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Turning the Page: Books to Get You Prepared for a New Year

John Watson | December 9, 2021 | Contributor Information

A new year presents a near-irresistible urge to start over, especially in a world desperate to put a once-in-a-generation pandemic firmly in the rearview mirror. Whether 2022 will offer that opportunity remains anyone's guess. But no matter what the year looks like, a good book by your side always helps. Beyond the sheer pleasures of education and escapism that books offer, they can also boost our mental health and increase our empathy. With that in mind, here are some recent books for starting afresh in the new year.

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Turning the Page: Books to Get You Prepared for a New Year

John Watson | December 9, 2021 | Contributor Information

Our Country Friends: A Novel

The adage that "comedy is tragedy plus time" gets a vigorous stress test in the latest from Gary Shteyngart. When the pandemic struck, the author decided to throw out the novel he was working on and refocus on something decidedly of its moment: a story about a group of well-off friends who escape New York City for a roomier and presumably safer living situation in the Hudson Valley. As their temporary retreat proves disarmingly prolonged, the friends begin to turn on each other. Somehow finding a way to wring considerable humor from his "too soon" premise, Shteyngart crafts one of the more entertaining novels of the year.

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Turning the Page: Books to Get You Prepared for a New Year

John Watson | December 9, 2021 | Contributor Information

Doctors and Friends

A less caustic take on friendship is provided by author Kimmery Martin, a former emergency medicine doctor, who began her latest novel before the world had heard of COVID-19. In telling the story of three former medical school classmates whose vacation in Spain is interrupted by a global pandemic, however, she found herself working with surprisingly relevant material. As Martin's characters return to their own lives and practices, they discover that in a world of upheaval, friendship can act as the safety net that keeps them from hitting rock bottom.

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Turning the Page: Books to Get You Prepared for a New Year

John Watson | December 9, 2021 | Contributor Information

The Lethal Elixir

Dr Dennis Ross is a nephrologist and clinical professor at the University of Kansas Medical School who has a thriving side gig mining his body of knowledge for page-turning thrillers. His latest is another 2021 novel that finds itself presciently in tune with the current pandemic. It details the mysterious outbreak of a weapons-grade strain of Ebola at a Chicago hospital and the infectious diseases specialist tasked with finding its source.

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Turning the Page: Books to Get You Prepared for a New Year

John Watson | December 9, 2021 | Contributor Information

Everyone Knows Your Mother Is a Witch: A Novel

Those wanting a narrative distraction from the present moment can find it in Rivka Galchen's seriocomic novel set in the 1600s, when the term "witch hunt" had a decidedly more literal meaning. Galchen's novel takes a real-life accusation of sorcery and illicit magic made against Katharina Kepler — the mother of famed German astronomer Johannes — and spins it into compelling fiction that is equal parts historical novel and courtroom drama.

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Turning the Page: Books to Get You Prepared for a New Year

John Watson | December 9, 2021 | Contributor Information

Libertie: A Novel

Kaitlyn Greenidge's novel also looks backward to draw its inspiration, in this case from the life of Susan Smith McKinney Steward, New York State's first Black female doctor. Greenidge paints a rich portrait of practicing medicine in the years after the Civil War. Surprisingly, the author focuses her story not on the trailblazing doctor but instead on her conflicted daughter (the Libertie of the title), whose admiration for her mother doesn't extend to wanting to follow in her professional footsteps. As Libertie forges her own path in life, the reader travels with her from the streets of New York City to the young nation of Haiti.

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Turning the Page: Books to Get You Prepared for a New Year

John Watson | December 9, 2021 | Contributor Information

The First Shots: The Epic Rivalries and Heroic Science Behind the Race to the Coronavirus Vaccine

If 2022 ends up being markedly better than the preceding year, it could be primarily due to the heroic efforts that are chronicled in Brendan Borrell's account of the race to develop vaccines against COVID-19. Detailing a year and a half of varying competition and cooperation among high-profile representatives of industry, government, and academia, Borrell's book is injected with enough backstage drama that it's since been commissioned for an HBO miniseries. Spoiler alert: Science wins.

