Over the years, I’ve published almost 200 book reviews in various places. You can now find most of those reviews scattered among my blog posts. However, if you don’t have time to browse casually, I offer this searchable table. You’ll see I have brief comments under each title. If you’d like to read the full review, simply follow the link.

If there is a book you think I should review, please let me know! I can be reached at harriet.hallmd@gmail.com.

RatingTitle
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A Grain of Salt: The Science and Pseudoscience of What We Eat
by Joe Schwarcz

After reading Dr. Joe's latest book, you may not know what you should eat, but you will have a better idea what the evidence actually shows, and you will understand why you can’t really know for sure. And it should dissuade you from following the advice of self-styled experts and celebrities. The book is a treasure trove. Highly recommended.

Full review: The Science and Pseudoscience of What We Eat

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Darwin’s Apostles: The Men Who Fought to Have Evolution Accepted, Their Times, and How the Battle Continues
by David Orenstein and Abby Hafer

This is a delightful book. This entertaining, well-written book sheds new light on the issues from an original viewpoint, with a unique focus on Darwin’s apostles, his scientist friends who fought to get his ideas accepted.

Full review: Darwin’s Apostles: The Battle Continues

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Placebos for Pets? The Truth About Alternative Medicine in Animals
by Brennen McKenzie

By authoring this book, veterinarian Brennen McKenzie has done cats and dogs everywhere a great service.

Full review: Alternative Medicine: Placebos for Pets
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Why We Age and Why We Don't Have To
by David Sinclair

David Sinclair believes aging is a disease, the most common disease, and he believes it should be aggressively treated. Intriguing, but no definitive evidence.

Full review: Aging: Is It a Preventable Disease?
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The Vagina Bible: The Vulva and the Vagina
by Jen Gunter

I wish every woman everywhere had a copy of this book. And every girl. I can't thank you enough, Jen, for creating this invaluable reference. I feel smarter now, thanks to you.

Full review: An Owner's Manual for the Vagina
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Alternative Medicine: A Critical Assessment of 150 Modalities
by Edzard Ernst

It's a real tour de force. Room for disagreement, but a very useful book.

Full review: Professor Gives Grades to Alternative Medicine
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Bottle of Lies: The Inside Story of the Generic Drug Boom
by Katherine Eban

This book is an eye-opener. The unfortunate truth is that generic drugs can't always be trusted: some of them are ineffective or even deadly. If you're not worried about generic drugs, I urge you to read Eban's book.

Full review: Generic Drugs and Global Deception
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Nature's Best Remedies: Top Medicinal Herbs, Spices, and Foods for Health and Well Being
by Nancy J. Hajeski

This is superstition, not science. It is misleading, incomplete, and potentially dangerous.

Full review: National Geographic Book is a "Natural" Disaster / El libro de national geographic es un desastre natural
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What Does It Feel Like to Die? Inspiring New Insights into the Experience of Dying
by Jennie Dear

This little (206-page) book contains a wealth of information and food for thought. Unless you have somehow discovered the secret of immortality, I think you would benefit from reading it. I know I did. I feel better-informed and better-equipped to face my own death and the deaths of my loved ones.

Full review: What Does It Feel Like to Die?
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Factfulness: Ten Reasons We're Wrong about the World—and Why Things Are Better Than You Think by Hans Rosling

For me, one of the great pleasures of skepticism is finding out I was wrong about something. Rather than feeling guilty about my error, I feel proud that I have learned something and have a better understanding of reality. I urge you to get a copy of this book.

Full review: I Was Wrong (And I Bet You Were Too)
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The Scientific Attitude: Defending Science from Denial, Fraud, and Pseudoscience
by Lee McIntyre

The demarcation problem (drawing a line between science and non-science) has never been satisfactorily solved. Criteria such as falsifiability showed promise but were flawed. McIntyre's goal is to provide a way to show what is distinctive about science without solving the demarcation problem. Conclusion: A worthy project.

Full review: The Scientific Attitude, Not the Scientific Method, Is the Key
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The One-Minute Cure: The Secret to Healing Virtually All Diseases
by Madison Cavanaugh

None of this makes sense. The rationale is pseudoscientific.

Full review: Can A One-Minute Cure Really Heal Virtually All Diseases?
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Plagues and the Paradox of Progress: Why the World Is Getting Healthier in Worrisome Ways
by Thomas J. Bollyky

I can't wholeheartedly recommend this—good information but not a very good book. It's valuable, but it would have benefitted from a more appealing style or a more discerning editor.

Full review: Science's Triumph Over Infectious Disease Has a Downside
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The Not-So-Intelligent Designer: Why Evolution Explains the Human Body and Intelligent Design Does Not
by Abby Hafer

The book is packed full of information about human anatomy, about other animals, and about animals that shouldn't exist according to ID. She says evolution is "the greatest indisputably true story ever told." The many illustrations and the snarky sense of humor make it a delight to read. It's less than 200 pages and the chapters are short and easy to digest.

Full review: Unintelligent Design
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Pseudoscience in Child and Adolescent Psychotherapy: A Skeptical Field Guide
by Stephen Hupp, Editor (multiple authors)

This new book addresses the neglected field of research on child and adolescent psychotherapy and does an excellent job of distinguishing treatments that have been proven to work from treatments that are based on pseudoscience. An invaluable guide.

Full review: Pseudoscience in Child and Adolescent Psychotherapy
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Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present
by Harriet Washington

Washington's book aimed to reveal the dark history of medical experimentation on black Americans. It did that, but it accomplished much more. We can learn a lot from the book, but will we? My understanding of human nature suggests we will not.

Full review: Medical Apartheid
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The Skeptics' Guide to the Universe: How to Know What's Really Real in a World Increasingly Full of Fake
by Steven Novella et al

It is a user's manual for the brain, a textbook of skepticism and critical thinking, a compendium of valuable information and wisdom about everything from cold reading to GMOs, and a darn good read. Buy it, or beg, borrow or steal it. Read it. You won't regret it.

Full review: How to Know What's Really Real
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Homeopathy Reconsidered
by Natalie Grams

Grams makes a good case, not for homeopathy, but for the homeopathic approach to patients: She says homeopathy is bad in theory but good in practice, while the opposite is true of scientific medicine. I think the principles of the homeopathic interview are worth thinking about.

Full review: Homeopath Quits Homeopathy but Thinks the Homeopathic Approach Has Value
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The Magic Feather Effect: The Science of Alternative Medicine and the Surprising Power of Belief
by Melanie Warner

Warner makes the case that alternative medicine offers something of value to some patients, although it involves persuading the patient to believe in fantasies like acupuncture points, undetectable energies, chiropractic subluxations, and other magic feathers. Conclusion: Lessons to be learned.

Full review: The Magic Feather Effect: Placebos and the Power of Belief in Alternative Medicine
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Cognitive Errors and Diagnostic Mistakes: A Case-Based Guide to Critical Thinking in Medicine
by Jonathan Howard

Jonathan Howard has written a superb book. Well-written, important, timely, easy and entertaining to read, lots of illustrations, packed with good stuff. Highly recommended.

Full review: Critical Thinking in Medicine
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The Autism Matrix: The Social Origins of the Autism Epidemic
by Gil Eyal et al

The book is full of facts and ideas that are well worth thinking about. But it is not an easy read. I found it dense, repetitive, slow going and sometimes I struggled to understand. I could not recommend it for most readers, but it would be valuable for those with a special interest in autism.

Full review: Autism Revisited
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Charlatans
by Robin Cook


This is a great read with a medical theme. It brings up some serious questions about quality control and medical education. A thrilling read and much food for thought.

Full review: Charlatans for Christmas
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The Tangled Tree: A Radical New History of Life
by David Quammen

The new science of molecular phylogenetics tells the story of evolution with no need to consult the fossil record. It has produced some surprises, including a whole new domain of life, the archaea.

Full review: Molecular Phylogenetics: A New Way to Tell the Story of Evolution
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Human Errors: A Panorama of Our Glitches, from Pointless Bones to Broken Genes
by Nathan Lents

This is a fascinating, entertaining, easy-to-understand book that explains the complicated story of evolution. Lents makes it clear that the design of the human body is not "intelligent" but is full of errors produced by the constraints and accidents of evolution.

Full review: Human Flaws Demonstrate Evolution, Not Intelligent Design
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Belief: What It Means to Believe and Why Our Convictions Are So Compelling
by James Alcock

A great book. In the Foreword, Ray Hyman says it would be an ideal textbook for a course that provides an integrated overview of all the areas of psychology. I can't praise this book enough.

Full review: How we believe
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Persevere: A Life with Cancer
by Lisa Bonchek Adams

Lisa Bonachek Adams has given us a great example of a rational, secular approach to dealing with cancer. She confronted reality unflinchingly and found practical ways to cope. There is much wisdom in these pages. I wish everyone who has cancer and everyone who knows someone with cancer could read it.

Full review: A Refreshing Take on Dealing with Cancer
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Estrogen Matters: Why Taking Hormones in Menopause Can Improve Women's Well-Being and Lengthen Their Lives—Without Raising the Risk of Breast Cancer
by Avrum Bluming and Carol Tavris

An extensively referenced book. Bluming and Tavris tell estrogen's story in a way that is both accessible to the general public and appropriate for professionals. Very enlightening!

