Archive for 2019


A Captain’s Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALs, and Dangerous Days at Sea by Captain Richard Phillips with Steven Talty

October 8th, 2019 — 3:54pm

A Captain’s Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALs, and Dangerous Days at Sea by Captain Richard Phillips with Steven Talty

I was given this book in hard copy by a nephew who found it a very good read. I looked up my review of the movie which starred Tom Hanks and came out in 2013. I gave it five stars (highest rating). So, while I knew the story and the outcome, I decided to give it a try. It is a fast read with no big surprises, but it held my interest. This is the kind of book which invites the reader to more or less identify with the protagonist. Would I have been as dedicated and brave in the face of being held captor with threats being made to my life? I would like to think, yes, but I really do not know. In case you do not read it, the funniest line in the book is that Captain Phillips and his wife had a longstanding routine that he would call her, after being away at sea and ask if Captain Phillips was there. She would say, “No, he is not” and he would reply, “Good, I am coming over now.” If Captain Phillips isn’t at your house, you might want to bring in this book to get a glimpse of this inspiring man.

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Comments about this book are welcome below

Comment » | AM - Autobiography or Memoir

How To Fight Anti-Semitism by Bari Weiss

October 4th, 2019 — 9:53pm

How to Fght Anti-Semitism by Bari Weiss

I believe that this book was one of the most important books that I have read in a long time. Certainly, it is true because I am a Jew who has been aware of the historic and contemporary antisemitism. However, I think this book has equal relevance to both Jews and non-Jews who may not have thought about the subject but yet have concerns about some of the serious injustices which continue to exist in our world.

One of the critical lenses through which the author viewed this subject is in the discussion of the meaning and importance of the state of Israel. While she is aware that Israel may be far from perfect, she clearly exposes the anti-Israel views as expressed in in the BDS slogan (boycott, divest, and sanction)by people who want to eliminate the state of Israel This type of thinking is clearly the result of deep-rooted antisemitism even though some of it may come from Jews themselves when talking about Israel.

The author also examines the flawed and historic stereotyping of Jews and the dangerous way of thinking which has led to the pogroms, the holocausts, and other hideous events in human history.

Most fascinating is the author’s crystal-clear exposition how antisemitism can exist in the United States and throughout the world on the political left as it does on the political right. Once you are aware how it is expressed, you can see it all around you by “well-meaning” people who have had stereotyped views implanted deeply-rooted in their thinking and yet with the potential to so easily emerge.

We recently heard this young author speak at a local event and we were very impressed by her knowledge, insight, and empathy for the thought processes in the perpetuators as well as in the objects of antisemitism. Also, during the recent Jewish holiday, we were aware of at least two sermons by different rabbis who dealt with the subject of antisemitism in a similar manner as expressed in this book. Whether or not they had read this book, we strongly recommend that you should read it.

 

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Comment » | HI - History, P - Political, Uncategorized

The Guest Book by Sarah Blake

September 26th, 2019 — 12:23am

The Guest Book by Sarah Blake

This story is about an elite family that has owned an island off the coast of Maine for 3 generations. It started with a wealthy couple Ogden and Kitty Milton in the 1930s. Ogden Milton ran a bank that may have had some secret dealings with the Naizis during that time. Ogden and his wife seemingly had everything until tragedy struck them. In response to their grief, they purchased the island and made a tradition of yearly visits to the island every year as the family would grow with new generations. The prejudices and complex feelings became apparent as time went on. A Jewish man gets a job in the patriach’s bank and he becomes involved with one of the daughters. His best friend from Harvard, a black man, also joins one of the family get-togethers on the island.

The book not only shows racism and power but clearly addresses some of the differences in how various family members accepted others who were different.. The author skillfully lets the reader into the mind and thoughts of each of the characters. Her style included choosing various time periods out of sequence, which I thought made it difficult at times to closely follow each character.

The author’s description of the island and the house and other buildings on it was so clear that I was not surprised to find out that it was based out on a real place and probably some actual people and their experiences.

This is a solid good read that I would recommend for consideration.