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Turning the Page: Books to Get You Prepared for a New Year

John Watson | December 9, 2021 | Contributor Information

Churchill's Shadow: The Life and Afterlife of Winston Churchill

Few historical world leaders have the gravitational pull of Winston Churchill, so much so that a virtual cottage industry of biographies has built up around the former UK prime minister. This crowded field makes it all the more remarkable that Geoffrey Wheatcroft has been able to stir up so much acclaim and controversy for his tour of Churchill's life and career. In taking a critical eye to all facets of Churchill, not just his vaunted World War II triumphs, Wheatcroft has provided an apt reminder of the fallible man behind the myth.

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Turning the Page: Books to Get You Prepared for a New Year

John Watson | December 9, 2021 | Contributor Information

Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty

As family tragedies go, the Sacklers' story approaches the Shakespearean. Author Patrick Radden Keefe charts across three generations how this family went from facing the dual challenges of poverty and anti-Semitism to amassing a fortune on pharmaceutical breakthroughs — before ultimately becoming synonymous with epically cruel indifference as the architects of OxyContin, the main accelerant behind the ongoing opioid epidemic. The author provides a detailed accounting of how the family's myriad decisions paved the way for a national nightmare.

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Turning the Page: Books to Get You Prepared for a New Year

John Watson | December 9, 2021 | Contributor Information

Canary in the Coal Mine: A Forgotten Rural Community, a Hidden Epidemic, and a Lone Doctor Battling for the Life, Health, and Soul of the People

This moving memoir from William Cooke, MD, is something of a companion piece to Empire of Pain. It tells the story of how Cooke, fresh out of medical school and practicing in rural Indiana, finds himself not only on the front lines of America's opioid epidemic, but also treating a related HIV outbreak. Aided by co-writer Laura Ungar, Cooke relates an inspiring tale of the outsized role a single physician can play in a beleaguered community.

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Turning the Page: Books to Get You Prepared for a New Year

John Watson | December 9, 2021 | Contributor Information

Major Labels: A History of Popular Music in Seven Genres

Over the past 2 years, musical venues were among the most prominent examples of businesses that fell victim to the pandemic's requirements to socially distance. Music lovers will find a trenchant reminder of what they've been missing in The New Yorker writer Kelefa Sanneh's survey of seven genres that have defined music the most: rock, R&B, country, punk, hip-hop, dance music, and pop.

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Turning the Page: Books to Get You Prepared for a New Year

John Watson | December 9, 2021 | Contributor Information

Yearbook

No matter what 2022 holds in store, you'll need to laugh, and comedian, actor, and now-author Seth Rogen is here to serve. In this collection of personal essays, Rogen relates how he went from an underperforming student to teenage stand-up comedian in Vancouver to a bemused Hollywood power player, all with the ribald sense of humor from his hit films. Rogen dishes on his surreal encounters with eccentric stars but infuses everything with the good-natured spirit that he proudly attributes to his Canadian upbringing.

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Turning the Page: Books to Get You Prepared for a New Year

John Watson | December 9, 2021 | Contributor Information

The Comfort Book

With its title alone, Matt Haig's new collection signals itself as a welcome addition. Who doesn't need comfort given the tumultuous nature of recent events? Being able to make good on that title is something Haig is ideally suited for. The English journalist and author has spoken openly about his own mental health struggles, most notably in his 2015 book Reasons to Stay Alive, which gained him a readership that extends beyond the typical self-help fare. His latest collection of stories and advice has been greeted with equal enthusiasm.

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Turning the Page: Books to Get You Prepared for a New Year

John Watson | December 9, 2021 | Contributor Information

Seek You: A Journey Through American Loneliness

Loneliness has been linked to a number of adverse outcomes and has been compounded by COVID-19. The latest book from illustrator and author Kristen Radtke threads her own struggles with loneliness with a discussion of the emerging science on the topic, including the isolating effects of social media and technology. In doing so, she gives a unique voice to this so-called "silent epidemic."