Full review: Estrogen Matters
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More Harm than Good? The Moral Maze of Complementary and Alternative Medicine
by Edzard Ernst

Much has been written on CAM, but this book takes a new approach. It asks if CAM is ethical. This book is well organized and well thought out. It was written to inform, not to entertain. It is not an easy or "fun" read, but it's an important one.

Full review: The Case That CAM Is Unethical
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The Textbook of Natural Medicine
by Joseph E. Pizzorno and Michael T. Murray (more than 90 other contributors)

I recently had the opportunity (perhaps I should say the misfortune) to spend many days perusing the major textbook of naturopathy. I suspect if the legislators who voted to license NDs and the patients who chose to consult NDs rather than MDs had been aware of the serious problems with the naturopathic approach that are demonstrated by this textbook, they might have had second thoughts. I like to think that they would have.

Full review: Naturopathy Textbook
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Heavens on Earth: The Scientific Search for the Afterlife, Immortality, and Utopia
by Michael Shermer

It is well written, engaging, and will appeal to the general reader and to anyone who is searching for answers to the "big" questions.

Full review: Shermer Tackles the Big Questions
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Brain Food: The Surprising Science of Eating for Cognitive Power
by Lisa Mosconi


Mosconi does not make a persuasive argument that the brain requires anything unique, anything more than the same good nutrition that benefits the entire body. Her Brain Food plan provides much good advice about healthy lifestyle and diet, but the good advice is mixed with unsupported claims, speculations, extrapolations that go far beyond the evidence, and some very questionable ideas.

Full review: Mosconi's Brain Food Diet
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Riddled with Life: Friendly Worms, Ladybug Sex, and the Parasites That Make Us Who We Are
by Marlene Zuk

This book is enlightening, a good read. She doesn't prescribe health guidelines based on Stone Age lifestyles; she just gives us food for thought from an evolutionary perspective with an appropriate dose of skepticism.

Full review: Another Kind of Evolutionary Medicine
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A Feast of Science: Intriguing Morsels from the Science of Everyday Life
by Joe Schwarcz

There are many, many delectable historical tidbits in this banquet including up-to-date information on things like telomeres and longevity, cleanses, bedbugs, GMOs and nutritional guidelines. You are all invited to partake.

Full review: A Feast of Science
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Horoscopes: Reality or Trickery?
by Kimberly Blaker

Blaker provides a good explanation of how we know astrology doesn't work and why some people still believe it does. In the process, she teaches valuable lessons in critical thinking. In this age of fake news, it is vital that we teach critical thinking skills to our children at an early age, and books like this are a perfect way to get the job done.

Full review: Not in Your Stars
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Earthing: The most important health discovery ever!
by Clinton Ober, Stephen Sinatra and Martin Zucker

This is all just too silly! Shoes are not dangerous. We don't need more electrons; we need more critical thinking.

Full review: Barefoot In Sedona: Bogus Claims About Grounding Your Feet to Earth Promote Medical Pseudoscience
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The Creative Destruction of Medicine: How the Digital Revolution Will Create Better Health Care
by Eric Topol

This book is about the convergence of the digital revolution and medicine. It is full of fascinating information and prognostication. Topol is a qualified guide to this new world—he knows whereof he speaks, and he writes lucidly and accessibly.

Full review: The Future of Medicine
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Pseudoscience: The Conspiracy Against Science
by Allison B. Kaufman and James C. Kaufman

The contributors to this edited collection of articles are experts in various fields who have different approaches to the subject. The result is an invaluable volume that examines the cognitive biases that lead to pseudoscience, the history of pseudoscience, the reasons for its wide acceptance, how it is endangering our society, how to recognize it, and how we might reduce its impact.

Full review: Pseudoscience: The Conspiracy Against Science
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Quackery: A Brief History of the Worst Ways to Cure Everything
by Lydia Kang and Nate Pedersen

Kang and Pedersen have written a delightful new book, Histories can sometimes be a bit dry and boring; this is anything but. It's a page-turner.

Full review: Book about Quackery Is a Hoot!
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1. Puswhisperer: A Year in the Life of an Infectious Disease Doctor
by Mark Crislip

2. Flies in the Ointment: Essays on Supplements, Complementary and Alternative Medicine (SCAM) by Mark Crislip

3. Puswhisperer II: Another Year of Pus by Mark Crislip

These three books by Mark Crislip are all very worthwhile. The Puswhisperer books will be particularly interesting for medical professionals, but the medically naïve can skim over some of the more esoteric details and enjoy the message and the humor.

Full review: A Cornucopia of Crislip
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How Sloppy Science Creates Worthless Cures, Crushes Hope, and Wastes Billions
by Richard Harris

As Harris says, “Biomedicine’s entire culture is in need of serious repair.” He has done a stellar job of identifying the problems, possible solutions, and promising efforts that are already underway. Excellent book.

Full review: Rigor Mortis: What’s Wrong with Medical Science and How to Fix It

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Freud: The Making of an Illusion
by Frederick Crews

Freud was a fraud, a liar, a bad scientist, and a bad doctor; but Crews’ book about him is excellent. 

Full review: Freud Was a Fraud: A Triumph of Pseudoscience

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The Death of Expertise: The Campaign against Established Knowledge and Why It Matters
by Tom Nichols

In this book, In Tom Nichols explains how a misguided intellectual egalitarianism— the doctrine that all people are equal and deserve equal rights and opportunities—is harming our ability to assess the truth and solve problems. He discusses why this is and possible long-term consequences. Intellectually stimulating read.

Full review: The Death of Expertise

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From Bacteria to Bach and Back: The Evolution of Minds 
by Daniel Dennett

Dennett is always worth reading—but it’s not light reading; it challenges the reader to think seriously about a variety of subjects. But it’s well written and accessible to the general reader, and it’s a great way to get a better understanding of how consciousness works and how it came about.

Full review: The Riddle of Consciousness

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Testosterone Rex: Myths of Sex, Science and Society
by Cordelia Fine

Sometimes common knowledge turns out to be wrong. The common knowledge about male/female differences is questioned in this book. It’s an eye-opener, fully backed by scientific references, and is well worth reading.

Full review: Testosterone Rex

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The Hormone Myth
by Robyn Stein DeLuca

The belief that changing hormones can make women moody, irrational, emotional, depressed, angry, and sometimes even crazy been used as an excuse to put women down and discriminate against them. That belief is wrong. Robyn Stein DeLuca explains why and offers tools to help you recognize junk science.

The Hormone Myth

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Doc Doc Zeus
by Thomas Keech

This novel about a doctor who raped a minor and is being investigated by his state medical board provides behind-the-scene insights into the workings of medical boards. Written by someone with inside knowledge, it helps explain why these boards are so often ineffective, why medical malfeasance so often leads to a token disciplinary action rather than to loss of license. Sometimes fiction is the best way to get insight into reality. Doc Doc Zeus raises a number of issues that are worth thinking about.

Full review: Doc Doc Zeus: A Glimpse Behind the Scenes of Medical Boards

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Life-Changing Foods
by Anthony William

I call bull. I am appalled by the sheer volume of claims in this book, especially the long lists of conditions and symptoms associated with each food. It would be foolish to rely on him for health advice.

Full review: The Antithesis of Science-Based Medicine:  The Medical Medium’s Fantasy-Based Health Advice

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Confessions of a Quack: Holistic Harry Tells the Inside Story of Alternative Medicine
by Steven Bratman

Confessions of a Quack is fiction, but worth reading as it provides real insights into the thinking processes and motivations of quacks, alternative medicine providers, and their patients. The Appendix is well worth reading as a stand-alone essay; it explains what Science-Based Medicine is all about.

Full review: Confessions of a Quack: Holistic Harry Tells the Inside Story of Alternative Medicine

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The Case Against Sugar
by Gary Taubes

Taubes makes a compelling case against sugar, but as he acknowledges, the evidence is insufficient to definitively convict. 

Full review: Gary Taubes and the Case Against Sugar

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Getting Risk Right
by Geoffrey Kabat

Kabat has packed a wealth of information into his 180 pages of text, and everything he says is copiously supported by references. This book will provide you with defensive armor against alarmist headlines and it will help you judge the credibility of new studies. Highly recommended.

Full review: Why Do Things That Are Unlikely to Harm Us Get the Most Attention?

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The Brain Warrior’s Way
by Daniel Amen

This self-help book hopelessly muddles good medical advice with misinformation and speculation. Nothing to see here. Move on.

Full review: The Brain Warrior’s Way: Standard Health Advice Mixed with Misinformation and Fanciful Ideas

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Bellevue: Three Centuries of Medicine and Mayhem at America’s Most Storied Hospital
by David Oshinsky

Oshinsky’s book is well-written and engaging, fun to read, and packed with fascinating information. It offers something for everyone, and it provides unique insights into how modern medicine evolved. Highly recommended.

Full review: Bellevue

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Homeopathy: The Undiluted Facts
by Edzard Ernst

No one will ever need to write about homeopathy again. Edzard Ernst has said it all in his new book. For doctors, scientists, educated laymen, and for anyone seeking a more complete story, Ernst’s book is unbeatable. It should be the last word on homeopathy.