 

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Comment » | FG - Fiction General

Hacking Darwin: Genetic Engineering and the Future of Humanity by Jamie Metzl

September 10th, 2019 — 10:07pm

Hacking Darwin by Jamie Metzl

What if during the stage of life that you will be planning a family, your doctor told you that it could be arranged so that your future child would have the best of yours and your partner’s genetic makeup? Isn’t that what everybody hopes for? Suppose it could also be arranged that your future child would not get cancer, diabetes and other serious illnesses and would lead a long and healthy life. In addition, you could choose for your offspring to have a very high IQ and great athletic ability? While you are at it, you could also choose to have this precious child have an outgoing, empathic personality.

The summer between college and medical school, I had a fellowship to work at the Jackson Memorial Laboratory in Bar Harbor, Maine. One of the projects that I worked on was to study the behavior differences between mice that differed from each other by one gene. Little did I realize that I was a small part of major scientific advances that were developing which are now on the verge of offering all of the above choices and much more.

This book explains what is happening in an exploding revolution in our understanding of the ability to manipulate human genetics. Initially, I felt the book was going to be too technical as even with my medical background, I had some trouble following the scientific descriptions of the splitting of the human genome. However, just as I was about to lose him, the author dialed back with a practical explanation and descriptions. He also was able to inject his sense of humor into the overwhelming implications of what he is talking about.

The result is an absolutely fascinating book that will completely change your view of Olympic athletes as well as the choices that you and your children may have to make when planning a family. I am sorry to say that reading this book make keep you awake at night contemplating the serious ethical and moral dilemmas that our society will now have to face. Thoughtfully, the author even offers some suggestions how we can grapple with those issues.

By the way, because of the background of the author Jamie Metzl, I can’t help wondering if he himself were genetically modified. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Brown University, held a PhD from Oxford and a law degree from Harvard Law School. In addition, he is an avid Ironman triathlete and an ultramarathoner.

Please leave any comments about this review or the book below

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Comment » | M - Medical, Science, Social

Depression As Systemic Illness- Edited by James J. Strain, M.D. and Michael Blumenfield, M.D.

September 3rd, 2019 — 11:40am

Note:

Todays book blog features a book which I had the pleasure of recently co-editing with my colleague Dr. James Strain. I have reproduced below the forward to the book written by Dr. Herbert Pardes.   The publisher has given me permission to offer the readers of this blog a 30 % discount for purchase of it if you use the code in the coupon at the end of the blog

Depression As A Systemic Illness – edited by James J, Strain, M.D. and Michael Blumenfield, M.D.

Forward to book- Written by Herbert Pardes, M.D.  ( Former Director of National Institute of Mental Health and former President of the American Psychiatric Association )

Depression occupies the minds and work of people of diverse disciplines. Prior to the introduction of anti-depressive treatments, depression was widely treated with interventions like electric-convulsive therapy (ECT). In the mid-1900s, the first monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) and tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) were introduced. For decades subsequently, much research focused on such treatments. Depression was considered a mental disorder. The focus on these antidepressants was followed over the next five or six decades with few new developments.

This book stresses the breadth of the topic, describing depression as a systemic illness, not just a mental illness. The best thinking today is that there are new tools and concepts in research, awareness of multiple causes, multiple kinds of depression, and increasing recognition of the mechanics and physiology that produce them. The book creates an optimistic and innovative approach to understanding and treating depression.

Brain plasticity is remarkable. Much current focus has been on brain action. However, this text uniquely conceives of depression as systemic, resembling other non-psychiatric chronic illnesses such as diabetes, hypertension, asthma, congestive heart failure, etc.

New research techniques have generated a conviction that integrating diverse lines of research enhances the promise for advances in understanding the disorder of depression. Another conviction among depression experts is that clinicians and scientists should focus on earlier stages of the disorder. Early intervention appears to produce better outcomes. Also, there is a greater focus on the continuing effects of depression.

Brain plasticity and recognition of depression’s pervasive impact throughout the body—McEwen’s “allostatic load”—has induced scientists to examine enduring and long-term effects of depression. More depressive episodes and longer periods of depression appear to be correlated with more serious states of depression.

