including his severely ill wife. In that sense, Dittrich often comes across at angry and occasionally petulant in his desire to defend all the good that his grandfather did while also mourning the horrors inflicted on unsuspecting patients.

This book is also raises important questions regarding medical and scientific ethics. The woman “in charge” of H.M.’s care during the final years of his life, was the woman whose career exploded into the limelight thanks to her research on H.M.. She also assigned H.M.’s guardian who was a man who was not at all invested in his care. This “scientist” closely guarded her own research and access to H.M. to keep others from learning more about the enigmatic patient. Dittrich also brought to light the possibility that research data might have been falsified. However, we’ll never know since she destroyed nearly all the records and test data prior to her death.

As an avid reader of science and history books, this was a wonderful read. Dittrich brings in enough science to keep those in the field engaged but he also makes it approachable for the causal reader. Writing from a very personal space, Dittrich brings to life the wonderful man known to most only as H.M.. Dittrich balances his disdain for his grandfather’s procedures with facts, figures, and light-hearted tales of growing up as Dr. Scoville’s grandson. Patient H.M. is an important tale of science gone awry and the dangers of being on the bleeding edge of medicine.