Full review: The Last Word on Homeopathy

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Brain Storms: The Race to Unlock the Mysteries of Parkinson’s Disease
by Jon Palfreman

I didn’t intend to review this book, but after reading it, I decided it was too good not to share. Strongly recommended.

Full review: Parkinson’s Disease: A Detective Story

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Quackery: The 20 Million Dollar Duck
by Tony Robertson.

My first thought was “Do we really need another book on this subject? Robertson has ferreted out an impressive array of facts and details that I wasn’t aware of; and yes, we need as many good books on the subject as we can get. This is an incisive, thought-provoking, well-written, thoroughly referenced book that is an important contribution to science-based medicine information and reasoning.

Full review: Quackery: The 20 Million Dollar Duck

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Statistics Done Wrong: The Woefully Complete Guide
by Alex Reinhart

A helpful book that every researcher and everyone who reads research would benefit from reading. The book contains a few graphs but is blissfully equation-free. It doesn’t teach how to calculate anything; it explains blunders in recent research and how to avoid them.

Full review: Statistics Done Wrong, And How To Do Better

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The Gene: An Intimate History
by Siddhartha Mukherjee

Six years ago, I reviewed Mukherjee’s book, The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer. It was hands-down one of the best books I have ever read on a medical topic. Now he’s done it again. A superb writer, Siddhartha Mukherjee’s books are easy to read and I would highly recommend this one.

Full review: The Gene: An Intimate History

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Vegan Betrayal: Love, Lies, And Hunger in a Plants-Only World
by Mara Kahn

Mara Kahn questions vegetarian beliefs, pointing out that no human population has ever endured on a plants-only diet; that while some studies have shown short-term health benefits, long-term follow-up is missing; that long-term vegans frequently experience “failure to thrive,” go off their diet, and feel better when they return to eating meat; and that veganism might actually harm the environment and might not even save animal lives overall. I wish I could recommend this book for its funny, engaging human story and its trenchant analysis of plants-only diets, but, while she is an excellent writer, the later chapters are contaminated with beliefs not based on scientific evidence. Too bad!

Full review: Vegan Betrayal: The Myths vs. the Realities of a Plants-Only Diet

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Book Review Lagniappe: A compendium of brief book reviews
by Harriet Hall

Lagniappe, a word often heard in New Orleans, refers to a bonus or extra gift, like the thirteenth donut in a baker’s dozen. I read a lot of books but not all of them get reviewed. In this post, I look briefly at several books that I found entertaining. Enjoy.

·       Do No Harm by Henry Marsh

·       Bag Balm and Duct Tape: Tales of a Vermont Doctor by Beach Conger

·       The Lump by Alan Johns

·       Tales of a Country Doctor by Paul Carter

·       A License to Heal by Steven Bentley

·       Doc by R. E. Losee

·       When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

·       A Thousand Naked Strangers: A Paramedic’s Wild Ride to the Edge and Back by Kevin Hazzard

·       Black Man in a White Coat: A Doctor’s Reflections on Race and Medicine by Damon Tweedy.

·       The House of God by Samuel Shem (my all-time favorite!)

Full post: Book Review Lagniappe

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Snowball in a Blizzard
by Steven Hatch

Medicine is an uncertain business. There is a lot of discouraging news here, but there is also hope. By understanding the principles in this book, patients can better judge the uncertainties of what they hear. 

Full review: Uncertainty in Medicine

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God: An Autobiography
by Jerry Martin

Jerry Martin was raised as a Christian but he had been an agnostic ever since college. Then one day God spoke to him. Martin’s story can help us better understand the psychology of religious prophets throughout history. What it can’t do is establish that God is real or that Martin actually had a conversation with him. He admits to a fear that he is just somehow making all this up, but he chooses to ignore that possibility and just believe. I’m going with hallucination.

Full review: Hallucination or Revelation?

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This Book Won’t Cure Your Cancer
by Gideon Burrows

Gideon Burrows is a professional wordsmith and this is a remarkable book. He describes his experience with brain cancer so vividly that the reader enters into his life, feels what he feels, and shares his suspense about what the next scan or doctor visit will reveal. This book beautifully complements Siddhartha Mukherjee’s Pulitzer Prize–winning The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer. Reading both of them will help you understand pretty much everything worth knowing about cancer and the people who suffer from it.

Full review: Clear Thinking About Cancer

Note: A subsequent version of this review was originally published in Skeptic Inquirer. That version can be found here.

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The Serengeti Rules: The Quest to Discover How Life Works and Why It Matters
by Sean Carroll

Carroll is a great storyteller. This book is a great way to learn about the rules of regulation and about how science works. It’s not just a painless way to learn, it’s positively fun. You couldn’t ask for more.

Full review: The Essential Role of Regulation In Human Health and In Ecology: The Serengeti Rules

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Galileo’s Middle Finger: Heretics, Activists, and the Search for Justice in Science
by Alice Dreger

Alice Dreger has written a delightful, breezy, and slightly terrifying book on activism gone bad, and how it impacted scientists just trying to uncover facts and truth. Highly recommended!

Full review: Persecution of Scientists Whose Findings Are Perceived As Politically Incorrect

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Cure: A Journey into the Science of Mind Over Body
by Jo Marchant

I can’t wholeheartedly recommend the book. Overall, it gives the impression that we know much more than we do. 

Full review: Cure Is About Caring, Not Curing: Placebos, Alternative Medicine, and Patient Comfort

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NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity
by Steve Silberman

If you are on the autism spectrum, if you know anyone who is autistic, if you think there is an epidemic of autism, if you think vaccines or environmental toxins cause autism, or if you are just interested in autism and want to understand it better, you will benefit from reading this book.

Full review: Neurotribes: A Better Understanding of Autism

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The Biology of Desire: Why Addiction Is Not a Disease
by Marc Lewis

The Thirteenth Step: Addiction in the Age of Brain Science

by Markus Heilig.

Lewis is a neuroscientist and former addict whose is convinced that addiction is not a disease, but a habit; Heilig is a physician and addiction researcher convinced that addiction is a chronic disease like diabetes that can’t be cured but that must be managed by lifelong treatment. They agree on just about everything else. In any event, we can do better and the issues raised in these two books can help point the way.

Full review: Is Addiction a Disease? Yes and No

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The Truth About Cancer: A Global Quest (Video series)
by Ty Bollinger

Bollinger’s approach is as unfair as a trial where the prosecution is given carte blanche and no defense is allowed. This is a very unfortunate series, filled with misinformation but produced slickly, effectively appealing to emotion, and likely to mislead scientifically-naïve viewers and probably even some scientists who ought to know better. I predict that Bollinger will have blood on his hands: people will suffer and die unnecessarily because they believed this was “the truth about cancer” and were persuaded to reject lifesaving treatment.

Full review: “The Truth About Cancer” Series Is Untruthful About Cancer

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Immunity
by William E. Paul

This book is not an easy read, but it is well-organized, divided into short chapters, and enlivened by anecdotes about the scientists and the process of discovery. An excellent overview of what science knows about immunology today.

Full review: Immunity: More Than Just Antibodies and Vaccines

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White Matter: A Memoir of Family and Medicine
by Janet Sternburg

Frontal lobotomies have a dramatic, thankfully rather brief, history in the treatment of mental illness. Janet Sternburg has written an illuminating, and humanizing, book on the history of lobotomies, both personal and societal.

Full review: Frontal Lobotomy: Zombies Created by One of Medicine’s Greatest Mistakes

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The Science of Mom
by Alice Callahan

This is science-based medicine writing at its best. Callahan doesn’t cherry-pick. She knows how to evaluate the entire body of research and put it into perspective along with practical parenting considerations. 

Full review: The Science of Mom: A Science-Based Book about Baby Care

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Monkeys, Myths, and Molecules
by Joseph Schwarcz

“Dr. Joe” (from the title of his radio show) has done it again. This book is packed with pithy analyses of health-related subjects. This is just a taste from Dr. Joe’s latest banquet of educational and entertaining snacks. I hope it will whet your appetite.

Full review: Monkeys, Myths, and Molecules: A Chemist Separates Fact from Fiction

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Cancer Can be Cured in Weeks (Video)
by Dr. Leonard Coldwell

The video seeks starts with a bold statement that cancer can be cured in weeks. Read the review (if you must) and you’ll see why I recommend against watching the video.

Full review: Answering Cancer Quackery: The Sophisticated Approach to True Believers

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Spring Chicken: Stay Young Forever (Or Die Trying)
by Bill Gifford

Mr. Gifford has done us a great service by investigating the latest scientific evidence about aging and presenting his findings in an engaging narrative form. 

Full review: Aging and Longevity: Science for Spring Chickens

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The Rosedale Diet
by Ron Rosedale

This simply cannot be recommended to anyone who is interested in science-based medicine.

Full review: The Rosedale Diet: Here We Go Again

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Psychology Gone Wrong: The Dark Side of Science and Therapy
by Tomasz Witkowski and Maciej Zatonski

You may find some of these ideas questionable or unpalatable. If so, I hope you will read the book and give the authors a fair chance to explain their thinking. This is a well-referenced, well-reasoned book that is chock-full of information about the state of psychology today. And it exposes a lot of dirty linen that would be of interest to any reader. 

