The Human Condition Curated

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Sebastian Galbo on Consumptive Chic: A History of Beauty, Fashion, and Disease by Carolyn Day

“From the late 18th to mid-19th centuries a peculiar trend swept through European fashion. Through couture and cosmetics, this vogue emulated the physical ravages of a much-feared disease, tuberculosis, aestheticizing its symptoms as enviable qualities of physical beauty.”

Jacalyn Duffin on His Bloody Project: Documents Relating to the Case of Roderick Macrae by Graeme Burnet

"A remarkable novel that is well anchored in the feudalistic, social history of Highland Scotland and in the history of medicine and psychiatry."


Albert Howard Carter on The River of Consciousness by Oliver Sacks

"Readers of Sacks’ works will not be surprised by many pleasurable features to these essays: range of intelligence, clarity and felicity of style, evidence of broad learning, and humility while considering the complexity and mystery of the human mind."

Spencer McClelland on Tell Me How It Ends: An Essay in Forty Questions by Valeria Luiselli

"Not so much an essay on the overall state of immigration (demographics, policy, etc.), as it is a probing of the hardship facing children leaving (usually fleeing) Central America and attempting to find a home in the United States, the work shines because of its brevity and density."

Jacalyn Duffin on How Can I Help? A Week in My Life as a Psychiatrist
by Pier Bryden and David Goldbloom

"The narrator tracks a hypothetical week in the life and work of a psychiatrist in a major Canadian hospital through the stories of individual patients, some of whom were willing to be identified by name."

Spencer McClelland on Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward

"A family epic set in rural Mississippi and spanning several generations. Often described as a road novel by reviewers, the story centers on Jojo, a 13-year-old boy struggling to protect his younger sister Kayla from the disarray of his parents’ influence..."

Martin Kohn on Human Voices Wake Us by Jerald Winakur

"The 55 poems in Human Voices Wake Us fall primarily into 3 categories: biographical poems, poems about the natural world, and poems about the worldly travels and travails of a man learning and practicing medicine."

Guy Glass on Spy of the First Person by Sam Shepard

"This book is an unsentimental yet moving, exquisitely observed illness narrative written by a master.  An author who was known throughout his career for dealing with difficult themes, Shepard did not flinch from them even in the face of death."

Cortney Davis on Close But Not Touching by Jean Sands

"Sands’ poetry deals with sexual abuse, marital abuse, dysfunctional family dynamics, divorce, poverty, and a woman's struggle to survive.  And in Sands' case, to write about that survival."

Marilyn McEntyre on One Crimson Thread by Micheal O’Siadhail

"This collection of 150 sonnets takes us through the journey from the writer’s wife’s diagnosis with Parkinson’s, eventually complicated by dementia and overmedication, to her death and his early days of grieving."

Shawn Thomas on Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson

"In this most recent biography, Isaacson takes us through the life and times of Leonardo, highlighting milestones of his career, while also underscoring some of the seemingly trivial habits that were signatures of Leonardo’s personality and worldview."

Michael Natter on Stitches by David Small

"Stitches is a beautifully crafted graphic novel by award winning writer and illustrator David Small. The memoir chronicles Smalls’ life with chronic illness, focusing on his experience as a child and adolescent with cancer in the setting of an abusive upbringing."

Mark Clark on Letters from Limbo by Jeanne Marie Beaumont

"This collection of poems is a memoir in verse: it is a lyric and epistolary exploration of what it is to live in the limbo of an emotional and psychological ambiguity whose genesis lies in maternal loss, mourning, depression, and despair."

Total Database Contents

  • 175 Visual Art Annotations
  • 2760 Literature Annotations
  • 261 Performing Art Annotations
  • 97 Artists
  • 1754 Authors
  • 149 Keywords