Contributory causes are multiple—genetics, family history, adverse childhood development, environmental stress, etc. Depression is highly heterogeneous. For example, when youth have persistent anxiety and/or depression as well as mental lability, subclinical mania, accompanied by parents with early-onset bipolar disease, 50% of such children also develop bipolar disease.

The systemic nature of depression with the many interconnections also results in omnipresent comorbidity. This new text explores, e.g., cancer, heart disease, and neurological disorders in this regard.

New treatment approaches being developed make use of neuroimaging, brain stimulation, and substances like ketamine. The latter produces rapid improvement in mood rating in patients resistant to typical antidepressants, but it may have a minimal lasting effect if not serially repeated; it is not as yet FDA-approved for depressive disorders.

There are five different types of transcranial medical stimulation (TMS). In some, TMS generates brain tissue regrowth over four- to six-week periods. Treatments like cognitive behavioral therapy work on circuits. Interpersonal therapy, too, is being used in creative ways in underdeveloped countries. One emphasis is looking for interventions that may foster synaptic plasticity and connections.

The enthusiasm of many scientists is palpable. Some assert that we are undergoing “a scientific revolution in mood disorder research is anticipated.” Encouraged by advances in cancer treatment through precision medicine, some foresee possible application of precision medicine to depression. The rich knowledge being developed from neuroimaging has led to “neuroimaging phenotypes,” which means an imaging picture shared widely by many depressed patients.

These developments are significant for education. The impact on training, the important role of primary health care professionals, the potential of psychoeducation are pertinent educational issues. Should primary care physicians not be able to diagnose and care for “garden variety” depressive disorders, and then, if necessary, refer refractory patients on to more experienced clinicians? Medical school curricula and residency training will need to be altered for non-psychiatric physicians to have sufficient skills to accomplish this.

Depression deserves recognition as an illness of major proportions. It affects vastly different body systems. The World Health Organization ranks it as exacting the greatest burden of illness on the world population. Innovative treatments and ideas provide optimism.

Considering it a systemic illness represents a change from the former perspective that brought patients with depression brief interludes of relief with ECT, psychotherapy, and/or drugs while ignoring the long-term course and its biological accompaniments. We deal with a longstanding illness that needs enduring attention. If treated early, and if one can modify the number, intensity, and length of episodes, we will be likely to produce improved outcomes.

This formulation of depression as a systemic illness, not just a mental illness, may also be welcomed, recognizing the many decades in which psychiatric illness and treatment suffered from stigma. Outstanding innovative leaders from many fields grasping the breadth of depression’s impact are working together, accumulating vast data and manifesting enthusiasm about possible major strides going forward.

This rich book brings experts together and covers extensively the biological, psychological, endocrinological, genetic, and imaging aspects of depression. This collaboration by outstanding scientists and clinicians represents probably our greatest hope for real improvement in the management of depression. It is well described here. While not minimizing how much has to be done, this is an uplifting book, given the excellence of its contributors and their laboratories, and the proliferation of new and imaginative tools and concepts to advance the effort to bring depression under control.

 

 

To purchase this book directly from Oxford University Press at a 30% discount please follow the directions in the discount coupon above and use the promo code in that coupon or note this code ” AMPROMD9 “and click here

To purchase Psychosomatics a text book edited by Dr. Michael Blumenfield and Dr. James Strain please click here

To purchase Psychosomatic Medicine ( 2nd edition) a text book written by Dr. Michael Blumenfield and Dr. Maria Tiamson please click here 

To purchase Intervention and Resilience After Mass Trauma a text book  edited by Dr. Michael Blumenfield and Dr. Robert Ursano please click here

To purchase Psychological Care of the Burn and Trauma Patient  a text book written by Dr. Michael Blumenfield and Ms. Margot Schoeps please click here 

To purchase Applied Supervision in Psychotherapy a text book  edited by Dr. Michael Blumenfield  please click here

 

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Comment » | M - Medical, MHP - Mental Health/Psychiatry

Where The Light Enters: Building a Family and Discovering Myself by Jill Biden

August 30th, 2019 — 12:36am

Where the Light Enters: Building a Family and Discovering Myself by Jill Biden

This is an autobiography by Jill Biden, wife of former senator and Vice president and now presidential candidate, Joe Biden. The readers of this book will probably be looking for insight into the potential president, Joe Biden and the nature of the relationship between him and the former second lady. Jill Biden obviously did not include any negative stories about Joe Biden and their lives apart and now together.