Full review: Psychology and Psychotherapy: How Much Is Evidence-Based?

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Scientology’s War on Medicine: A review
by Harriet Hall

Scientology has openly declared war on psychiatry and is ambivalent if not openly hostile towards the rest of medicine. Its “mind over matter” philosophy promises that attaining the “Clear” state will eliminate illness. There is no science in Scientology. Crispian Jago has created a Venn diagram of overlapping circles for quackery bollocks, religious bollocks, pseudoscientific bollocks, and paranormal bollocks; he put Scientology at the center where all these overlap (Figure 1 above). I agree: that’s exactly where it belongs.

Full review: Scientology’s War on Medicine

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The Emperor of all Maladies: A Biography of Cancer (Film)
by Ken Burns

This film is based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning book by Siddhartha Mukherjee, The Emperor of all Maladies: A Biography of Cancer. I continue to think it is the best book ever written on cancer. The producers sent me a press preview 1-hour highlight reel and I was very impressed. I can’t wait to watch the whole thing. I hope you will be able to watch it too.

Full review: Ken Burns Presents Cancer

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The Brain’s Way of Healing: Stories of Remarkable Recoveries from the Frontiers of Neuroplasticity
by Norman Doidge

When I reviewed his earlier book, The Brain that Changes Itself, I said I thought Doidge was a bit overenthusiastic. Now he has written a follow-up book that is even more overenthusiastic. He is recommending some very questionable treatments and he’s asking for a great commitment of time and effort (and sometimes money!) that might not do the patient any good. He’s on the right track, but he’s galloping ahead of the studies that must be done to validate the treatment hypotheses. I await those studies with the greatest interest.

Full review: Mind Over Matter: The Brain’s Way of Healing

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Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End.
by Atul Gawande

We’re all going to die, and most of us will experience a slow decline before we do. Gawande’s book has lessons for all of us, whether we are doctors, nursing home personnel, or just growing older.

Full review: Facing Decline and Death

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A Scientist in Wonderland: A Memoir of Searching for Truth and Finding Trouble.
by Edzard Ernst

Edzard Ernst is one of those rare people who dare to question their own beliefs, look at the evidence without bias, and change their minds. He went from practicing alternative medicine to questioning it, to researching it, to becoming its most prolific critic. This is a well-written, entertaining book that anyone would enjoy reading and that advocates of alternative medicine should read: they might learn a thing or two about science, critical thinking, honesty, and the importance of truth.

Full review: A Scientist in Wonderland

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The Gluten Lie and Other Myths About What You Eat
by Alan Levinovitz

Alan Levinovitz examines the diet myth phenomenon from a refreshingly different viewpoint. The Gluten Lie is well written, entertaining, solidly referenced, and perhaps the best debunking of popular diet myths ever. Reading it will equip you to quickly spot the flaws and the recurrent myths in the next fad that you will inevitably encounter.

Full review: Food Faiths and Diet Religions

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Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition: DSM-5
American Psychiatric Association

The DSM is a noble but flawed effort to standardize psychiatric diagnosis and make it more rational. I’m afraid we are stuck with it. It won’t go away, but we can hope to make it better and more scientific. Despite its flaws, it’s far better than going back to the anarchy of pre-DSM days.

Full review: Who’s Crazy Now? DSM-5 and the Classification of Mental Disorders

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Dr. Mutter’s Marvels: A True Tale of Intrigue and Innovation at the Dawn of Modern Medicine
by Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz

The Mütter Museum in Philadelphia has a marvelous collection of human bones, surgical specimens, monsters in jars, and medical memorabilia. Reading this book, I learned that the good doctor was every bit as marvelous as his museum, and the book took me on a fascinating trip back to the medicine of the early 1800s that made me better appreciate all that modern medicine has accomplished.

Full review: The Marvelous Dr. Mütter

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Myths of Safe Pesticides
by André Leu

Leu’s book is useful, but only as a handy compilation of things we ought to be thinking about. Things that scientists are already addressing.

Full review: Pesticides: Just How Bad Are They?

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The Myth of Mirror Neurons: The Real Neuroscience of Communication and Cognition
by Gregory Hickok

This is a fascinating, game-changing book. It explains the details of research studies and its reasoning is thoroughly backed up by citations from the scientific literature. It is not an easy read; some of the concepts are hard to grasp at first, especially for those not familiar with the relevant literature and the terminology. But it offers a valuable lesson in how scientists can be led down the wrong path and how errors can be compounded. 

Full review: Mirror Neurons and the Pitfalls of Brain Research

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Doctored: The Disillusionment of an American Physician
by Sandeep Jauhar

The book is an affecting, well-written human-interest story of one man’s experience, but the picture it paints is darker than it needs to be. 

Full review: An Overly Pessimistic View of Medicine

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Fed up (Film)
Stephanie Soechtig

The film’s thesis, that sugar has caused the obesity epidemic, is not well supported by evidence

. It is a partial truth that the filmmakers have dogmatically represented as the whole truth, with nary a hint of nuance. And it’s not fair to demonize the food industry. 

Full review: Does the Movie Fed Up Make Sense?

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Vaccine Illusion: How Vaccination Compromises Our Natural Immunity and What We Can Do To Regain Our Health
by Tetyana Obukhanych

I am not an immunologist, but it doesn’t take any particular expertise to spot the defects in Obukhanych’s arguments. Another disapproving commenter on the Amazon website calls the book “exceptionally irresponsible.” I agree, and I would add that it is particularly unworthy of an immunologist.

Full review: Why Does This Immunologist Reject Vaccinations?

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Thirty Years in Moukden, 1883-1913
by Dugald Christie

TCM/acupuncture is a historical curiosity and an anachronism. The book offers a glimpse into history showing how truly ineffective and barbaric TCM really was. This information could go a long way to correct the misconceptions of those who have succumbed to the “ancient wisdom” fallacy. If they read it and paid attention. Which they won’t.

Full review: The Reality of Ancient Wisdom: Acupuncture and TCM Weren’t So Great

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The Unpersuadables: Adventures with the Enemies of Science
by Will Storr

Sadly, some people are unpersuadable. Will Storr wrote a book about his struggle to understand the phenomenon. He did a great job of investigative reporting, interviewing people with strange beliefs, spending time with them and also with their critics, and reading pertinent research.

Full review: The Unpersuadables

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Diet Cults: The Surprising Fallacy at the Core of Nutrition Fads and a Guide to Healthy Eating for the Rest of Us
by Matt Fitzgerald

Matt Fitzgerald is not a doctor, but he understands science better than a lot of doctors who have written about diet and nutrition. His reasoning is persuasive and is supported by the scientific evidence. I enjoyed it, and I think you would too.

Full review: Diet Cults vs. Science-Based Healthy Eating

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Missing Microbes: How the Overuse of Antibiotics Is Fueling Our Modern Plagues
by Martin Blaser

Blaser’s book is well-written, explains the science clearly for the average reader, and includes fascinating stories and facts. This is exciting stuff! I wish I could be alive 100 years from now to see how research into the microbiome will change the practice of medicine.

Full review: Antibiotics vs. the Microbiome

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A Physician’s Apology

by Thomas Schneider
I was eager to read it, because I could think of many things doctors might be apologizing for. Unfortunately, I was disappointed. Offering an “apology” is his clever ploy to engage readers and make them more receptive to his impassioned approach to wellness, much of which is simply not supported by credible evidence.

Full review: A Misguided Apology

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Is That a Fact? Frauds, Quacks, and the Real Science of Everyday Life
by Joe Schwarcz

This book is not only informative but is a delight to read. Throughout, “Dr. Joe” Schwarcz interweaves chemistry with medicine, critical thinking, and the scientific method. His explanations are simple and lucid. He has a way with words, and the book is filled with funny comments

Full review: Dr. Joe Writes About Quackery

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All Natural: A Skeptic’s Quest to Discover if the Natural Approach to Diet, Childbirth, Healing, and the Environment Really Keeps Us Healthier and Happier
by Nathanael Johnson

This new book is an eye-opener. If nothing else, it is a testament to the ability of the human mind to overcome childhood indoctrination in a belief system, to think independently, and to embrace science and reason. There’s a lot of good science and common sense in this book. It gave me a better understanding of what those “natural” advocates are thinking, and of ways in which modern medical practice could be improved. 

Full review: Nature vs. Technology

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The Depths: The Evolutionary Origins of the Depression Epidemic
by Jonathan Rottenberg

I don’t think his approach qualifies as a “paradigm shift,” but he does provide some valuable insights about this frustrating condition. Some of these insights are speculative, but most are based on recent animal and human research.

Full review: Depression Re-examined: A New Way to Look at an Old Puzzle

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The Critical Thinker’s Dictionary: Biases, Fallacies, and Illusion and what you can do about them
by Robert Todd Carroll

Since some of our SBM commenters and most of the CAM advocates we critique are constantly committing logical fallacies, a survey of logical fallacies is a good idea both for us and for them, and this book fits the bill. I highly recommend this book to everyone. Whether you are a novice who needs a primer to learn about detecting logical fallacies or are already a seasoned pro, you are certain to learn something from The Critical Thinker’s Dictionary, and you are sure to enjoy the experience.

