We’re an organization passionately committed to bringing high-quality health care to people around the world. The task is great, time is precious, and the urgency is often palpable. The consensus among staff is that reading a good book is a great way to recharge, especially with longer summer days to enjoy.
Take a look at what books PIH staff are reading this summer. You’ll find Dr. Seuss among global health works, and the Middle-earth book Dr. Paul Farmer has enjoyed since fifth grade.
Add your picks or send us your thoughts! We’d love to hear them.
Rachael Weisz, director of human resources
I love reading books that give me glimpses into other people’s lives. The novel I’m reading now, Preparation for the Next Life, by Atticus Lish, is a love story between an illegal Uighur immigrant and a wounded Iraqi veteran, told in a style like no other book I’ve read. It’s simultaneously heartbreaking and uplifting, and I’m immersed in the lives of characters I have come to care about.
Dr. Askar Yedilbayev, Russia program director
I don’t seem to have time to read for myself this summer, but I do for my kids! I am reading them The Cat in the Hat, by Dr. Seuss. Normally, it’s a different book every day, but The Cat in the Hat is one we have read multiple times.
At work I am reading clinical guidelines on multidrug-resistant tuberculosis. For clinicians in the field, I would recommend having an electronic or hard copy of The PIH Guide to the Medical Management of Multidrug-Resistant Tuberculosis, 2nd Edition.
Leah Nordman, multimedia intern
This summer I am reading The Cruel Radiance: Photography and Political Violence, by Susie Linfield, which my supervisor recommended. While some critics deplore images of political violence and human suffering, Linfield argues they instead connect the viewer to the subject, bear witness to the events pictured, and are key to addressing and alleviating political violence.
It’s a jarring and thought-provoking read for anyone questioning what makes an image morally “right,” and how we can capture human suffering in an appropriate and equitable way.
Dr. Luckson Dullie, executive director in Malawi
My daughter and I are rereading Who Moved My Cheese, a parable by Spencer Johnson about two mice and two men and how they cope with change. As Partners In Health has upcoming discussions with the Ministry of Health in Malawi about expanding our work across the country, I thought now more than ever seemed like a great time to read this book again and gather insight on areas of our work that are in need of change and enhancement.
Oscar Alfredo Ramirez Koctong, program officer in Peru
I’m rereading Dying for Growth: Global Inequality and the Health of the Poor, by PIH Co-founder Jim Yong Kim and others. I first read it three years ago when I found it, a book without an owner, in a box in PIH’s Peru office. It made me more attentive to wider global forces that keep the poor marginalized from economic growth and development. Today I opened the book again and found a fitting surprise: a photo (pictured above) of a group of patients whom we trained on entrepreneurship through one of our projects. I believe most have their own small businesses now.
Jon Shaffer, senior strategist for grassroots organizing
I’d call the book that I’m reading not recommended but required reading for people interested in advancing a right to health. In The Good Project: Humanitarian Relief NGOs and the Fragmentation of Reason, Monika Krause digs into how international nongovernmental organizations consider who, how, and when to serve in communities around the world. She is critical of a financing environment that puts pressure on organizations to produce and sell “good” projects—short-term, time-bound, cost-effective, efficient, and inexpensive projects—that are chosen and implemented without consulting governments, communities, and individuals affected by them. Though Krause doesn’t give concrete solutions, her analysis poses significant philosophical and strategic questions for organizations working to deliver high-quality health care to people around the world.
Erin Gathers, monitoring, evaluation, and quality coordinator
This summer I’m reading Ta-Nehisi Coates’ new book, Between the World and Me. It’s intense. Coates reaches beyond the concepts of race/racism, and forces the reader to confront the lived experience of black people in America.
Here is a quote that stayed with me: “… all our phrasing—race relations, racial chasm, racial justice, racial profiling, white supremacy—serves to obscure that racism is a visceral experience, that it dislodges brains, blocks airways, rips muscle, extracts organs, cracks bones, breaks teeth. You must always remember that the sociology, the history, the economics, the graphs, the charts, the regressions all land, with great violence, upon the body.”
Cecille Joan Avila, multimedia coordinator
Donna Tartt’s The Secret History is a satisfyingly disturbing novel that opens with a murder at a small college in Vermont. Tartt draws the reader into the dark, cult-like world of a group of Classics students, whose decisions and actions reveal the cause of the murder. She manages to make this world seem both surreal and plausible in beautiful prose. Totally fascinating; it’s a book that makes you ask, “Where did five hours of my life just go?” which makes it perfect for long-haul flights.
Dr. Paul Farmer, chief strategist and co-founder
I recommend two great books by great colleagues, Adia Benton's HIV Exceptionalism: Development through Disease in Sierra Leone and Salmaan Keshavjee’s Blind Spot: How Neoliberalism Infiltrated Global Health. For uplift and a bit of a break, everyone should read chapter 70 of Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett’s Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases, “Pleural Effusion and Empyema.” I would also strongly recommend anthropologist James Ferguson’s work in general, and just finished his 2006 book, Global Shadows: Africa in the Neoliberal World Order.
Editor's note: As Paul didn't boast about another book we know he definitely read this summer, we're including it on his behalf. Check out Paul's chapter, "Health-Care Financing and Social Justice," in To Save Humanity: What Matters Most for a Healthy Future, by Julio Frenk and Steven Hoffman.