Doctors and Their Books
"Medicine is my lawful wedded wife, and literature my mistress. When one gets on my nerves I spend the night with the other...neither one loses anything by my duplicity."
Anton Chekhov, the Russian physician and celebrated writer, said this in 1888. He was referring to his dual careers in medicine and writing, a combination of loves that has always attracted me. This post, however, is not about the physician as author - that topic must wait for a separate puff of afflatus to fill the sails of my mind. Today my interest is in the physician as reader. As you know, it is hard to become a doctor without developing accomplished, if not magnificent skills in reading. After using these skills in years of study, the young doctor then enters practice and finds that the required reading material has only multiplied. So many charts, reports, journals, articles and textbooks lie heaped on his or her desk there doesn't seem to be enough hours in the day to cover it all - let alone read for what my grade school teacher used to call "pleasure". This is sad, because in my opinion pleasure reading is one of the keys to a fulfilled life.
I love to read. I have read for pleasure as long as I can remember. There was a time, though, when I did not use my leisure time for reading, because I had to choose between reading and sleeping. This interlude in a doctor's life is called the residency, when the hours worked in a week come perilously close to the total allotted in the calendar. This is a time of concentrated exhaustion, when a long trail of newly published books floats past the young doctor's life without fear of being netted. There is simply not enough time to seriously enjoy reading during the training years.
What happiness must arise then, when servitude finally comes to a close and the glory years of the doctor's life beckons...
...except now he or she must still wrestle with the daily schedule, unexpected emergencies, family obligations, personal matters, to name a few, in order to find a quiet hour to soak up a good book.
Still, doctors are well-read, even in today's hectic world. With this in mind, I would like my readers to share something about the books they have had a personal relationship with, so to speak. I want to know what doctors and other medical professionals feel about the books in their lives - are they enriching themselves as they deserve, or watching reruns of Spongebob Squarepants? Do they love books as a true bibliophile does, or are they just name-dropping when they brag that they read The DaVinci Code on the beach in Jamaica?
If you feel like commenting, please answer these three requests:
1. Name a book that you cherish and cannot wait to read again.
2. Name a book that you refused to finish, or simply could not bring yourself to complete.
3. Name a book on your shelf that you cannot wait to dive into.
If the responses are remarkable enough perhaps I'll even share my answers...until then remember what Sir Winston Churchill said on this topic:
"If you cannot read all your books, at any rate handle, or as it were, fondle them - peer into them, let them fall open where they will, read from the first sentence that arrests the eye, set them back on their shelves with your own hands, arrange them on your own plan so that if you do not know what is in them, you at least know where they are. Let them be your friends, let them at any rate be your acquaintances."