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What I’ve been reading this month

I’ve four books to mention this month.

Beneath the White Coat edited by Clare Gerada

This is a recently published book about doctors’ mental health, edited by the former Chair and current President of the Royal College of GPs and founder of the Practitioner Health Programme. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Clare Gerada a couple of times and found her to be inspirational, and have also met or worked with an almost frightening proportion of the chapter authors at one point or another!

I read this book and was surprised by how much of myself I recognised in the descriptions of doctors’ personalities, and the aspects of their work they find particularly challenging. I found the practical content on “surviving and thriving in medicine” insightful and helpful. The chapter on burnout in doctors, and how most doctors have periods of burnout in their career, was particularly relevant to me right now, after two exceptionally demanding years of pandemic practice.

There is much to think about in here, and much of immediate practical value. It is brilliant.

These Violent Delights by Micah Nemerever

This 2020 first novel by Micah Nemerever was brilliant. Set in 1970s Pittsburgh, the plot follows two precocious college freshmen who are drawn together by their intelligence and slightly offbeat interpretation of the world. But—and this can’t possibly be a spoiler, as it’s the content of the prologue—their obsession (love?) for each other ultimately drives them to committing terrible crimes.

Nemerever does a fantastic job of weaving together the intense emotion of attraction with a sense of growing foreboding. The writing is almost poetic at times, with no wasted words or throwaway lines. The intensity and claustrophobia Nemerever creates is intense enough to feel a little exhausting at times, in the best possible way.

I thoroughly enjoyed this.

Jews Don’t Count by David Baddiel

This short TLS book published about a year ago has been widely praised. It features a combination of lived experience, polemic, and humour used to illustrate that antisemitism has been left out of much of the current present social discourse about racism. I thought it was excellent, and well worth an hour of your time: it helped me to much better understand some of the issues discussed, in particular the feelings experienced in response to the recent issue of antisemitism in the Labour Party. It’s a book which is light on detail and critical analysis, but is most certainly an easy-to-read introduction to some of the key issues.

I was slightly distracted by quite how much of the discussion was rooted on Twitter, a platform that actively promotes outrage and strong negative emotions, though Baddiel did at least acknowledge multiple times that Twitter is not a true proxy for the ‘real world’.

Beach Read by Emily Henry

I can’t remember what made me pick up this bestselling 2020 novel, but I’m afraid it just wasn’t my kind of thing. It seemed like fairly basic romance genre fiction to me: two young adults who are ‘polar opposites’ fall in love. I found the writing uninspiring and the plot predictably leaden.

The book is enormously popular, so it clearly has merit, but it just wasn’t up my street. I came close to giving up on it, and when I decided I may as well finish it, I couldn’t manage more than a chapter per day for the last section of the book.

The two most popular quotations from this book on Goodreads are:

“When I watch you sleep,” he said shakily, “I feel overwhelmed that you exist.”


“I’ve never met someone who is so perfectly my favorite person.”

Both of those strike me as clunky and wooden; clearly, by virtue of their popularity, many other people feel differently. Perhaps if these quotations speak to you, the book will too. Please don’t let my lack of enthusiasm put you off.

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