However, in their story is one of great hardships, romance, togetherness and then again, experiencing tragic loss. Joe Biden lost his first wife and a young child in an auto accident when he was a young United States Senator. Subsequently, after a casual meeting and then subsequently seeing her picture, he surprised Jill Biden by asking her out for dinner. As they say, “the rest is history.” They clicked as a couple. Mrs. Biden is very clear in this book how important family has been to both herself and to her husband. She describes in great detail how she and Joe built an intimate meaningful relationship with their immediate and extended families. She also shares with the reader how important it was to her to develop and maintain her career as a teacher and ultimately as a professor.

Mrs. Biden shares the special issues that were dear to her heart as well as some of the projects that she and Joe shared together. How she was able to integrate family, career and the role of being a public servant as a wife of the vice president is the essence of this book. Of particular note was her deep-rooted interest in military families and in educating women about breast cancer.

Of course, Mrs. Biden shares with the reader a glimpse into how she and Joe have experienced and continued to deal with the more recent loss of one of their sons. Dr. Jill Biden is obviously a skilled writer and she is quite articulate in the writing of this book. Perhaps, it is fair to say that there are still some important chapters to be written in the near future.

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Comment » | AM - Autobiography or Memoir, P - Political

Normal People by Sally Rooney

August 24th, 2019 — 11:10am

Normal People by Sally Rooney

One of the most intriguing things about this book is the title. I believe that that author is telling us that every meaningful relationship is built upon complex psychodynamics. In this story, we have a boy and girl who become friends in childhood. She is from a wealthy family with one parent and a brother who is frequently mean to her. He is raised by a single loving mom who is actually a housekeeper for the girl’s family. He is very popular in high school with lots of friends. She is a loner and often didn’t go to classes. They both are very smart. They have their first sexual experience together which is very intense and meaningful. As both of them mature and go to college they develop a different circle of friends and relationships but they still have various meetings and encounters. One of them has a tendency to have a depressive disorder. Both of them have complex dynamics related to needs and preferences influenced by earlier experiences with family members. For example one has certain masochistic needs. These factors all influence their choices and experiments with relationships and the struggles whenever they periodically reconnect. This very well-written book shows us the very complex psychological factors which greatly impact on their pathway in life and their attraction to each other. There is nothing common, typical, or easily predictable, but yet, that is what human behavior is all about. “Just two normal people.”

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Comment » | FG - Fiction General, FR - Fiction Romance

Washington Black by Esi Edugyan

August 19th, 2019 — 11:45am

Washington Black by Esi Edugyan

We meet “Wash”, the main character as an 11-year-old slave on a sugarcane plantation in Barbados. We come to realize that his chance of living to a ripe old age or even having any kind of meaningful life is quite slim. Then by chance, he is “given” to the owner’s brother who needs a manservant to help with various projects. It is ironic that through this one slave’s subsequent life which is quite unusual, we are allowed to come to appreciate the almost no chance that his brothers and sisters and numerable other Black people held in captivity have for any self-realization and an opportunity to find their potential as human beings.

Wash is the “assistant” to Titch, his new owner who was a scientist of sorts with a clear plan to develop a “cloud-cutter” (a hot air balloon). Titch soon realizes that Wash has talent as an artist in not only making scientific drawings but depicting all sorts of scenes from nature. Wash leaves the plantation with Titch to lead a new life which takes place during a time period when slavery in the United States is “abolished.” However, we are reminded that “Jim Crow” is alive and well as our main character is searched for by a bounty hunter as Wash’s previous owner had decided to put a thousand-dollar reward for his return, dead or alive.

Through the storyline and the author’s insight into the main character as he attempts to reconcile his past with the new opportunities he has, we come to understand how important “Big Kit”, his mother figure in his earlier life was to him. We also appreciate how meaningful to him is “Titch”, the man who took him from slavery on the plantation to a new life and because of his own issues ended up complicating Wash’s life with further dilemmas.

