The Doctors Mayo

Author: Helen ClapesattleThe Doctors Mayo

Personal Rating: 5/5

I read this biography some years ago and enjoyed it very much. I had a hard time finding it again because it is out of print. But, of course, Amazon helped.

This biography of two brothers who grew up observing and assisting in their father’s surgery is about a time that will never happen again. As Will Mayo said “We grew up to surgery with our father the same as a farmer grows up with his.” They entered the field just as antiseptic surgery with anesthesia was starting. This opened huge opportunities for new treatments.

The brothers were extremely bright, extremely dedicated, willing to spend multiple months a year to travel and learn the techniques of others and humble enough to share credit and information widely and freely.

The history of medicine embedded in this biography is interesting in its own right, but the personalities that shaped the Mayo Clinic in the 1920’s and 1930’s is also compelling.  Their organizational creation has after nearly a century left Mayo Clinic the #1 ranked hospital in the US again last year. A great read.

Washington

Author: Douglass Freeman

Personal Rating: 5/5

Washington is the fundamental figure of the Revolution. Revolutions are plagued by their leaders converting their prestige into dictatorship. The institutions that we have in the United States exist because of Washington. He was continually mistreated by Congress during the Revolution yet he consistently respected and supported their authority. Cromwell did not do as well. He was harshly vilified by Jefferson’s publicity machine yet refused to curb the press or attack is opponents. His army wanted to make him king but he refused. His power and integrity allowed our country to escape the consequences of so many revolutions.

Alexander Hamilton

Author: Ron Chernow

Personal Rating: 5/5

I have always been a fan of Thomas Jefferson. However, I was concerned about Jefferson’s treatment of Washington and his non-involvement in most of the Revolution. Hamilton is always portrayed as the “royalist” defeated by the “populist” Jefferson.

Chernow’s book sheds a lot of good light on this subject. He clearly points out that Hamilton, the “royalist”, was the one who worked his way up from nothing to eventually establish the economic basis of our country’s treasury and never owned a slave. Jefferson, the “populist”, inherited wealth that he ran into debt and lived off of slaves who he never freed.

David Copperfield

Author: Charles Dickens

Personal Rating 5/5

“Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show”

Thus begins my favorite Dickens book. I cannot really tell you why I like it so much. Maybe it is relating to little Davy, though my own life is very much unlike his. I think it is the underlying theme of the shear goodness found in otherwise ordinary, quirky people. I just feel good living in David’s world, even through his trials and dark days. All those great characters: Agnes, Uriah Heep, Steerforth, Dora, the Peggottys, Traddles and Aunt Betsy.

To Kill a Mockingbird

Author: Harper Lee

Personal Rating: 5/5

This is one of my personal all time favorite books. I grew up in the 1960’s and I remember the unrest at the time. I remember when blacks had separate drinking fountains and I remember when Martin Luther King was killed. These things did not happen in my little part of Central California, but they were on the news.

What I love about this book is that it reaches into the heart of a very difficult time of race relations. This is not an angry book. It is not a shouted protest. It is the view of a child watching a very good man try to do a very good thing and in the end he both lost and won. It shares a tone and theme with Alan Paton’s Cry the Beloved Country.

I have read this many times and enjoy it every time. The movie with Gregory Peck is equally powerful. In my mind he is always Atticus Finch.