A Psychiatrist’s Book Recommendations

I once again apologize to my small cadre of loyal readers. It has been a number of months since my last posting due to a period of time tending to my myeloma (some readers are aware of this already) with nearly a half year of irradiation therapy, bone marrows, scans, elective aggressive chemotherapy and two major orthopedic surgeries to shorte up my arms due to fractures from soft bones from long-term effects of myeloma. Myeloma eats up your calcium from bones, thinning of the rim or cortex of bones. This results in a non-estrogen based cause of osteoporosis. But fear not, my treatments started out of necessity for the first fracture, took me out of work, and gave me the time-change to elect to do some big-time preventive aggressive treatment since I would be out of work for a period of time. This is all in my continuing effort to exact the most durable longest term remission. I began this kind of aggressive self-decided approach that I began with my diagnosis nearly seven years ago. So I expect to be around for years hence, writing, working and embarrassing my adult (and one teen) children, and my grandchildren old enough to learn the ways of my dry deadpan teasing humor.

I had also the chance to read even more than usually do with so much time on my hands being out of work, indolently recuperating, preparing for the next rounds of interventions and procedures. I tried to find a book on the subject of ‘What The Hell To Do in Doctor’s Offices Waiting For Your Appointment Without Going Postal.” No such luck, I think because most people’s minds go into a mush-like state due to such factors as: having to listen to mush inducing muzak that is a contiuation of the non-tunes you heard in the elevator, realizing there is no WiFi in your cheap but filty rich doctor’s office, trying to control your growing anger the longer you have to wait, disguising your involuntary whole body tremors starting in your lower pelvis from your screaming bladder that is full to bursting since you expect ot have to give a urine sample, shakes from your Number 2 repository if you have to give a stool sample, trying to find something worth reading from the worthless waiting room magazines every doctor seems to have, except for the disease related magazine said doctors’ offices have that make everyone frightened and tense and terrified.

February came and I followed my usual wish and the occurrence of that month being our annual Black History Month to read a number of books. This year seemed to bring a host of children’s books in the genre that was wonderful to say the least. I am a child psychiatrist so I have long had an abiding interest in children’s movies and books. This started when I was a child when I read, of course, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Replica Edition by L. Frank Baum published in 1900,  East of the Sun and West of the Moon: Old Tales from the NorthGrimm’s Fairy Tales (Illustrated Junior Library, 1945 edition) (oooh, scary!), Where The Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak (that came out later but still a favorite), Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson, and so many others. Two sidebars: 1) one reason also is that I have an adopted now late teen son of color, and 2) this past weekend I attended a performance of the black musical The Wiz at the Belk Theater on the UNC-Charlotte campus put on by the Charlotte Ballet and UNC-C departments of Theater, Dance, and Music. It was superb.

My historical fave this year is Bedtime Inspirational Stories: 50 Amazing Black People Who Changed the World (Volume 1).  by A. Amber is just a jewel of a book for mid-elementary school age. It is warm and bright, while still telling the tales of adversity and challenges these black pioneers in our history had to face. The illustrations are also just first rate and great to look at and convey the spirit of the many figures in the book.

The other favorite of mine along this line is the book  100 African-Americans Who Shaped American History by Chrisanne Beckner. I was drawn to this book back when simply because it has my one of my favorite figures on the front cover, Thurgood Marshall, the first black Supreme Court Justice and the legal architect and litigant of the Brown v. Board of Education Topeka Kansas desegregation suit. This man came to my knowledge in my late childhood. My parents and I were riding along in our claptrap station wagon that my engineer father took pride in working on and keeping running long past its date with the junkyard when we saw a huge billboard overlooking the highway. It read: “Impeach Earl Warren,” in huge red letters with an American flag on the side of the field of the billboard. I was intrigued with that and asked “Who is that Daddy?” and “What does impeach mean?” My father stopped the car on the side of the road so we could all read the entire billboard way up high in front of us through the windshield. He began to explain who Marshall was, the history of the Brown v. Education lawsuit and the coming segregation in that region (the South…). Well, I knew all about segregation. We had lived once in the South before. My parents had ‘educated’ us kids about its evils. My father treated blacks in his mines equally and got in social trouble for it. And when we read the small print at the bottom of the billboard, which was 

