Review: Robert Iger – The Ride of a Lifetime (S)

The Ride of a Lifetime
Lessons Learned from 15 Years as CEO of the Walt Disney Company
Robert Iger

“In 2005, Robert Iger became CEO of The Walt Disney Company during a difficult time. Morale had deteriorated, competition was more intense, and technology was changing faster than at any time in the company’s history. “I knew there was nothing to be gained from arguing over the past,” Iger writes. “The only thing that mattered was the future, and I believed I had a clear idea of the direction Disney needed to go.” It came down to three clear ideas: 1) Create the highest quality content Disney could produce. 2) Embrace and adopt technology instead of fighting it. And 3) Think bigger–think global–and turn Disney into a stronger brand in international markets.”

I picked up this book as an audiobook to listen to in the car. I didn’t get to it for a while as I had some other books to listen to first. By the time I got up to it I didn’t remember the synopsis of what it was about and had no expectations. As soon as I started listening, I loved it straight away and couldn’t stop listening! The whole book is structured like a memoir of the story of the authors life. I don’t normally like memoirs but this book was amazing. The story was told really well and kept you listening for more.

I’m glad I didn’t have any expectations going into the book as that would have given away a lot of the story. The insights and knowledge gained from this book was through the one long story. It’s not a theory based book, it just lists all the theories and little stories here and there. The business lessons and journey were fascinating and had me wanting more.

I’d recommend it to anyone who wants some detailed insights of the journey of being a CEO or just to leave you inspired. Overall, this book is amazing! I might even read it again! 5 Stars.

Review: Dan Pronk – The Combat Doctor

The Combat Doctor
Dan Pronk

“Dr Dan Pronk served on over 100 combat missions in Afghanistan as a frontline special forces combat doctor, where the casualties he treated were his fellow SAS soldiers and commandos, local civilians and even the enemy. The thrill of adventure and the challenges of battlefield medicine brought out the very best in Dan; he discovered a sense of purpose in pushing his medical skills and courage to the limits. But there was a cost. The Combat Doctor is an extraordinary story of resilience and growth, and a tribute to the doctors and medics working behind the scenes in conflict around the world.”

How can someone so bright, be so dumb? If you are smart enough to get into medical school, surely you are smart enough to realise that military retaliation isn’t actually a bright idea most of the time. I understand the incredible and exciting challenge that you need to undertake to get into the special forces, but at the same time uh, isn’t creating long term medical problems like a bung knee a problem? It seems like a bit of a boys’ club, and that was always going to put my back up.

I find it extraordinary and rather depressing that millions of dollars are pumped into the military. If we are looking at the number of lives saved by an intervention, surely something like the medical problems described in Frontline MidwifeΒ would be a better use of funding. The more I think about it, the more upset I feel.

Oh dear. I saw that Hamish Blake had read and given a review and I was seriously worried about the book from then onwards. I guess I was hoping that this would have juicy details on how combat medicine actually works in terms of common injuries or treatments. What I got was a fresh face on the deaths that have occurred in the Australian military in quite recent history. It’s pointless! We live in Australia, I’m pretty sure that noone wants to invade here. The worst threat we’ve had are fires that needed the Navy to evacuate people.

I wouldn’t recommend this as reading. However, if someone else is super keen on the military and you want them to read SOMETHING then perhaps this is a good pick. It’s not badly written, it’s quite a good read, I guess I just disagree with the need for it.

Pan Macmillan | 30 August 2022 | AU$36.99 | paperback

Review: Dinesh Palipana – Stronger

Stronger
Dinesh Palipana

“A puddle of water on a highway changed Dinesh Palipana’s life forever. Halfway through medical school, Dinesh was involved in a catastrophic car accident that caused a cervical spinal cord injury. After his accident, his strength and determination saw him return to complete medical school – now with quadriplegia. Dinesh was the first quadriplegic medical intern in Queensland, and the second person with quadriplegia to graduate medical school in Australia.”

I didn’t really expect to enjoy this book, but Dr Palipana brings a hint of humour into everything. You’d think reading a book about someone who lost almost all his physical abilities would be quite depressing. Instead, this book is a tribute to the author’s resiliance and persistance. To some extent, it also exposes some of the negative aspects of living across different countries and having family that you aren’t sure how to work with.

This was quite easy reading, despite being a potentially tough subject. I finished it off in two sittings, and didn’t really need a brain-break in between. I wasn’t rushed to finish it, but I did want to know the ending. I still don’t know how he manages to get enough sleep!

