Even as Covid-19 continues to influence daily life, other healthcare concerns have remained, and been amplified. New and forthcoming releases address various aspects of medicine and public health.

Black Health Matters

Richard W. Walker Jr. Square One, out now

Retired physician Walker was, most recently, medical director of Concentra’s Houston Medical Center Clinic. His book discusses health issues and illnesses that disproportionately affect the Black community, such as diabetes and obesity, focusing on environmental factors and preventative measures. Walker’s purpose, he writes, is to “empower you, the reader, to take care of your own health and healthcare.”

Bodies on the Line

Lauren Rankin. Counterpoint, Apr. 2022

Rankin, a journalist who spent six years as an abortion clinic escort, shines a light on the latter role, which has been “a constant yet invisible presence since the beginning of legal abortion in this country,” as she writes in an interview with her publisher. She shares her experiences along with those of other volunteers, as well as perspectives from providers, staff, and abortion rights experts, to round out this picture of contemporary abortion access issues.

Graphic Public Health

Meredith Li-Vollmer. Penn State Univ., June 2022

This installment of Penn State University Press’s Graphic Medicine series, which conveys medical and health information through comics, covers a range of topics: lead poisoning, mental health issues, how climate change is affecting public health, and more. Li-Vollmer produced and compiled some of the comics in her role as a communications specialist for Seattle’s public health department; other contributors include cartoonists Ellen Forney, Roberta Gregory, and David Lasky.

Grief on the Front Lines

Rachel Jones. North Atlantic, May 2022

Journalist Jones, whose recent work has focused on death and dying, examines burnout, depression, and trauma among medical professionals, issues that long predate the pandemic and often go unaddressed. She shares the stories of health workers at the beginnings of their careers and of those with decades of experience, among them EMTs, hospice workers, nurses, and surgeons, explaining the emotional burden these professionals bear and offering resources to help them cope.


Thomas Insel. Penguin Press, Feb. 2022

Mental health is not to be underestimated as a critical public health category, according to Insel, a psychiatrist and neuroscientist who served as the director of the National Institute of Mental Health from 2002–2015. Insel would like to see “the standards we expect for medical and surgical care to apply to the treatment of mental illness,” he writes. The book examines systemic issues and stigmas in mental health care and the need to “build a system with long-term support and a true social safety net;” our starred review called it “as compassionate as it is comprehensive.”


How the Other Half Eats

Priya Fielding-Singh. Little, Brown Spark, out now

As a Stanford PhD student, Fielding-Singh set off to research how American families eat, interviewing 75 families and spending time with four at length. Her book draws on that work, exploring the question, “How can we, as a society, ensure that parents—all parents—have the means necessary to nourish their children?” PW’s starred review called this a “deeply empathetic” look into how class affects diet, resulting in “a devastating portrait of ‘the scarcity, uncertainty, and anxiety that permeates so much of the American dietary experience.’ ”

Owning the Sun

Alexander Zaitchik. Counterpoint, Mar. 2022

Zaitchik, a journalist whose work has appeared in the Nation, the New Republic, and elsewhere, examines how the privatization of public science has led to the rise of medical monopolies. The pharmaceutical industry’s “well-worn defense,” he writes, “rests on the idea that monopoly riches are the only possible incentive and basis for medical innovation. This is simply false.” (See “ ‘It Feels Wrong Because It Is Wrong,’ ” for our q&a with Zaitchik.)

Patient Zero

Lydia Kang and Nate Pedersen. Workman, Nov.

The authors of Quackery look into the first known cases of various plagues, including typhus, leprosy, mad cow disease, and AIDS, telling the stories of each “patient zero,” whether human or animal. Sidebars examine related topics such as the politicization of plagues and vaccine development. Calling the book a “morbidly funny study of some of the world’s deadliest diseases,” PW’s starred review said that “readers will be swept away by this energetic and enlightening survey.”


Plagues upon the Earth

Kyle Harper. Princeton Univ., out now

In 2017’s The Fate of Rome, Harper, a University of Oklahoma classics professor, examined the role viruses and pandemics played in the empire’s fall; PW’s review called it “lucidly argued.” His new book connects the dots from previous viral outbreaks to Covid-19. The current pandemic, he writes, “is part of a deep pattern described by the interplay of ecology and evolution. The combination of predictability and unpredictability, of structure and chance, of pattern and contingency, lies in the very nature of infectious disease.”


Paul A. Offit. Harper, Feb. 2022

Originally published in 2008, this reissue includes a new foreword that expands the discussion to Covid-19 and “the birth of the genetic era of vaccination.” Offit, director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, is the author of numerous other books, including the recently released You Bet Your Life: From Blood Transfusions to Mass Vaccination, the Long, Risky History of Medical Innovations, which PW called “as entertaining as it is informative.”

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