Full review: How to Think

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Moral Tribes: Emotion, Reason, and the Gap Between Us and Them
by Joshua Greene

Greene’s ideas are applicable to controversies in medicine like abortion, euthanasia, circumcision, mandatory vaccination, universal healthcare coverage, and policies about CAM. They also apply to major global problems such as poverty, violent conflict, terrorism, and global warming/environmental concerns and to domestic problems like taxes, capital punishment, gay rights, and many others. His book will make you think and will challenge you to recognize that you, too, have tribal biases. It’s well worth reading.

Full review: Tribalism and Medical Ethics

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Medical Philosophy: Conceptual Issues in Medicine
by Mario Bunge

This is a mind-stretching book that is neither a “fun” read nor an easy one, but it is packed with information and with food for thought about serious issues that affect every one of us. It is a challenging book that will make readers reconsider their unconscious assumptions, confront new ideas about things they haven’t thought about, and think more deeply about things they may have taken for granted.

Full review: Philosophy Meets Medicine

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In the Name of God: The True Story of the Fight to Save Children from Faith-Healing Homicide
by Cameron Stauth

Stauth is a master storyteller; the book grabs the reader’s attention like a fictional thriller and is hard to put down.

Full review: Faith Healing: Religious Freedom vs. Child Protection

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Chiropractic Abuse: An Insider’s Lament
by Preston Long

Preston Long is a chiropractor who says he made a big mistake when he chose chiropractic as a career. He has written an intriguing book explaining his mistake and the experiences that resulted from it during three decades as a chiropractor and a critic of chiropractic. This book is a very valuable addition to the literature on chiropractic, combining Long’s personal story with everything you never wanted to know about chiropractic.

Full review: Chiropractic Abuse: An Insider’s Lament

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Brainwashed: The Seductive Appeal of Mindless Neuroscience
by Sally Satel and Scott Lilienfeld

The book’s purpose is not to critique neuroscience, but to expose and protest its mindless oversimplification, interpretive license, and premature application in the legal, commercial, clinical, and philosophical domains. It offers keen insights into what neuroscience can and can’t do, and much food for thought.

Full review: Brainwashed: Neuroscience and Its Perversions

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What Doctors Feel: How Emotions Affect the Practice of Medicine
by Danielle Ofri

She tells anecdotes from her training to give the reader a feel for what it was like to be in an extremely stressful situation with time pressure, conflicting duties, lack of sleep, life-or-death responsibilities, the highest expectations, and the impossibility of both getting everything done and doing each thing well. It reminded me of times in my own training when I desperately wanted to just somehow survive the day and not kill anyone. It was a privilege getting to know Dr. Ofri through this book.

Full review: What Doctors Feel

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The Business of Baby: What Doctors Don’t Tell You, What Corporations Try to Sell You, and How to Put Your Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Baby Before Their Bottom Line
by Jennifer Margulis

Because of the attention it was getting, I got a copy from the library and read it. It was a painful experience. One of the customer reviews on the Amazon website accurately sums up my own reaction. “There is a great need for an incisive look at all sides of modern maternity care in the United States, because—let’s face it—we all know it’s not perfect. This, however, is not that book.”

Full review: The Business of Baby and the Monkey Business of Margulis

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The Medical Electricians: Dr. Scott and his Victorian Cohorts in Quackery
by Robert K. Waits

You will find more quacks in this book than in any duck pond. I can’t exactly recommend this book as a “good read.” It beats the reader over the head with too many oppressive details. I can, however, recommend the book as a fascinating glimpse into history and a reminder that regulation has done little or nothing to discourage today’s charlatans. 

Full review: Visiting a Victorian Duckpond

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Do You Believe in Magic? The Sense and Nonsense of Alternative Medicine
by Paul Offit

Offit is a wonderful storyteller who makes his message come alive. Each chapter is a story that grabs the reader’s interest and holds it. The book is well worth reading, whether you know a little or a lot about alternative medicine and whether you believe in magic or not.

Full review: Do You Believe in Magic?

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Science Left Behind: Feel-Good Fallacies and the Rise of the Anti-Scientific Left
by Alex Berezow and Hank Campbell

You may very well disagree with some of the opinions in this book, or even with the way it selects its facts, but it will give you food for thought about some very important issues. I recommend it.

Full review: Progressive Mythology

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A Skeptic’s Guide to the Mind: What Neuroscience Can and Cannot Tell Us About Ourselves
by Robert Burton

This is heady stuff.  It challenges our preconceptions. It is packed with the results of intriguing scientific experiments that raise more questions than they answer. The committee in my brain passed on a strong “thumbs up” vote to my conscious mind.

Full review: A Skeptic’s Guide to the Mind

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Doves, Diplomats, and Diabetes: A Darwinian Interpretation of Type 2 Diabetes and Related Disorders
by Milind Watve

This book has helped me appreciate what the best kind of evolutionary thinking can contribute to our understanding of medicine. Unfortunately, the book is very expensive and is not likely to reach many of those who would benefit from it.

Full review: Doves, Diplomats, and Diabetes

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Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal
by Mary Roach

Mary Roach, billed as “America’s funniest science writer,” has followed up on her earlier explorations of cadavers (Stiff), sex (Bonk), the afterlife (Spook), and survival on spaceships (Packing for Mars) with a new book entitled Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal. If you read this book, you will be amused and will learn many things, although some of them might not make for suitable dinner conversation.

Full review: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal

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An Epidemic of Absence: A New Way of Understanding Allergies
by Moises Velasquez-Manoff

This book is exhaustive and I found it exhausting to read. It buried me in a mass of repetitious details. I also question his decision to infect himself with worms as a way to find the truth. Not recommended.

Full review: Worms, Germs, and Dirt: What Can They Teach Us About Allergies and Autoimmune Diseases?

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Abominable Science! Origins of the Yeti, Nessie, and Other Famous Cryptids
by Daniel Loxton and Donald Prothero

Bigfoot? Bogus, right? Maybe so but the important insights gleaned from analyzing the evidence for and against cryptids can help us think critically about the quality of evidence in every field, from feminism to economics. We still have a lot to learn from Bigfoot, and Loxton and Prothero are excellent teachers.

Full review: Bigfoot Skepticism is Alive and Well

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Critical Decisions

by Peter A. Ubel
I was wrong about informed consent. I thought informed consent was a matter of explaining the risks and benefits of treatments to patients so they could decide what they wanted to do.  That was naïve, simplistic, and misguided. Ubel’s book has radically changed my thinking about how doctors should interact with patients. This book stretched my mind, and it feels good to know that I have learned something and have improved my way of thinking. Highly recommended.

Full review: Beyond Informed Consent: Shared Decision-Making

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The Power of Patient Stories: Learning Moments in Medicine
by Paul F. Griner

In this entertaining gem of a book, Dr. Griner raises important questions that are well worth grappling with, and he teaches valuable lessons. I wish every medical student and health care professional could read this book. And anyone who likes to read true stories about medicine will find the book fascinating.

Full review: Storytelling in Medicine

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Dicing with Death: Chance, Risk, and Health
by Stephen Senn

We non-statisticians could all benefit from learning more about statistics as well as trying to get a better understanding of just how much we don’t know. This book is an excellent place to start or continue our education.

Full review: Fun With Statistics

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Breakthrough: Elizabeth Hughes, the Discovery of Insulin, and the Making of a Medical Miracle
by Thea Cooper and Arthur Ainsberg

The story of insulin is well worth reading. It’s a paean to science. It’s history with lessons for today.

Full review: Lessons from the History of Insulin

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The Medical War Against Chiropractors: The Untold Story from Persecution to Vindication
by J.C. Smith

I don’t regret reading it, because I learned a few things about history and about the thinking processes of chiropractors; but it left a very bad taste in my mouth and I certainly can’t recommend it.

Full review: The War Against Chiropractors

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The Violinist’s Thumb: And Other Lost Tales of Love, War, and Genius as Written by our Genetic Code
by Sam Kean

I was going to read this book just for fun. I was expecting a miscellany of trivia loosely gathered around the theme of DNA. But I found something much more worthwhile that I thought merited a book review to bring it to the attention of our readers. Thumbs up to The Violinist’s Thumb. You will learn things you didn’t know and you will be heartily entertained in the process.

Full review: Thumbthing Worth Reading

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Zoobiquity: What Animals Can Teach Us About Health and the Science of Healing
by Barbara Natterson-Horowitz and Kathryn Bowers

It’s a good read: informative, well argued, spiced with intriguing trivia, and more entertaining than a trip to the zoo. It appears there is much to be gained from a regular collaboration between people doctors and animal doctors.

Full review: Learning from Animals: Evolutionary Medicine with a Twist

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Why We Get Sick: The New Science of Darwinian Medicine
by Randolph M. Nesse and George C. Williams

The book was interesting and gave me some things to think about, but it didn’t convince me that “Darwinian medicine” is a new science, that its existence as a separate discipline is justified, or that its unique approach offers any real practical benefits for improving medical care.

Full review: Do We Need “Evolutionary Medicine”?

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To Improve the Evidence of Medicine: The 18th century British origins of a critical approach
by Ulrich Tröhler

Tröhler’s book is no literary masterpiece and its recital of details becomes frankly boring at times, but it’s full of tidbits of interesting information for history buffs and of lucid explanations for those who want to understand the evolution in thinking processes that led, slowly but surely, to modern scientific medicine. I found the book enlightening, and I feel more charitable towards our predecessors than I once did.