The fact that the Australian medical system can change even a little to prepare an excellent Dr is amazing, and I hope to see more evidence from the author creating change from his experiences. I meet many doctors in my work, and I know that they are scarily smart! But, as Dr. Palipana says, it’s less about smarts, and more about the emotional connection that you can form with patients. Being a doctor isn’t about being ‘able-bodied’, being a doctor is a vocation and needs someone with compassion. Let’s hope for more of that in the future.

Pan Macmillan | 26 July 2022 | AU$32.99 | paperback

Review: Lindsey Stirling – The Only Pirate at the Party

The Only Pirate at the Party
Lindsey Stirling

“Electronic and dancing violinist Lindsey Stirling shares her unconventional journey in an inspiring memoir filled with the energy, persistence, and humor that have helped her successfully pursue a passion outside the box.”

I had wanted this book for a long time! Finally, I remember that eBay exists and that I should be able to pick up a second-hand copy for a lot less than what it was on Amazon. It appeared on my doorstep faster than I expected and I abandoned my other reading to dive in.

I knew nothing about Lindsey’s background and it was a delight to go into this book with no preconceived ideas on what ‘should be’ covered. Thus I enjoyed it with a lighthearted joy and found myself laughing and quoting parts out-loud at times. It will likely be read by another family member, then passed onto the teenage Lindsey fan I know.

I was so devastated when I found out that Gavi died of a heart attack before the book being published. Gavi is/was such an important figure and support in Lindsey’s personal and professional life. I checked the wikipedia page for them both, but didn’t really discover very much new.

Obviously this memoir is quite old now, and I hope for an updated one at some point from Lindsey! Not however, if it’s going to delay her release of further music. 2020 was the year I was finally going to see her in concert – but the tour has been indefinitely postponed. Sad face πŸ™

An enjoyable and uplifting memoir for anyone who loves Lindsey Stirling. If you don’t know who Lindsey is, go listen on YouTube right now!

Review: Ben Bravery – The Patient Doctor

The Patient Doctor
Ben Bravery

“At the age of twenty-eight, with his Beijing-based science communications business doing well and a new relationship blossoming, Ben Bravery woke from a colonoscopy to be told he had stage 3 colorectal cancer…. Now, driven by his experience on both sides of the healthcare system, this patient-turned-doctor gives a no-holes-barred account of how he overcame the trauma of his illness to study medicine and shares what he believes student doctors, doctors, patients and their families need to do to ensure that the medical system puts the patient at the very heart of healthcare every day.”

Hmm, this was an interesting book, but not an outstanding one. While it was interesting to see the way that Ben-as-a-patient affected Ben-as-a-medical-student, it wasn’t anything particularly new to me. I also already had some pretty in-depth knowledge about how broken the medical system is in Australia.

The medical training provided to doctors in Australia is good in some ways (covers a lot of important information, very physiology/anatomy based) but bad in others. It seems to pay lip service to making compassionate great communicators out of doctors. As Ben exposes again in his book, there’s just so much crammed in and an idea that providing patient-centred care will take longer in a workplace where doctors are already overwhelmed.

It was fascinating to me that I saw the changing hospital/specialist centre size from both a patient (this book) and a nurse (A Caring Life) perspective. I also find it of interest because we usually assume that larger medical clinics will be better specialised to help people, even if this isn’t necessarily accurate. I felt that Ben’s attitude and understanding of his condition (and the humour he had to offer) was impacted by doctors the most. Now I’ll be waiting for a fully-fledged doctor’s thoughts on the system at the time!

I’d love to see a memoir or non-fiction from a higher up hospital administrator who is responsible for some of the funding and why student doctors / specialists / surgeons / every medical professional in the system are so overworked. I’m all for making sure doctors aren’t unemployed, but being underemployer or overworked is not good enough.

I am grateful that I live in Australia and healthcare is free. That’s reason enough that I might just be happiest with whoever I see in a hospital. What Ben advocates and encourages through his book is for patients and their families to feel confident speaking up for themselves. That’s something easier said than done, but I think it could be done.

I’d recommend this for readers interested in what it looks like to be a complicated cancer patient and the beginning trials of medical school. There’s some humour to keep it light, even if overall I think the book is a picture of the complicated nature of healthcare in Australia.

