Saturday, May 02, 2009

Two more "year-in-the-life" books

Eule, Brian. Match Day: One Day and One Dramatic Year in the Lives of Three New Doctors. New York: St. Martin's Press, 2009.

Roose, Kevin. The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner's Semester at America's Holiest University. New York: Grand Central Pub, 2009.

In the last month I've read two great "year in the life" books.

In Match Day: One Day and One Dramatic Year in the Lives of Three New Doctors, Brian Eule follows three female med school grads through their first year of residency. One happens to be his girlfriend, so her year is the one he follows most closely. A big chunk of the book, though, covers the process of how med school students are placed, or "matched" with hospitals and residency programs. That part was interesting, I learned a lot, but I liked other parts of the book way better. Eule also describes how these women decided on medicine, and then on specialties within medicine. And I liked finding out how they developed the confidence to be doctors over the course of their educations and first year of residency. As with so many professions, there's only so much you can learn in classrooms, and through closely supervised practical experiences. At some point, you have to go out and just do it. With medicine, it seems that point is especially critical.

I learned a lot about the process whereby doctors are educated in this country, what exactly residencies are, and why they're structured as they are. I found the people Eule wrote about interesting. Eule did write a little too much about his own relationship with the resident; I would've preferred to learn more about medical education. But all in all, I really liked this book. Other books I've seen on this topic tend to be more academic or more focused on patients. Not that those kinds of books don't have their places, but those weren't what I've been looking for.

I loved Kevin Roose's The Unlikely Disciple! It only covers a semester, rather than a year, but what a semester! After his first semester (maybe it was his first three semesters?) at Brown University, Roose, who was raised Quaker, decided to attend Liberty University, a fundamentalist Baptist college founded by Jerry Falwell. Roose went "undercover" there, telling no one that he was a journalist, and his ruminations on the ethics of the situation are an interesting part of the book.

Roose lived in the dorms, took classes, sang in the choir at Jerry Falwell's church, and went on a mission trip to Daytona for spring break, and he wrote about all of it. He really opened himself up to different experiences at Liberty, participating with an open mind. He was willing to learn, and worked hard not to pre-judge people. He did keep in contact with his family and friends; one friend came to visit him for a weekend. In the book he wonders sometimes if he's a little too open-minded, if he's in danger of "going native." But I think he's able to evaluate things fairly.

If I were the writer Roose is, I could effectively describe how thoughtful and open-hearted he is in his writing. He's not afraid to poke fun at absurdities he comes across, but it's in a gentle way. I think he worked really hard at understanding the people he met at Liberty; that comes through in the book.