Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Noting Some Essentials...

The guidebook, selection, etc. is an age-old attempt to compress, winnow, collect the most essential information--to make a small library out of a big one. Here are a few new examples:

The Essential Lincoln: Speeches and Correspondence, edited with an introduction by Orville Vernon Burton (Hill & Wang) hits the highlights in 177 pages, including the "House Divided" speech of 1858, Cooper Union speech of 1860, the Inaugurals and the Gettysburg Address. The first speech is from 1832, the last is Lincoln's final public address in 1865. There are also letters that provide another view--Lincoln is sometimes bolder, more incisive, but also more philosophical and feeling. It's also interesting to read Lincoln with President Obama in mind, and note the similarities in style of discourse. Burton is the author of The Age of Lincoln.

The Essential Hospital Handbook: How to Be An Effective Partner in a Loved One's Care by Patrick Conlon (Yale) is a practical, up to date guide for a situation more and more people must face. Dealing with different kinds of doctors, and all the decisions and frustrations of the contemporary mess that's called medical care can be more than maddening. There are definitions of hospital terms, tear-out checklists for various situations, and the advice extends to communicating with other friends and relatives of the patient. There are also other suggested resources. This is a book you hope you won't need, but will be glad you have--even if only a few features turn out to be relevant to your needs.

Fighting Cancer with Knowledge and Hope by Richard C. Frank MD (Yale) is a more specific guide book, for patients, families and health care providers. The style is conversational, with lots of stories from Dr. Frank's experience as director of cancer research at the Whittingham Cancer Center in Norwalk, Connecticut. Again, it answers questions that become very relevant when the topic becomes a central concern.

Nanoscale: Visualizing An Invisible World by Kenneth S. Deffeyes and Stephen E. Deffeyes (MIT) is a compendium of a different kind: a collection of images of substances from water and gold to quasicrystals at the nanoscale: one billionth of a meter. Descriptions of each substance accompany the images.

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