Full review: The Forerunners of EBM

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Unnatural Acts: Critical Thinking, Skepticism, and Science Exposed!
by Robert Todd Carroll

The “unnatural acts” of the title are the acts of critical thinking, which don’t come naturally to our imperfect human brains. There can never be too many books on critical thinking. Carroll’s is a worthy contribution to the skeptical literature: comprehensive, easy to read, and packed with entertaining examples that vividly illustrate the concepts. For those new to skepticism, it can serve as a valuable textbook for learning how to think. 

Full review: Thinking: An Unnatural Act

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Heart 411
by Marc Gillinov and Steven Nissen

In writing about science-based medicine, we give a lot of attention to medicine that is not based on good science. It’s a pleasure, for a change, to write about a straightforward example of the best of science-based medicine in action. The book was written for the general public but is equally appropriate and informative for doctors and scientists.

Full review: An Owner’s Manual for the Heart

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The Right Chemistry: 108 Enlightening, Nutritious, Health-Conscious and Occasionally Bizarre Inquiries into the Science of Everyday Life
by Joe Schwarcz

Known as “Dr. Joe,” Schwarcz is the Carl Sagan of chemistry, explaining it to the public and demonstrating its wonders. The Right Chemistry is a worthy addition to the series of similar books Dr. Joe has published. He has a gift for making science fascinating and fun. I love to read his columns because I always learn something, his style is entertaining, and his dry sense of humor always makes me laugh. 

Full review: The Carl Sagan of Chemistry

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What to Expect When You’re Expecting
by Heidi Murkoff and Sharon Mazel

The book is billed as the #1 bestselling pregnancy book and has been widely praised. But it has a disturbing flaw: misinformation about complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). It’s an “almost very good” book that I can’t recommend. There is no way for the average reader to separate the accurate, science-based information from the misinformation about CAM. It’s unfortunate that so many women are reading and presumably trusting everything it says.

Full review: What to Expect When You’re Expecting

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The Epidemic of Mental Illness: Why? and The Illusions of Psychiatry
by Marcia Angell

In her two-part article for The New York Review of Books, Angell reviews three books.

·       The Emperor’s New Drugs: Exploding the Antidepressant Myth by Irving Kirsch

·       Anatomy of an Epidemic: Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs, and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America by Robert Whitaker

·       Unhinged: The Trouble with Psychiatry—A Doctor’s Revelations About a Profession in Crisis by Daniel Carlat

 

Her review paints a disturbing picture of psychiatry. It raises a number of serious concerns but it borders on psychiatry-bashing, a sport I deplore. Indictments have their place, but we mustn’t ignore all the things modern psychiatry gets right. Aside from stating “we need to do better,” (agreed!), neither Angell nor the books she reviews offer any concrete proposals for improvement.

Full review: Angell’s Review of Psychiatry

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Make an Informed Vaccine Decision for the Health of Your Child
by Mayer Eisenstein with Neil Z. Miller

Fortunately, my public library had it so I didn’t have to buy a copy. This is a terrible book. It is dishonest, misrepresents the facts, and is likely to persuade the average reader not to vaccinate.

Full review: Another Anti-Vaccine Book

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The Believing Brain: From Ghosts and Gods to Politics and Conspiracies
by Michael Shermer

Shermer’s book, Why People Believe Weird Things, has become a classic. This new book synthesizes 30 years of research into the question of how and why we believe what we do in all aspects of our lives. This thought-provoking book is both a good read and a good reference. 

Full review: The Believing Brain

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Suffer the Children: Flaws, Foibles, Fallacies and the Grave Shortcomings of Pediatric Care (Part II of the two-part review)
by Peter Palmieri

In this, the second part of my review of this important book, I bring to light more of the topics Dr. Palmieri addresses. I encourage you to read this book, and recommend it to all your friends (and enemies, for that matter), especially those with children. The first part of the review of his book can he found here.

Full review: Cognitive Traps

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Pink Ribbon Blues: How Breast Cancer Culture Undermines Women’s Health
by Gayle Sulik

The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer

by Siddhartha Mukherjee

Although Pink Ribbon Blues has a limited message that may be of particular interest to sociologists and feminists, most readers will find The Emperor of all Maladies a far more profitable and enjoyable use of their time.

Full review: Two Views of the War on Cancer

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Suffer the Children: Flaws, Foibles, Fallacies and the Grave Shortcomings of Pediatric Care (Part I of the two-part review)
by Peter Palmieri

This is a gem of a book. Please read it and recommend it to everyone you know, especially those with children. Part two of the review can be found here.

Full review: Suffer the Children

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Epidural Without Guilt: Childbirth Without Pain
by Gilbert J. Grant

Dr. Grant posits that not providing adequate pain relief to a woman in labor is inhumane. I agree. In my opinion, it is unconscionable to let patients suffering from severe pain go untreated unless there is compelling evidence that not treating pain results in improved health outcomes. What’s wrong with aspiring to give all your patients a pain-free birth experience using the safest possible science-based state-of-the-art methods?

Full review: Childbirth Without Pain: Are Epidurals the Answer?

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Over-diagnosed: Making People Sick in the Pursuit of Health
by Lisa Schwartz and Steven Woloshin

This book identifies a serious problem, debunks medical misconceptions and contains words of wisdom. I couldn’t help but like this book.

Full review: Overdiagnosis

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Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It
by Gary Taubes

Many readers will come away convinced that all we need to do to eliminate obesity, heart disease and many other diseases is to get people to limit carbohydrates in their diet. I’m not convinced, because I can see some flaws in his reasoning. Rather than jumping on the low-carb bandwagon before his ideas are properly tested, the precautionary principle suggests that it might be more reasonable to follow Michael Pollan‘s stunningly simple advice to “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

Full review: Why We Get Fat

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The Great Influenza: The Epic Story of the Deadliest Plague in History
by John M. Barry

I wish anyone who questions flu vaccines or who thinks influenza is not serious because it’s “just the flu” would read this book.

Full review: Lest We Forget: Influenza Can Be Devastating

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The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer
by Siddhartha Mukherjee

It is a unique combination of insightful history, cutting edge science reporting, and vivid stories about the individuals involved. It is also the story of science itself: how the scientific method works and how it developed, how we learned to randomize, do controlled trials, get informed consent, use statistics appropriately, and how science can go wrong. It is so beautifully written and so informative that when I finished it I went back to page 1 and read the whole thing again to make sure I hadn’t missed anything. I enjoyed it just as much the second time.

Full review: A New Perspective on the War against Cancer

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The Pain Chronicles: Cures, Myths, Mysteries, Prayers, Diaries, Brain Scans, Healing, and the Science of Suffering
by Melanie Thernstrom

This is a superb book based on a historical, philosophical, and scientific review of pain. I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to know more about any aspect of the pain experience and the science.

Full review: Chronic Pain: A Disease in its Own Right

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The Moral Landscape
by Sam Harris

This is one of those books that can stretch the reader’s mind to new dimensions. I have frequently said that science can only provide data to inform our decisions but can’t tell us what we “should” do; that it can determine facts but not values. I stand corrected. This persuasive new book by Sam Harris has convinced me that science can and should determine what is moral. In fact, it is a more reliable guide than any other option.

Full review: Science and Morality

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The Mayo Clinic Book of Home Remedies: What to Do for the Most Common Health Problems
by The Mayo Clinic

It isn’t perfect, but it’s pretty good. It is safe, sensible, and woo-free. I would feel comfortable recommending it to a layperson who wanted to know “what home remedies can I try?” or who wanted a home reference book about what can be done instead of calling the doctor and when calling the doctor is the more prudent course.

Full review: Mayo Clinic on Home Remedies

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The PTSD Breakthrough: The Revolutionary Science-Based Compass Reset Program
by Dr. Frank Lawlis

This psychologist is the chief content advisor for Dr. Phil and The Doctors. There is very little science in the book and references are not provided. It infuriates me when someone misappropriates the word “science” to promote treatments that are not actually based on science.

Full review: PTSD Breakthrough?: It’s Not Science Just Because Someone Says So

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Evolution: How We and All Living Things Came to Be
by Daniel Loxton

It’s hard to believe that we still have so many evolution deniers among us. Understanding evolution is essential to understanding modern biology as well as a host of other subjects. We need to get to young minds before their neurons have a chance to congeal into unscientific ideologies. Now we have just the book to reach them.

Full review: A Gifted Writer and a Book Worth Giving

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The Youth Pill: Scientists at the Brink of an Anti-Aging Revolution
by David Stipp

From the title of the book, I expected hype about resveratrol or some other miracle pill; but instead it is a nuanced, level-headed, entertaining, informative account of the history and current state of longevity research. 

Full review: Life Extension: Science or Pipe Dream?

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Callous Disregard: Autism and Vaccines — The Truth Behind a Tragedy
by Andrew Wakefield

Dr. Andrew Wakefield was almost single-handedly responsible for frightening the public about a possible association between autism and the MMR vaccine. Not only was his article in The Lancet retracted following its publication, but Wakefield lost his license to practice. I tried to read this book with an open mind but, in my opinion, it does nothing to scientifically validate his beliefs or to excuse his behavior. Instead, it is nothing more than self-serving apologetics and misleading rhetoric.

