Review: Keith Cox – A Caring Life

A Caring Life
What fifty years in nursing has taught me about humanity, compassion and community
Keith Cox

“As a nurse for nearly fifty years, Keith Cox provided expert care and comfort to countless people facing the unimaginable…Over the years, Keith has seen dramatic advances in medical treatment, as well as the limits of what medical intervention can achieve – which is why compassion and grace are his guiding principles, both on the ward and in his own life. A Caring Life is the inspirational story of a nursing trailblazer who has learnt firsthand the value of human connection and kindness, in challenging times and in everyday life – and the satisfaction of living a life of service and meaning.”

I requested this novel because I always enjoy memoirs of nurses and health professionals in general (eg. The Jungle Doctor). However, I had expected more stories about Keith’s patients, rather than about Keith himself. That’s not to say that this book wasn’t good, just that it was different to what I was expecting.

I was fascinated by the development of cancer treatments over the last 50-80 years and how what used to be a rapid death sentence has become longer years of living and even maybe complete remission for cancer sufferers. However, this is not true of all cancers, and there are still very rapid deaths.

At times this memoir was lighthearted, and at others it was heartbreaking and almost brought me to tears. Keith’s approach to patients and their families is something that I aim to channel in my own teaching. It’s never just about the content or the treatment, it should always be compassionate care that looks at a whole person rather than just one element of them.

Despite Keith being a relatively more religious man than many other Australians, this doesn’t come through in the novel – it’s mentioned, but never takes center stage. It seems as if the only important thing to come out is compassion and care – the book is named very appropriately. This book is worthy to be placed on any family bookshelf that has a nurse or cancer survivor in it.

Pan Macmillan | 26th April 2022 | AU$34.99 | paperback

Review: Diagnosis Normal – Emma A Jane

Diagnosis Normal
Emma A Jane

“Combining brilliant storytelling with rigorous research, Diagnosis Normal is an incisive and darkly funny memoir from journalist turned academic Emma Jane. ‘I have three gears: glum melancholy, inappropriate outbursts, and extreme slapstick. On a good day, I can pass as normal but not for too many minutes. I’m what most people would regard as a hardened introvert . . . I like other people. I’m just not very good at them.’”

This book was pretty mind-blowing. I found myself connecting with Emma perhaps even a little too closely. The way that she approaches storytelling is just like her personality – powerful and confusing and detailed all at the same time. I couldn’t read this all in one go, I needed to take my time and sip it in small gulps to give myself enough time to really think about the implications of the work.

Buy this for the people in your life who don’t believe or can’t understand what gender fluidity, autism and abuse can have on a human who appears fine. It’s a deep insight into just one human psyche and what that can look like. It’s not comfortable to read, and the line about being not being good with people resonated with me. I am better able to interpret other people from reading this book.

If you are looking for a fictional #ownvoices autism novel, then can I suggest Helen Hoang? It’s still insightful, but not nearly as full-on as this book. Normalising things is not normal! The human brain is a little crazy, and we indeed understand very little about it.

I don’t usually read non-fiction publications such as those that Emma A Jane writes in her scholarly work, but if the strength of personality and impactful writing is anything to go by, I should get my hands on those as well. If this was fiction, I’d give it 5 stars!

Penguin | 1st March 2022 | AU$34.99 | paperback

Review: Guy Raz – How I Built This (S)

How I Built This by Guy Raz

“Award-winning journalist and NPR host Guy Raz has interviewed more than 200 highly successful entrepreneurs to uncover amazing true stories… In How I Built This, he shares tips for every entrepreneur’s journey: from the early days of formulating your idea, to raising money and recruiting employees, to fending off competitors, to finally paying yourself a real salary. This is a must-read for anyone who has ever dreamed of starting their own business or wondered how trailblazing entrepreneurs made their own dreams a reality.”

