The Human Condition Curated

What's New

Russell Teagarden on Dileesh Pothan's Joji

“Covid-19 has has scorched societies at all levels all around the world. Will anyone believe a movie is set in the current time period without signs of Covid-19? Dileesh Pothan thinks not.”  

Howard Trachtman on Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi

“Is Religion or Science best able to deal with the psychological problems that can arise over a lifetime? Yaa Gyasi’s powerful new book aims to answer these perennial questions.”

Steven Field on THE GREAT INFLUENZA: A Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History by John Barry

“For anyone seeking to understand the 1918 influenza pandemic not only from a scientific and medical historical standpoint, but also with an appreciation of the political and sociocultural milieu in which it took place, you can’t do much better than Barry’s work.”

Mark Clark on The Arrow Tree: Healing from Long COVID by Phyllis Weliver

“[The] memoir points its readers in the direction of a safe passage to the home of our natural world, where, in finding union with that world, we may experience healing not only from COVID but from habits of the heart that have left us more broken than we know.”

Russell Teagarden on Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem

“From this novel, we get Lethem’s view of how Tourette syndrome can affect everyday life and how it can progress; how people with the syndrome can think about it; the balance people seek between benefits and side effects of drug therapies; and whether it’s acceptable to think that some verbal and physical tics are funny.”

Tony Miksanek on Parenthesis by Élodie Durand

"The author-artist's black and white illustrations are potent in portraying her struggle to understand the seizures and her attempt to communicate their impact on her life.”

Russell Teagarden on The Father by Florian Zeller

“Florian Zeller, the screenwriter and director, admits he wants viewers feeling what people with dementia feel. He succeeds in the movie as he succeeded in the Broadway play version preceding it.”

Howard Carter on Main Street: How a City's Heart Connects Us All by Mindy Thompson Fullilove

“Mindy Thompson Fullilove, MD analyzes factors that support or diminish the health of cities as places that sustain its citizens. .. She draws on the work of experts from several disciplines to address the fundamental question: how may we best live together?”

Lucy Bruell on Collective by Alexander Nanau

“By bringing public awareness to the critical shortcomings, corruption and politicization of the Romanian health care system, the filmmakers have created an important cautionary tale for other cities and countries who do not prioritize the health of their citizens.”

Devon Zander on Fevers, Feuds, and Diamonds: Ebola and the Ravages of History by Paul Farmer

“Paul Farmer’s latest work exploring the connection between health and the social and historical structures that surround it focuses on how and why Ebola spread in West Africa in 2014.”

Tony Miksanek on Letter to a Young Female Physician: Notes from a Medical Life by Suzanne Koven

“Writing with honesty, warmth, and humility, internist Koven covers a lot of medical territory in illuminating the life of a female physician.”

Guy Glass on Born to Be by Tania Cypriano

“Born to Be is an excellent introduction to gender-affirming surgery for a general audience.  It’s a film about some courageous transgender and gender non-binary people and one caring physician.”

Rachel Martel on The Doctors Blackwell: How two pioneering sisters brought medicine to women--and women to medicine by Janice Nimura

“Their contributions to the field not only changed the way that medicine is practiced, but also paved the way for generations of female physicians.”

Russell Teagarden on Elizabeth is Missing by Aisling Walsh

“The movie prompts the haunting possibility that people with advanced dementia may still possess more cognitive ability than they are credited.”

Tony Miksanek on Uncaring: How the Culture of Medicine Kills Doctors & Patients by Robert Pearl

“Not so much a remedy for all that troubles the medical profession as it is a roadmap pointing the way towards professional satisfaction and a meaningful career in medicine.”

Guy Glass on Prima Donna: The Psychology of Maria Callas by Paul Wink

“This is a useful contribution to exploring the unconscious conflicts that underlie art, and to our appreciation of a performer with enduring appeal.”

Steven Field on The Flight Portfolio by Julie Orringer

“[The author] sets her story within a world of legal and moral ambiguity and illuminates the choices people must make in the direst of situations.”

Howard Carter on Seven and a Half Lessons About the Brain by Lisa Feldman Barrett

“This engaging and informative book describes the latest scientific understanding of the brain, primarily in humans, but also in other animals.”

Dustin Brinker on Holding the Man by Neil Armfield

“This film chronicles the short lives of two Australian gay men from their teenage years into the AIDS epidemic.”

Russell Teagarden on Faith, Reason, and the Plague in Seventeenth-Century Tuscany by Carlo Cipolla

“Cipolla’s account of the Monte Lupo bubonic plague epidemic shows how an infectious epidemic drove people into groups based on beliefs or knowledge, or as he put it, faith or reason.”

Devon Zander on House on Fire: The Fight to Eradicate Smallpox by William Foege

“Ultimately, what we see in Foege’s writing is that public health is not one field:  it is a team-sport that combines science, global and domestic policy, and culture in service of social justice.”

Lucy Bruell on Global Healing by Karen Laura Thornber

“[The author] draws on work from global literature to explore the many ways societies view illness, stigma and healing.”

Spencer McClelland on The City We Became by N. K. Jemisin

“[The book] tells the story of a world where cities can come alive, not in the corporeal sense, and not in this universe, but in a way that intersects nonetheless with our reality.”