Full review: Andrew Wakefield Fights Back

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Taking the Medicine: A Short History of Medicine’s Beautiful Idea, and Our Difficulty Swallowing It
by Druin Burch

For most of human history, doctors have killed their patients more often than they have saved them. This excellent new book describes medicine’s bleak past, how better ways of thinking led to modern successes, and how failure to adopt those better ways of thinking continues to impede medical progress. I highly recommend this book. It’s well-written, entertaining, and provides much food for thought. 

Full review: Medicine’s Beautiful Idea

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Breakthrough! How the 10 Greatest Discoveries in Medicine Saved Millions and Changed Our View of the World
by Jon Queijo

The author describes what he believes are the 10 greatest discoveries. Nine of them are uncontroversial discoveries that have been on other top-10 lists. His 10th choice, however, is one that no other list of top discoveries has ever included. Much of this book is an eloquent paean to the value of science. Unfortunately, it abandons science in its discussion of alternative medicine. If you read this book, I recommend skipping chapter 10.

Full review: Nine Breakthroughs and a Breakdown

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Finding Frances (A novel)
by Janice M. Van Dyck

and

The Leisure Seeker (A novel)

by Michael Zadoorian

Science isn’t the only game in town. Literature can teach us things about the world that science can’t. It can give us vicarious experience and insight into other minds. These two novels illuminate why perfectly rational people might reject the help of scientific medicine and prefer to die a little sooner but to die on their own terms.

Full review: Taking Control of Death

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Diagnosis, Therapy and Evidence: Conundrums in Modern American Medicine
by Gerald N. Grob and Allan V. Horwitz

A valuable new book. John P.A. Ioannidis showed that most published studies are wrong. Grob and Horwitz show that many of our current diagnoses, treatments and ideas about disease may be wrong, too.

Full review: Diagnosis, Therapy and Evidence

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Genius on the Edge: The Bizarre Double Life of Dr. William Stewart Halsted
by Gerald Imber

This is an excellent biography of William Halsted, the father of modern surgery.

Full review: Halsted: The Father of Science-Based Surgery

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Time to Care: Personal Medicine in the Age of Technology
by Norman Makous

This is a thoughtful book by a wise old soul who has “been there, done that.” It is well worth reading for the insight it provides into recent medical history and for its reminder that doctors should treat patients as they themselves would want to be treated.

Full review: Time to Care: Personal Medicine in the Age of Technology

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The Book of Potentially Catastrophic Science: 50 Experiments for Daring Young Scientists
by Sean Connolly

We skeptics spend a lot of time critiquing non-science and too little time promoting science itself. Science is awe-inspiring and fun, and any effort to communicate that to our children is worthwhile. This book serves that goal well and might even be the first step toward a young reader’s career in science.

Full review: Science in the Spirit of Mythbusters

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50 Great Myths of Popular Psychology: Shattering Widespread Misconceptions about Human Behavior
by Scott O. Lilienfeld

Apart from one myth the authors fell for themselves—you actually can turn orange eating too many carrots (carotenemia)—I found nothing to criticize in this book. The authors have done us a great service by compiling all this information in a handy, accessible form, by showing how science trumps common knowledge and common sense, and by teaching us how to question and think about what we hear. I highly recommend it.

Full review: The Mythbusters of Psychology

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All Medicines Are Poison!
by Melvin H. Kirschner

Admittedly, I expected a polemic against conventional medicine. What he means, however, is that any medicine that has effects also has side effects, that the poison is in the dose, and that we must weigh the benefits of any treatment against the risks. He has a lot of solid information and clinical wisdom to share, but his material is not well organized and suffers from an awkward, stilted style of writing. That said, the book might appeal to laymen and it might serve to get some very important points across to the public. The catchy title might persuade people to read it who would not otherwise be exposed to these ideas.

Full review: All Medicines Are Poison!

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Coppola: A Pediatric Surgeon in Iraq.
by Chris Coppola

Doctors get a lot of flak these days without ever going near a battle zone. It was a delight to read about a doctor who was exposed to real flak in Iraq. His story is a wonderful reminder of how effective modern medicine is and it is an eye-opener about the selfless dedication of doctors who put themselves in harm’s way; who accept lower incomes, separation from families, and poor living conditions; who care desperately about their patients; and who magnanimously apply the same skills to treating friend and foe.

Full review: Military Medicine in Iraq

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The Woman Who Decided to Die: Challenges and Choices at the Edges of Medicine
by Ronald Munson

A fascinating book. Munson provides a sympathetic, thought-provoking discussion of issues many of us will eventually face for ourselves, our patients, or our family members. There are no easy answers.

Full review: Science-Based Medicine Meets Medical Ethics

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Placebo Medicine
by Morgan Levy

In this book, he makes an intriguing case for incorporating the best alternative medicine placebo treatments into mainstream medicine. In a light, entertaining style, he covers the placebo effect, suggestibility, and the foibles of the human thought processes that allow us to believe a treatment works when it doesn’t. I’m not entirely convinced, but I wonder if Dr. Levy might just be on to something. What do you think?

Full review: Incorporating Placebos into Mainstream Medicine

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Birth Day: A Pediatrician Explores the Science, the History, and the Wonder of Childbirth
by Mark Sloan

A fascinating book by a science-based doctor, a wise clinician, and a loving father. An example of what the scientific approach to medicine is all about, showing that it need not be cold and impersonal.

Full review: Birth Day

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Science Under Siege: Defending Science, Exposing Pseudoscience
by multiple authors from Skeptical Inquirer magazine

This collection is a keeper. If you are a subscriber to Skeptical Inquirer, you will want to have this volume on your reference shelf where so many of your favorite gems will be right at your fingertips. If you are not a subscriber, you have a real treat in store.

Full review: Science under Siege

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Evolution Rx: A Physician’s Guide to Harnessing Our Innate Capacity for Health and Healing
by William Meller

The author is skeptical about many of the things I’m skeptical about, but I’m skeptical of some of the other claims that he accepts. Seeing everything in medicine through evolutionary glasses impresses me as more of a gimmick than as a clinically useful approach. Evolution clearly informs medical practice, but I can’t see the value of “evolutionary medicine” as a separate discipline and I can’t recommend this book.

Full review: Evolutionary Medicine

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Hyping Health Risks: Environmental Hazards in Daily Life and the Science of Epidemiology
by Geoffrey C. Kabat

Reading this book will give you a better understanding of what epidemiology can and can’t do, and insight into how the rational scientific process can be perverted by the press, politicians, and grass-roots activists. One unstated take-home lesson from this book is that we should worry less about potential small environmental dangers and do something about the very large and preventable environmental danger of smoking.

Full review: Hyping Health Risks

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The China Study: Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss and Long-Term Health
by T. Colin Campbell and Thomas M. Campbell II

The China Study was an epidemiologic survey of diet and health conducted in villages throughout China and is touted as “the most comprehensive study of nutrition ever conducted.” The authors marshal a lot of evidence, but not enough to support their recommendation that everyone give up animal protein—including dairy—entirely. I also found a number of studies in PubMed that reached very different conclusions. In the end, The China Study makes a good case, but the case isn’t quite good enough.

Full review: The China Study

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How to Prevent and Treat Cancer with Natural Medicine
by Michael Murray, Tim Birdsall, Joseph Pizzorno and Paul Riley

In the interests of fairness and intellectual honesty, I’ve forced myself to read a lot of really bad books. In this review, I use this book as a good example of the genre and to illustrate why I call them bad.

Full review: Bad Books

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Healing but not Curing
by Bruce Charlton (extracted from Healing, Hype, or Harm? edited by Edzard Ernst)

Charlton envisions a future where both scientific medicine and complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) thrive, but separately. I don’t think his proposal is practical, but I do think he has hit the nail on the head about the meaning of “healing” and its role in explaining the attraction of CAM. Pain is not the same as suffering. Curing is not the same as healing. It behooves us to keep this constantly in mind.

Full review: Healing But Not Curing

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Healing, Hype or Harm? A Critical Analysis of Complementary or Alternative Medicine
by Edzard Ernst

Publishing one excellent book is an accomplishment; publishing two in one year is a truly outstanding achievement. In 2008 Edzard, published three, this being the third. There are many treasures in this book. I encourage you to pick up a copy.

Full review: Edzard Ernst Does It Again

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Living Healthier and Longer – What Works, What Doesn’t
by Carl Bartecchi and Robert W. Schrier

Finally, a longevity book that is based firmly on science. It covers major diseases, risk factors, and the interventions that have been tested and shown to improve outcomes. This is an excellent resource that I hope will become the go-to reference for accurate information about science-based preventive medicine and “what really works” to live a long and healthy life.

Full review: Science-based Longevity Medicine

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Render Unto Darwin: Philosophical Aspects of the Christian Right’s Crusade against Science
by James H. Fetzer.

This book—which is an awkward compilation of three different subjects: evolution science, morality, and politics—begins well but ends very badly. Science can do much to inform political decisions. We should base public policy on scientific knowledge, not on religious beliefs. We should indeed “render unto Darwin” the respect that science deserves. Fetzer might have written a very valuable book to further that goal. He didn’t.