I have had more daughters than sons. This delightful circumstance derived from my overblown, dumb idea that I would be a poor father to sons. I thought this because I was a geek and unabashed “pointy-headed” intellectual (courtesy of the late George Wallace and Spiro Agnew, now, now, do give credit where linguistic credit is due). I was not a big sports fan except in exceptional circumstances,  such as when I was marooned for 4 days in my university hospital’s Obstetrics service due to a massive snow blizzard. All us house staff so imprisoned could only deliver babies (the mothers were being brought in on snowmobiles!) and were condemned to !) eating whatever we could find including unopened bottles of Gerbers’ Baby Food on the Peds service (blueberry buckle was and still is the Best), 2) sleep whenever we could, 3) anxiously read our Ob textbooks between deliveries, and 4) and babysit scared out of their minds husbands by watching the then N.I.T. basketball tournament on tv with them. Days of Rollie Massimino of then very good too, Valparaiso.

Consequently, I always find good girl’s literature volumes. First I will mention Mirror, Mirror. Who Am I?: A Book of Affirmation for Black and Brown Girls by NaTasha Robinson. I liked this because of its emphasis on self-identity and self-image. As another aside, I have long thought the process of identity formation is MUCH more psychologically difficult for the girl than the boy. I am reminded of a recent skit on Saturday Night Live where one of the female comics is brought on the news report sketch and asked to do a consultant-like report. She is portrayed as being so “accommodating” as a woman that she ends doing almost nothing and satirizes the obsequious female who gives in to everyone around her to a T. Anyway, this book is a gem and I think it is great for any girl.

With regard to the kiddie male side of the world, my new favorite, which came out in the summer of 2017 is  The Joys of Being a Little Black Boy by  Valerie M. Reynolds (Author), Chris Turner (Illustrator). This is a wonderful read and very entertaining, with humor and supports children/boys in many ways woven into the narrative. Can’t-do better than that.

On the more adult level, I happened to purchase one of those adult thriller diller mass market books by one of our favorites authors, Steve Berry. The book is entitled: The Bishop’s Pawn and happened to be a fictional take by this author on the  Martin Luther King Jr. assassination of 1968. I had heard a book review on the radio also due to the fact that I have a lot of time on my hands at home…When I bought the book I had forgotten that it was about the MLK assassination. As I began to read it I realized that and plunged ahead. Thi is a book that will set any conspiracy fires and arguments to running all over again if you read in your adult book club. It has a great deal of well researched factual history on the SCLC, MLK Jr. and those times that I found novel history that I had not known before. But it gives a new fictional twist on the FBI’s long known spying on MLK, the SCLC and civil rights movement that was just atrocious. There is a fair amount of history for instance on the COINTELPRO, which was the infamous J. Edgar Hoover inspired “Counter Intelligence Program” that spied on anybody Hoover thought was seditious. In any case, this book makes for great spy type reading, is set in American recent history and came out to tie with no so accidental with Black History Month. I think the author was quite intrepid in putting out this book but I have not seen any controversy about it yet which has surprised me. Oh well.

The last book that has to do with Black History Month is not quite so very recent, but was published in 2011 and authored by one of the best nonfictional reporter-writers in America, Hampton Sides. In my view he ranks up there with writers such as the never to be imitated Tom Wolfe of The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test Joe Sharkey (author of my favorite psychiatry scandal expose’ Bedlam: Greed, Profiteering, and Fraud in a Mental Health System Gone Crazy  that I commented on in my MH reform blog) and Ronan Farrow (who just published today (!) War on Peace: The End of Diplomacy and the Decline of American Influence).

This book is entitled Hellhound on His Trail: The Electrifying Account of the Largest Manhunt in American History . This book focuses more so on the account of James Earl Ray the convicted killer of Dr. King. It has a great deal of history of Dr. King and the Civil Rights Movement in the year and months leading up to the assassination that is very well done and likely has a least some new information for all but the most steeped in the history of that event. It is extremely well researched and annotated. I had read this book when it came out which was the year I was initially felled by my diagnosis with multiple myeloma, also then had time to burn at home undergoing chemotherapy and then recovery from a stem cell transplant. I had resurrected it in February to read it once again and once again found one of the more memorable reads of my life.

Addendum: It may appear from all the links I choose to provide for books back to Amazon.com that I may be shilling for them and might be one of those “affiliates” that one encounters at online shopping and YouTube content creators’ site. But alas I am not, as Amazon gets an undue amount of my money instead. I do this so if the reader is interested in a book I refer to may quickly hop to the book’s site and read reviews and such. Thank you.





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