I read this as an audiobook and it was absolutely amazing! It helped that the author read it as the way he told the stories was just brilliant. It’s jam packed full of founder/CEO/business owners stories of how they got where they are today – the good, the bad, the boring and the ugly parts. A lot of business books only tell the success stories. I love that this book didn’t just show the successes but was just the truth of how they got there.

The author did an absolutely amazing job of the story telling, which in itself makes the book. It is structured in chapters where each chapter has a point that those stories relate to, but it’s hardly a theory book. It’s the stories told in really awesome ways that keep you on the edge of your seat. If you are an entrepreneur or in business, you will find something there that is relatable to you.

The author does run a podcast, but is not like other authors that spend half the book selling their business product to you. His podcast business is relatable because he would be unable to write this book without it, but it’s not sold to you.

5 stars normally means a reread. But I’m unsure if I need to hear the stories again. It was totally still deserving of 5 stars though! If business is what you want to do in your life – it’s a must-read for daily inspiration and small business tips that make a difference.

Review: Michael Robert – The New Strategic Thinking: Pure and Simple (S)

The New Strategic Thinking: Pure and Simple
Michael Robert

“Management expert Michel Robert unveils his practical and proven methodology for you to plan and implement effective corporate strategies. Featuring a detailed explanation of how Robert used his approach to turn around Caterpillar as well as case studies of leading companies that utilize Robert’s method, The New Strategic Thinking shows you how to assemble a strategy team, identify your company’s driving force, determine the focus of the strategy (product, customer, or market), and launch initiatives company wide.”

This book was just average and just another strategy management book. The author says they are bringing something different to the business world but it still came across as the same as other similar books on the topic.

On the first page the author mentions the “Decision Processes International” which is from then on referred to as “the DPI process”. DPI is the company the author is from, but he doesn’t actually explain what this “DPI strategy process” is. I guess it’s a secret only for those hiring their company and not to be exploited in a book.

There is then a little more on little tips, but nothing substantial. For the whole second half of the book you get case studies of real examples. Now normally I like the case studies, but this was the worst part of the book. They all started with how they needed help, then they found the DPI company and used DPI strategy and then bam everything was great again. It was in depth in the before and after but only 1 line saying they used DPI strategy and then the switch to it that saved the business. There was no actual explanation of the DPI strategy, what it is, how etc.

There were some tips at the start that I remember thinking at the time were great and I should review them at a later stage, but by the end I couldn’t remember these at all. The book gets too caught up in how awesome the creator is, and forgets that not everyone has the time or inclination to hire DPI. Overall it felt like the author was just promoting their company and not actually having any knowledge explained. 2 stars.

Review: Chloe Buiting – The Jungle Doctor

The Jungle Doctor by Chloe Buiting

“Explore the majestic, biodiverse world with Australia’s very own ‘jungle doctor’. Fresh from veterinary school, passionate conservationist Dr Chloe Buiting headed for the frontline of Africa’s rhino-poaching crisis, going on to live and work in many other remote corners of the globe. From catching wild giraffes by helicopter in Zimbabwe to meeting elephants with prosthetic legs in Asia, working with Maasai communities in Tanzania and tending to wildlife caught up in the bushfire crisis at home in Australia, Chloe’s compassion for animals in their natural habitat takes her into awe-inspiring locations – and hair-raising situations.”

The Jungle Doctor was really good read as long as you weren’t expecting a James Herriot level of detail about vet life. I could have had more stories here with so much more detail. It contains many stories both fascinating and horrifying – it was amazing how many details this vet was able to fit in about poaching and other culture harmful practices that impact animal welfare.

It seems impossible to think that in a first world country we are putting animals in exhibits in zoos to try to keep them from dying out in the wild! It seems like the whole world doesn’t care so I found that really quite confronting.

I have a sister in law that studies very hard to become a vet. She’s never been a jungle vet but she does specialize in exotics and some of the things that you have to do for exotics are very strange!