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Turning the Page: Books to Get You Prepared for a New Year

John Watson | December 9, 2021 | Contributor Information

Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don't Know

Organizational psychologist Adam Grant wants his readers to learn how to unlearn. In his latest book, Grant relates how ideas get hardwired into our brains and inhibit our growth and flexibility. It's an engaging lesson for anyone who wants to be sure that as they accrue experience, it doesn't come at the expense of their ability to remain open to new concepts. Grant's tips on how to engage with those holding different opinions are particularly well-timed.

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Turning the Page: Books to Get You Prepared for a New Year

John Watson | December 9, 2021 | Contributor Information

Immune: A Journey into the Mysterious System That Keeps You Alive

Our immune systems could use a little more love, not just in terms of how we treat ourselves, but also in how much credit we give to this evolutionary marvel. Enter Philipp Dettmer, founder of Kurzgesagt (German for "in a nutshell"), the highly popular science channel on YouTube. His illustrated tome on what makes our immune systems hum acts as a refresher course for those in healthcare or a helpful introduction for the laypeople in our lives who could benefit from knowing more about our bodies' impressive fortress of defenses.

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Turning the Page: Books to Get You Prepared for a New Year

John Watson | December 9, 2021 | Contributor Information

The Secret to Superhuman Strength

Many of us who accumulated a few pounds during quarantine now face the daunting task of getting back to our pre-pandemic state. We've been gifted with an ideal fitness coach in Alison Bechdel. The acclaimed graphic memoirist and MacArthur "genius" takes readers on a tour of her decades-long obsession with seemingly every known exercise trend. Bechdel brings the frequently mundane work of self-improvement to humorous life in her vivid illustrations.

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Turning the Page: Books to Get You Prepared for a New Year

John Watson | December 9, 2021 | Contributor Information

Bicycling with Butterflies: My 10,201-Mile Journey Following the Monarch Migration

Readers with a case of frustrated wanderlust will take immense second-hand pleasure in this account from environmental scientist and educator Sara Dykman. In an attempt to learn more about the monarch butterfly, Dykman decided to accompany them on their annual migration from Mexico to Canada, and then back again. Dykman's arduous 9-month journey on her bicycle makes for quite the travelogue, but it's her impassioned pleas on behalf of this threatened species — and for the natural world in general — that readers are likely to find most inspiring.

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Turning the Page: Books to Get You Prepared for a New Year

John Watson | December 9, 2021 | Contributor Information

The Cheese Board Deck: 50 Cards for Styling Spreads, Savory and Sweet

Thanks to vaccination efforts, the new year holds the promise of a return to house parties and family gatherings. Meg Quinn's pictorial survey of 50 ideas for populating food platters for multiple occasions, from morning till night, will get you back in the hosting mindset. From classic cheese boards to kid-friendly snack plates, this guide is filled to the brim with simple food platter ideas for any occasion.

Image from William Morrow Cookbooks

Turning the Page: Books to Get You Prepared for a New Year

John Watson | December 9, 2021 | Contributor Information

Burnt Toast and Other Disasters: A Book of Heroic Hacks, Fabulous Fixes, and Secret Sauces

The idle time experienced by many during the pandemic launched countless amateur culinary careers. Chef and author Cal Peternell is here for those whose lofty ambitions were met with swift disappointment and smoky kitchens. In humorous recipes and tips, Peternell's utterly approachable cookbook offers simple hacks to turn botched meals into masterpieces and imbue new life into leftovers. Making the best of a bad situation? Perhaps no theme best encapsulates 2021 and can send us optimistically into 2022.

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Want to Get Away? Take a Mental Holiday With These Recent Books

Essential workers need a break, which is just what this collection of memoirs, how-to-guides, humorous essays, diverting fiction, and inspiring histories can provide.Medscape Features Slideshow, Dec 2020
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