Hachette | 29 June 2022 | AU$32.99 | paperback

Review: Anna Kent – Frontline Midwife

Frontline Midwife
My Story of Survival and Keeping Others Safe
Anna Kent

“Anna Kent has delivered babies in war zones, caring for the most vulnerable women in the most vulnerable places in the world… In Frontline Midwife, Kent shares her extraordinary experiences as a nurse, midwife and mother, illuminating the lives of women that are irreparably affected by compromised access to healthcare. This is at once an astonishing story of the realities of frontline humanitarian work, and a powerful reminder of the critical, life-giving work of nurses and doctors at home and around the world.”

Nurses work bloody hard. Every novel, every book I read, I know that nurses work very hard for sometimes very little reward. My mother was a nurse in aged care and I understood how hard it was for her to deal with patients dying every shift. For Anna to be able to keep her head above water and to keep working as a midwife even with all the avoidable deaths is amazing all by itself.

Anna’s storytelling is spot on, and it makes for compulsive reading even if you know what the ending is. She manages to personalise all of the women she meets even as you know she is protecting their identities. It’s unsurprising that Anna suffers from PTSD and I am grateful and humbled by Anna’s willingness to share it with the world.

I would swear to you that I reviewed this book, but perhaps I did it only in my head. I certainly felt quite strongly positive about it while reading it, even if I found some of the messages to be mixed.

My problem with this book is that it is assumed that all women will want to have children. Kent recounts the story of triplets being born and wonders what their mother will do when she learns she can’t have more children. Um, isn’t three enough? Or, you know, she might like to do something else with her life rather than just produce children – she’s not going to die in childbirth at least. Perhaps she will be able to get an education? Perhaps she can be a local midwife.

I felt the same way about the woman who had had multiple miscarriages and then lost her husband right before successfully birthing a child. How will she provide for herself? How can you bare to bring up a person in poverty like that? Of course, it’s not the woman’s fault, or Anna’s fault – it’s a humanitarian crisis that shouldn’t exist but does because of the wealth disparity in the world. Please don’t interpret this review as a critique of who should be ‘allowed’ to have children – that’s another whole problem in itself.

Australians should feel blessed that Anna Kent has told this raw, honest story and also given a careful look into what Doctors without Borders can look like in practice. We don’t all need to be midwives, but we can all use more compassion. Buy this book for anyone who needs their eyes opened to the horrific realities that we still face in 2022. Buy it because you’re curious to know what it looks like in the war torn countries of the world. buy it because it’s ultimately a human story that we have all been part of.

Bloomsbury | 31st May 2022 | AU$29.99 | paperback

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. β€˜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: 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: Wendy Mitchell – What I Wish People Knew About Dementia

What I Wish People Knew About Dementia
Wendy Mitchell

“When Wendy Mitchell was diagnosed with young-onset dementia at the age of fifty-eight, her brain was overwhelmed with images of the last stages of the disease – those familiar tropes, shortcuts and clichΓ©s that we are fed by the media, or even our own health professionals. Wise, practical and life affirming, What I Wish People Knew About Dementia combines anecdotes, research and Wendy Mitchell’s own brilliant wit and wisdom to tell readers exactly what she wishes they knew about dementia.”

I’d recommend this book to basically everyone, regardless of whether they have a family history of dementia or whether they’ve barely heard of the condition. It’s compassionate and sensible, and filled with ways to help people understand dementia rather than just judging someone by it.

I need to get my hands on Wendy’s first book. You certainly don’t need to have read that one to understand this one, but Wendy’s accessible writing and friendly (and matter-the-fact) tone makes me want to read more of her work. I hope that she continues to write while she is still able. I’m also now following her blog.

My wife and I joke that I have to get dementia first – because I’m the person that hates telling stories more than once. Also, I’d love to be able to read all my books again for the first time. However, the way that Wendy illuminates the REAL advantages and disadvantages of living with dementia lets me think differently. Most people no doubt have a stereotyped image of what a ‘person with dementia’ looks like or acts like, but the reality is that it can be very different for every person – and that progression of the disease is variable too.

I wish I had had this book 10 years ago when my grandmother developed dementia. I found myself often confused and scared because I didn’t know what to expect. Although we laughed about the fact she put a wheat heat bag into the microwave for 90 minutes instead of 90 seconds, it was actually kind of terrifying to know that the house easily could have burnt down.

This was an excellent non-fiction book that I had to read in stages to get the most out of it. It will get pride of place in my new non-fiction bookshelf, and it’ll be a book I recommend to anyone and everyone who shows a passing interest in

Bloomsbury | 1 February 2022 | AU$26.99 | paperback