When Breath becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
This book is written by a physician who had to undergo medical treatment for cancer himself. Paul Kalanithii was initially trained in Literature in his B. A. and MA. He studied Biology and then studied medicine and became a Doctor and then went on to become a neuro surgeon. When he was to finish the course and become a full fledged surgeon he was diagnosed with cancer in the lung. It was in stage IV and he had no hope. But he sustained hope fully knowing that hope alone would not be enough. He tried to face death as courageously as any human being could do. He had written this short book before he died with the hope that it would be published posthumously. Published it was and became a best seller in the US.
One of the best books about illness, treatments, death and facing the inevitability of death. Philosophy in action.
Gulp by Mary Roach
This books is about the alimentary canal. It has many surprising facts about our digestive system. But the narrative style was not good for me. First it was the ways of telling things. I compared this book with S.Mukherjee’s book on cancer and Gene. Not an easy book to read. It could have been written in a more simple and straight language.
Some of the excellent passages from the book
“For every one cell of your body, there are nine smaller cells of bacteria. Bacteria represent a metabolically active organ in our bodies. They are you. You are them. It is a philosophical question Who owns who”
“The parasite Toxoplasma infects rats but needs to make its way into a cat’s gut to reproduce. The parasite’s strategy for achieving this goal is to alter the rat brain such that the rodent is now attracted to cat urine. Rat walks right up to cat, gets killed, eaten.. If you saw the events unfold, you would scratch your head and go, What is wrong with that rat?”
“We are basically a highly evolved earthworm surrounding the intestinal tract. Eventually, the food processor had to have a brain attached to help it look for food, and limbs to reach that food. That increased its size so it needed a circulatory system to distribute the fuel that powered the limbs. And so on. Even now, the digestive tract has its own immune system and its own primitive brain, the socalled enteric nervous system. I recalled what Ton van Vliet had said at one point in our conversation; ‘People are surprised to learn: They are a big pipe with little bit around it.”.