PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewAs Rutkow writes, the emergence of surgery from its barbaric past rested on four pillars — the understanding of anatomy, the control of bleeding, anesthesia and antisepsis. The story, however, is not one of steady, rational progress ... The history of surgery, especially until the modern era, is as much about doctors’ innate conservatism as it is about innovation. It is, however, ultimately a history of triumphant progress — although not without dark episodes ... Rutkow discusses at great length the evolution of surgery as a separate specialty, and the rivalry between surgeons and other medical practitioners. But even here, in the rather tedious detail, there are human stories ... Rutkow is a surgeon, but freely admits he has always been more drawn to the history of surgery than surgery itself, and he confines his own surgical practice to relatively simple cases. Readers of the book looking for the blood and drama that is such a vital part of surgery will not find much of it. Instead, they will learn that the history of modern surgery is the history of the rise of the modern world, with all that has involved — not just science and technology but also politics, architecture, demographics and institutions.
MixedThe New York Times Book ReviewWhen it comes to cancer, Raza knows firsthand how hard it is to reconcile compassion with science and hope with realism ... Fine words, but the reader can be forgiven for feeling that they smack of the same hubris afflicting those molecular biologists, toiling away in the lab with their mouse models ... raises many profound questions but fails to provide clear answers. What is abundantly clear is how deeply Raza cares for her patients. Her diagnosis of the ills from which cancer treatment suffers strikes me as accurate, but her solutions seem infused with the same unrealistic optimism she identifies as the cause of so much suffering. Time will tell, but as they say, America is the land where death is optional.
MixedThe Washington Post\"Yip-Williams writes with a savage honesty about the strains her illness and treatment imposed on her children and husband. She writes movingly of how she was torn by the wish to abandon the fight and find peace in accepting her death, and the feeling that this would be betraying her family ... [Yip-Williams\'s] writing has moments of wry wit ... This is not an easy book to read — not just because of the sad and inevitable conclusion, but also because it is difficult to write about the conclusions to be drawn from one’s impending death without sounding banal ... The impressively raw honesty of her howls of protest and pain, and her admission of her occasional failures as a wife and mother, are let down by the rather trite reflections elsewhere in the book on love and finding meaning in her suffering. The book is often repetitive and at times sounds too self-regarding. It desperately needs editing but, as the author’s health declines, this obviously becomes impossible. Once dead, respect for the deceased — in accordance with the age-old principle of de mortuis nisi sed bonum (of the dead, speak nothing but good) — lends the manuscript a degree of sanctity. This is a shame.\
PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewKinch’s tale picks up speed and interest in the second half of the 19th century ... Kinch has done these early scientists a great service by recounting their contributions. There are some fascinating episodes about the discovery and use of bacteriophages ... It is vital that there is widespread public understanding of the importance of vaccination and above all of the need for high compliance rates. Kinch has practical suggestions as to how this might be done ... This is an important book, but one marred by the author’s tendency to pad the narrative with historical anecdotes of often marginal relevance.