I think this is almost of an appropriate level for a teenager – let’s set a somewhat arbitrary age of 13, but it is going to depend on the precociousness of your reader. This book highlights why it’s important for us to look after the environment. I wouldn’t reread it, but I’d recommend it to anyone who loves animals and wants to know a little more about veterinary practice in the wild.

Pantera Press | 4th May 2021 | AU$32.99 | paperback

Review: Jacinta Parsons – Unseen

Unseen
The secret world of chronic illness
Jacinta Parsons

“Broadcaster Jacinta Parsons was in her twenties when she first began to feel unwell – the kind of unwell that didn’t go away. Doctors couldn’t explain why, and Jacinta wondered if it might be in her head. She could barely function, was frequently unable to eat or get out of bed for days, and gradually turned into a shadow of herself. Eventually she got a diagnosis: Crohn’s disease. But knowing this wouldn’t stop her life from spiralling into a big mess of doctors, hospitals and medical disasters.”

Wow. This is a heartbreaking and heartwarming account of one woman’s live destroying disease and how she got through and lives with her condition. I could hardly believe that doctors had gotten it so wrong, and the huge impact of a clinical trial gone wrong on the rest of her life. Remember that you don’t have an obligation to participate in something, but you do have an obligation to make the most of what you have. This is something the author realised over time, thankfully not too late.

Jacinta admits that Indigenous Peoples and people of colour or low socioeconomic standing struggle to advocate for themselves in the system. That’s fine. My problem arose in that she didn’t consider other countries where healthcare isn’t a basic human right at all. I think of the horror of the USA system, and I consider Australian healthcare to be brilliant in comparison!

Possibly TMI time, but I’ve always struggled with ‘period pain’. I generally think of myself as quite stoic and straight-forward, but it’s something I haven’t bothered to go to the GP about. I manage to somehow forget that it’s a problem! Jacinta highlights why this is a BAD idea, and also why it’s something that women do that undermines themselves – and gives the statistics to back it up.

I hope that the medical students that I help to train have compassion and curiosity to look deeper into chronic health problems, and the self-awareness that it’s ok if GPs are sick sometimes too. This is a book not just for ‘normal’ humans to understand chronic illness, it contains insights relevant to health professionals as well. I would recommend reading it in small doses – as an audiobook I found it almost overwhelming, yet compelling to listen to at the same time.

Review: Andra and Tatiana Bucci – Always Remember Your Name

Always Remember Your Name
Andra and Tatiana Bucci

“A haunting WWII memoir of two sisters who survived Auschwitz that picks up where Anne Frank’s Diary left off and gives voice to the children we lost. … An unforgettable narrative of the power of sisterhood in the most extreme circumstances, and of how a mother’s love can overcome the most impossible odds, the Bucci sisters’ memoir is a timely reminder that separating families is an inexcusable evil.”

I have been ‘enjoying’ a number of non-fiction novels lately about the Holocaust. I say ‘enjoying’, but really they are quite sad reads due to the devastating loss of life as a result of Hitler’s anti-Semitic policies. I found myself horrified and yet not surprised at the level of brutality exhibited by the Nazi’s. It’s one thing to have a critical idea of World War II (as I’ve said before, my history knowledge is poor) and another to really experience it as these writers did.

To hear that 230,000 children were deported, and that less than 200 survived is horrific. No, that’s not a typo. Somewhat confusingly perhaps, the book blurb suggests that all of these children were subjected to experiments by Josef Mengele, the Angel of Death. This was not the case – the majority of children were simply gassed to death because they were deemed to be useless. Andra and Tatiana remain together because they are thought to be twins – and remembering their names is crucial in being able to return them to their parents many years later.

I am haunted by the last fact I learnt in The Keeper of Miracles – some people don’t believe that the Holocaust happened. This makes it all the more important to keep publishing, promoting and researching literature about this catastrophic loss of more than six million lives. This book should be higher on the high school reading list than the iconic fiction book of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (which has noticeable inconsistencies with the real events of the Holocaust) or the very dense memoir If This is a Man. Always Remember Your Name gets full stars from me.

