cover image Heart: A History

Heart: A History

Sandeep Jauhar. Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, $27 (288p) ISBN 978-0-374-16865-0

Cardiologist Jauhar (Intern) moves beautifully between “dual tracks” of “learning about the heart... but also what was in my heart,” with passages of memoir counterbalancing a lay-reader-friendly history of the development of cardiac medical technology. Covering enough physiology to make scientific details easily understood, Jahaur emphasizes how brave, desperate, and sometimes foolhardy experiments led to important developments, such as the heart-lung machine, which allows doctors to perform heart surgeries that take longer than a few minutes without causing brain damage. Alongside these medical success stories, Jauhar shares personal encounters with heart disease, through the deaths of family members and through his own diagnosis with coronary blockages. Jauhar achieves a balanced tone throughout, sharing profound admiration for what can be accomplished by treating the heart as a machine, while also urging the reader, and the medical community, not to undervalue of the significance of the “emotional heart.” To this end, he points to the fraught emotional dynamics of providing devices like defibrillators that can prolong life but also provoke traumatic stress and constant fear in the patients who use them. Throughout, Jauhar is thoughtful, self-reflective, and profoundly respectful of doctors and patients alike; readers will respond by opening their own hearts a little bit, to both grief and wonder. 22 b&w illus. (Sept.)