There is adventure, mystery, romance all mixed into the novel as the reader has another opportunity to understand the great scourge of slavery. It is not surprising that this book is on the short list for the prestigious Booker Prize.

If you wish to purchase this book from Amazon please click here 

Comment » | FG - Fiction General, FH - Fiction Historical

A Woman Of No Importance by Sonia Purnell

August 2nd, 2019 — 2:33pm

Woman of No Importance-The Untold Story of the American Spy Who Helped Win World War II by Sonia Purnell

Virginia Hall was born in the United States, grew up in Baltimore and studied at Columbia University. She moved to France prior to World War II. As a young woman, she also had a tragic accident during a hunting trip where she shot her leg and ended up with a wooden prosthesis.

When World War II broke out and the Germans invaded France, circumstances plus dedication and brilliance led her to become one of the key figures in the French Resistance Movement. The author of this book, Sonia Purnell, spent a great deal of time and effort painstakingly studying the life and the amazing accomplishments of this woman who worked with the French underground. Virginia used numerous forged documents and also had a cover of being a correspondent for the New York Post, but in reality, she was organizing and participating in deadly sabotage against the occupying Nazis. She trained hundreds of members of the French underground. She risked her life numerous times in various operations. She went to extreme efforts to secretly maintain contact with the British for whom she was working via radio coded message. She guided many missions which included arranging the parachute drops of guns, explosives, and other supplies needed in the activities of the French underground against the occupying Germans. She devised complicated plots to free captured prisoners. She had many close calls and could have been captured and tortured as was the fate of many of her comrades. After D-Day she arranged numerous attacks on the German troops who were heading towards Normandy.

As a reader of this book, we got the feeling that we are by her side as she plans and carried out dangerous missions. She then escapes France via walking through the snow-covered mountains through Spain. Ultimately, Virginia falls in love with a young man who she encountered in her work and they eventually got married. This book is well written and will keep you on the edge of your seat. Virginia was ultimately awarded many medals including the highest French Medal of Honor. After the end of World War II, she worked for the CIA, assisting in spy activities directed against the communists.

As exciting and informative as this amazing story was, at times, I found it difficult to keep track of all the characters many of whom had French names. I also could not always picture the exact geography as she moved through different parts of France as well as during her escape via Spain. It would have been great if there could have been a directory of the many characters that we meet in this book and a brief description of them as well as a map where the reader could trace her adventures and travel. That being said, any student of history, especially if one wants the inside view of World War II should read this book. It also will be a satisfying read for anyone looking for a well-written spy story.

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Comment » | B - Biography, HI - History, P - Political

A Million Miles In A Thousand Years by Donald Miller

July 24th, 2019 — 8:30pm

A Million Miles In A Thousand Years by Donald Miller

The author and two friends are trying to write a screenplay for a movie. They are trying to figure out what makes a good story, but the author realizes he is struggling to figure out what makes a good life.

This book might be summarized by a subtitle the author gives the book and that is “what I learned while editing my life.” He is constantly reflecting back on his life and the meaningful interactions that he has had with people. He obviously is a man of faith and he frequently comes back to his concerns about what God will think of him and his life. He chooses many heroes and role models, some of which come from his favorite books or movies. He talks about his admiration for Viktor Frankl, an Austrian psychologist who in 1942 was deported to a Nazi concentration camp, but spent time whispering into the ears of fellow prisoners, trying to prevent suicide by telling them that despite their suffering “life has meaning.” The recurrent theme of this book is that despite sadness and suffering, there can be meaningful fulfillment and that life is a journey. The author shares many of his experiences in interesting people that he has met on life’s journey as he believes that sharing life’s trials and tribulations is what one should try to do. He raises the idea that suffering and sharing the hardships of life can be a worthwhile goal and make life more meaningful.

A symbolic but real life experience that the author shares is really the essence of this book and that is a grueling cross country bicycle trip that he participated in with many of his close friends where they traveled ocean to ocean in three weeks. He believes that sharing such adventures with people you care about is a most worthwhile endeavor. Perhaps that is why he is sharing this book with his readers.

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Comment » | AM - Autobiography or Memoir

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