Allen & Unwin | 20 February 2022 | AU$29.99 | paperback

Review: James Clear – Atomic Habits (S)

Atomic Habits
An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones
James Clear

“People think when you want to change your life, you need to think big. But world-renowned habits expert James Clear has discovered another way. He knows that real change comes from the compound effect of hundreds of small decisions – doing two push-ups a day, waking up five minutes early, or holding a single short phone call… These small changes will have a revolutionary effect on your career, your relationships, and your life.”

This book really dives into all the insights of habits and leaves pretty much nothing out. It gives an in depth understanding of how habits are formed and how to start new habits. My only downside was that it had a lot of tips to create new habits but not a lot on changing old ones.

It has a summary page after every chapter – which has at least twice as many on the creating a good habit side then it does breaking an old. The chapter summaries are great to refer back to and the examples throughout explain each concept thoroughly. I would have perhaps liked to see the same example for each step to get more of an idea of how they stack together but otherwise the variety of examples were good.

I loved the advanced tactics section at the end which both summarizes and adds to the book, rather than just the 4 laws and then a conclusion. Overall I would recommend it to someone wanting to change their life by starting a new habit. As this book says it doesn’t need to be a massive change, but an atomic small habit. This is the only book on ‘habits’ you should read. 4 stars from me.

Review: Robert Gerrish – The 1 Minute Commute (S)

The 1 Minute Commute
Robert Gerrish

“Map your path, define your work style and seize your market. From freelancers and soloists to entrepreneurs and micro-business owners, this book will give you the knowledge and skills to shape your professional life to fit your lifestyle. Ditch your job and work for yourself…  Work for your best boss yet – you. What are you waiting for?”

I listened to this as an audio book. It was just average. It wasn’t exactly what I thought it would be. I expected a lot more modern tips and tricks such as working from home apps, software, and things to assist in the modern age. I guess the author did have outsourcing in there in a general form which was nice. But instead, pretty much all of the tips and insights have been discussed before and I didn’t get anything new from it. For example, one point was the the urgent/important quadrants of using your time.

It sounded promising at the start, but then went into too much detail in some things that weren’t needed. At the same time there was not enough detail in other areas. It also seemed to just jump around a lot and had no consistency. You could pick it up anywhere and not feel lost. Overall, I would recommend it to anyone that is just starting a business or in the early stages of business. It’s a nice reminder that you’re a solopreneur to work in with your lifestyle. I’m giving it 3 stars.

Review: Jack Delosa – Unwritten (S)

Unwritten
Jack Delosa

“Unwritten presents a startling, revisionist approach to our understanding of entrepreneurship and living a life that aligns with your purpose. Through personal reflection and stories of unconventional wisdom, adversity and success, Jack examines what it means to be great, how we can achieve our life’s best work, shape the world around us for good and leave a legacy far more valuable than wealth alone.”

I read this book as an audio book. Some parts I thoroughly enjoyed, and other parts I completely tuned out of. Although I normally enjoy hearing real life stories, some of them were not that great or I have heard them many times before – for example: Steve Jobs, Martin Luther King Jr “I have a dream speech” and Richard Branson. Some stories, particularly the case study examples, were good though and had me listening for more.

I don’t think the author told their own life story very well and he often either came across as bragging or the story wasn’t really relevant. Most stories in general didn’t really link to any points that the author was making or the point just got lost along the way.

The author’s points were basically follow your vision, do what you want to do and disregard the status quo. I liked the OPRs (other people’s rules), but the message seemed to get lost and it was just thrown in again every now and then in between a lot of stories.

It’s just another inspiration or motivation book and nothing special. It is  a good reminder to follow your vision and mission. 3 stars.