Richard Ratzan on Funeral Mass by P. K. Page

“[The poem] is a marvelously succinct triptych of two quite different reactions to an infant's death at a funeral mass.”

Shawn Thomas on Together by Vivek Murthy

“Dr. Murthy has made his mark as surgeon general by shining a spotlight on the long-standing issue of social isolation and loneliness..”

Howard Trachtman on Hamnet by Maggie O'Farrell

“The underlying premise of this engrossing book is the well documented historical fact that William Shakespeare had a young son who died at age 11, relatively early in his father’s theatrical career.” 

Dustin Brinker on Call Me by Your Name by Luca Guadagnino

“Music, language, and literature act as conduits of the primary themes of the piece, namely those of precocity and sexuality.”

Guy Glass on The Beauty in Breaking by Michele Harper

“This is a sensitive book which approaches such painful topics as domestic violence and racism, and which gets to the heart of what it means to be a healer."

Martin Kohn on The Talking Cure: New and Selected Poems by Jack Coulehan

“The poems represent multiple viewpoints—patients, caregivers, family members as they struggle to make sense of the vicissitudes—and unexpected joys—in life."

Rachel Martel on Blue Ticket by Sophie Mackintosh

"Blue Ticket offers a meditation on freedom, exploring whether it is possible to live a free life within the bounds of a choice that is made for you."

Howard Carter on Caitlin Doughty's Smoke Gets in Your Eyes & Other Lessons from the Crematory

"At 23 years of age, Caitlin Doughty went to work for a crematory in Oakland, California, and looked human mortality right in the eye. She reports on her first six years in the funeral industry."

Dustin Brinker on Beloved by Toni Morrison

“Set in the 19th century United States, Beloved follows a formerly enslaved woman named Sethe and the lives of those closest to her.”

Martin Kohn on Doctors’ Choice: Sixteen Stories about Doctors and Medicine Selected by Famous Physicians by Phyllis and Albert Blaustein

“Doctor’s Choice is a collection of 16 stories by authors from and well known in the early-to-mid 20th century.”

Carol Donley on I Hear Their Voices Singing: Poems New and Collected by Cortney Davis

“Davis is known for her ability to see and understand what is going on and to hear the unique voices that express suffering, faith, desire—and to convey empathic understanding of the speaker.”

Dustin Brinker on Brave Story by Miyuki Miyabe

"Despite my qualms, Brave Story is a wonderful piece of literature that provides much insight into the adolescent mind for use in broaching topics such as racial discrimination, religious zealotry, childhood divorce, and radical acceptance."

Russell Teagarden on The Betrothed During the 2020 Pandemic

“Many of the descriptions of the plague in Milan that Manzoni offers from his sources mirror descriptions that have appeared in contemporary mainstream accounts about the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S. in 2020.”

Steven Field on The Winter Soldier by Daniel Mason

“The Winter Soldier is a war story, a doctor story, and a romance.  It also poses a wrenching question of medical ethics.”

Guy Glass on Hidden Valley Road by Robert Kolker

“The Galvins of Hidden Valley Road, just outside Colorado Springs, appear to be the kind of wholesome, all-American family that others might envy.  The tragic fact is that six of the twelve children go on to develop schizophrenia..”

Devon Zander on Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, Her Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed by Lori Gottlieb

“Gottlieb’s writing is unique as she places a magnifying glass on herself and her own experiences in therapy just as much, if not more, than those of her patients.”

Sebastian Galbo on Death is But a Dream: Finding Hope and Meaning at Life's End by Carine Mardorossian and Christopher Kerr

“ The mystery of end-of-life dreams—their visions of loved ones; of seeking forgiveness, healing, and understanding within weeks, sometimes days, of one’s death; of comforting apparitions and visitations—points to a miraculous capacity within the human heart that eases the life-to-death transition.”

Gretl Lam on Dylan Mortimer's painting Tree, Broken Tree

"[Dylan Mortimer] not only creates art about the challenges of cystic fibrosis, with broken lungs and purulent mucus, but also about his gratitude for the lung transplants and their gift of life."

Howard Trachtman on Spring by Ali Smith

"In a novel whose scope includes the most destructive features of modern society, Smith is able to infuse  small day-to-day events and artifacts with meaning and optimism."

Russell Teagarden on State of Wonder by Ann Patchett

"A broader perspective of this book shows how a novelist can probe science and generate questions about it, warn of possible negative implications, and generate reasonable doubt and skepticism."

Cortney Davis on I Watched You Disappear by Anya Krugovoy Silver

"These poems are beautifully crafted, often primal, and they touch the deepest reaches of personal illness and the shadow of mortality."

Gretl Lam on See You On the Other Side by Matthew Wong

"Matthew Wong was a rising young painter who died of suicide on October 2, 2019. … [There is a] sense of isolation and longing in the painting, depicted by the solitary figure on a barren ridge, looking back at a house in lush green surroundings."

Total Database Contents

  • 178 Visual Art Annotations
  • 2888 Literature Annotations
  • 286 Performing Art Annotations
  • 100 Artists
  • 1843 Authors
  • 184 Keywords