Full review: Science & Morality

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Intern: A Doctor’s Initiation
by Sandeep Jauhar

Doctors used to have a parent-child relationship with their patients: they concealed the truth if they thought it was in the patient’s best interest, they dictated the treatment and did not have to justify it to the patient. Now, doctors share expert knowledge and information with the patient and they decide on the best treatment plan together. Is paternalism dead? Should it be? The author makes the point that maybe a little judicious beneficent paternalism is not such a bad thing after all. It’s something to think about.

Full review: Paternalism Revisited

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Death from the Skies!
by Phil Plait

As the blurb on the back cover says, “the universe is an amazing enough place without having to make up crap about it.” This book is way more exciting than any feeble imaginings about the paranormal—and it’s all true!

Full review: Death from the Skies! – New Book by Phil Plait

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In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto
by Michael Pollan

I don’t agree with everything Pollan says, but I endorse his seven-word formula. Only I worry that if you eat too much of one thing you may miss out on micronutrients. I’d prefer a 10-word formula: Eat a variety of foods. Not too much. Mostly plants.

Full review: What’s for Dinner?

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Trick or Treatment:  The Undeniable Facts About Alternative Medicine
by Edzard Ernst and Simon Singh

Ernst’s criticisms deserve special credibility because he is an avowed supporter of everything “alternative” that can be shown to work. At one time, he even prescribed homeopathic remedies. He accepts claims about herbs that many of us reject (for instance, echinacea to prevent and treat the common cold). He has demonstrated his ability to change his mind and follow the evidence. He has no ax to grind; his only agenda is to find the truth. I recommend this book.

Full review: Trick or Treatment:  The Undeniable Facts about Alternative Medicine

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The Wisdom of Menopause
by Christiane Northrup

Dr. Northrup is a board-certified OB/Gyn who has become something of a guru for American women’s health through a series of books, a newsletter, a website, appearances on Oprah, etc. This, her third book, has been updated and revised; a friend told me all her menopausal friends are talking about it. I read it and was appalled. Northrup’s writings are a disconcerting mixture of good science, misinterpreted science, unproven and irrational treatments, recommendations that are actually dangerous, pop psychology, mysticism, and superstition. If she’d left out the nonsense, she could have written a very helpful book.

Full review: Christiane Northrup, MD: Science Tainted with Strange Beliefs

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On Being Certain: Believing You Are Right Even When You’re Not
by Robert A. Burton

Dr. Burton has written a gem of a book. You think you are certain about something? Read this book and you may change your mind.

Full review: On Being Certain

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Women Aren’t Supposed to Fly: The Memoirs of a Female Flight Surgeonby Harriet A. Hall

Women may not have achieved true equality in science and medicine, but there are no longer any real impediments. Any woman who is capable and motivated can succeed. It’s instructive to look back at recent history and realize how much has changed in a short time. Things are easier for women today thanks in part to the women who persevered when things weren’t so easy. My whole family enjoyed reading this book and giggled frequently. (I can’t imagine why!) It might be of interest to some of you too.

Full review: Women in Medicine

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The Brain That Changes Itself
by Norman Doidge

Recent discoveries about neuroplasticity give a whole new meaning to the phrase “mind over matter.” By encouraging repeated thoughts and repeated motor actions, we can actually re-wire the physical brain to some extent. We can monitor some of these changes with neuroimaging studies. While he tends to get a little overenthusiastic, it will be fascinating to follow this developing field in the years to come.

Full review: Thoughts on Neuroplasticity

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Snake Oil Science: The Truth About Complementary and Alternative Medicine
by R. Barker Bausell:

If you want to understand how medical research works, if you want to know what can lead patients and scientists to false conclusions, if you have ever used complementary or alternative medicine or have wondered why others do, if you value evidence over belief, if you care about the truth, you will find a treasure trove of information in this book.

Full review: Snake Oil Science

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How Doctors Think
by Jerome Groopman

This is a superb commentary on the intersection between medical science, compassionate personal interactions and critical thinking. My only caveat is that it may be exploited by “doctor-bashers” because it shows how doctors make mistakes; but the overall impact of the book is very positive.

Full review: How the Medical Mind Works

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Charlatan: America’s Most Dangerous Huckster, the Man Who Pursued Him, and the Age of Flimflam
by Pope Brock

This is not only a rip-roaring good read, but it brings up serious issues about regulation of medical practice and prosecution of quackery.

Full review: Charlatan: Quackery Then and Now

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Suckers: How Alternative Medicine Makes Fools of Us All
by Rose Shapiro

Political correctness has emasculated our language. We walk on linguistic tiptoes for fear of offending someone. British journalist Rose Shapiro refuses to be cowed; she does not hesitate to use the word “fools.” Her book is well-written, entertaining, and full of fascinating tidbits of information about the shadier side of health care. Her style is engaging and humorous.

Full review: CAM Scam

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Is Your Thyroid Making You Fat? 
by Sanford Siegal

Dr. Siegal says he is a successful weight-loss physician, but he doesn’t present objective evidence of such success and his theory and methods are not based on good science.

Full review: Is Your Thyroid Making You Fat?

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Homeopathy: How It Really Works
by Jay Shelton

This will not be the last book written about homeopathy, but perhaps it ought to be. It says everything that needs to be said unless homeopaths can succeed in supporting their claims with better evidence than they have produced in the first two centuries of their endeavors. This well-written, entertaining book gives its readers more than they probably want to know about homeopathy as well as all they need to know about the scientific method and critical thinking. Shelton is objective, scrupulously fair, and makes his points without derogatory or emotional language. 

Full review: Homeopathy: How It Really Works

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The P.R.E.S.T.O.N. Protocol for Back Pain: The Seven Evidence-Based Practices for Living Pain Free
by Preston H. Long

Preston Long is one of those few chiropractors who can think critically and understand the scientific method. He also limits his practice to evidence-based treatments. I really, really wanted to recommend this book, but I cannot. It is full of excellent information that I wish could be widely disseminated, but the author was betrayed by an incompetent publisher. There are errors on almost every page: errors of spelling, errors of grammar, fragments, missing references and improperly cited references, inconsistent punctuation, and even missing quotation marks. 

Full review: Critical Chiropractor, Inept Publisher

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1. Fantastic Voyage: Live Long Enough to Live Forever
by Ray Kurzweil and Terry Grossman

2. Anti-Aging Medicine: The Hype and the Reality
edited by S. Jay Olshansky, Leonard Hayflick, and Thomas T. Perls

3. Healthy Aging: A Lifelong Guide to Your Physical and Spiritual Well-Being
by Andrew Weil

Anti-Aging Medicine is the only one of the three that stays firmly grounded in the realm of science and critical thinking. The reality is that we don’t yet know how to prolong our lifespan. 

Full review: Three Perspectives on Longevity: Fantasy, Reality and Confusion

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Living Proof: A Medical Mutiny
by Michael Gearin-Tosh

The book is an interesting psychological document describing one man’s reaction to his diagnosis, his rebellion against “the system” and his decision to take control of his own treatment. It also illustrates magical thinking. It does not constitute proof that the course of his disease was influenced by his treatment, as he himself admits. 

Full review: Living Proof: A Medical Mutiny

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Hands of Life:  An Energy Healer Reveals the Secrets of Using Your Body’s Own Energy Medicine for Healing, Recovery, and Transformation
by Julie Motz

Students of psychology may profit from reading this book as a case study of how a delusional system can develop, support itself with illusions, and reward the ego. Having said that, it is sad to see Motz’s imagination and intelligence become prostituted to a self-serving fiction, and sadder still to see her inflict this fiction on vulnerable patients.

Full review: HANDS OF LIFE:  An Energy Healer Reveals the Secrets of Using Your Body’s Own Energy Medicine for Healing, Recovery, and Transformation

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Energy Medicine: The Scientific Basis
by James L. Oschman

“ENERGY MEDICINE” includes therapeutic touch, craniosacral therapy, homeopathy, acupuncture, and numerous other alternative medicine practices. This book masquerades as science, but it amounts to little more than speculation and polemic in support of a preconceived belief. 

Full review: Energy Medicine

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The God Code: The Secret of Our Past, the Promise of Our Future
by Gregg Braden

Science already tells us that all life is related and is united in an evolutionary enterprise that thrives on cooperation as well as competition. We don’t need a God code to tell us that. There are plenty of real wonders in DNA. Seek and you will find.

Full review: The God Code

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What information about chiropractic is available in a typical public library?
by Harriet Hall

This study looked at what information about chiropractic is available in a typical public library. Of the nine books found, only the two books critical of chiropractic were error-free and supported by reasonable evidence. It was concluded that adequate information is available in the public library for an intelligent layman to examine the pros and cons of chiropractic. Lack of accessible information does not appear to be a factor in the current trend of increasing acceptance of this pseudoscientific health care system.

Full report: Chiropractic Information in a Public Library

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Your Inner Physician and You: CranioSacral Therapy and SomatoEmotional Release
by Dr. John E. Upledger

Dr. John Upledger’s ideas are not based on science, but skeptics can profit from his bad example to develop critical thinking and a better understanding of human psychology.

Full review: Wired to the Kitchen Sink: Studying Weird Claims for Fun and Profit

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