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Four book covers on a indigo-cloud background. L-R: Blood, Landscapes of Care, Ultra-Processed People, Rebel Health

10 summer reads on public health

A staff selection of must-reads for the season
May 28, 2024
Read Time
4 min

Summer is a great time to step away from the daily grind and find new ideas and inspiration in a book. From stories about patients taking control of their health care to the fascinating (and rage-inducing) history of menstruation to ideas for making the United States less lonely, we’ve got you covered with this list of summer reads.

Rebel Health by Susannah Fox offers a comprehensive guide to creating, supporting, and learning from patient communities that have sprung up online and in-person (think long COVID groups). The book seeks to empower patient leaders and calls on health care workers to join a growing movement supporting patient-led health care.

Landscapes of Care by Thurka Sangaramoorthy examines how U.S. immigration policy and corporatized models of care worsen disparities in health outcomes and care delivery. Sangaramoorthy reveals the ways that immigrants and rural residents have developed similar but distinct forms of solidarity and inclusion—and how health care policy might be reshaped in response.

The Outbreak Atlas by Rebecca Katz and Mackenzie Moore is the book you want on your shelf if—or when—the next pandemic comes. The authors pull back the curtain on the considerations, procedures, and decision-making that go into managing an outbreak, including how to prepare, how to respond, and how to rebuild in the aftermath.

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The Anxious Generation by Jonathan Haidt makes the case for getting kids more interested in real life and less interested in their phones. He argues that social media—as distinct from the internet at large—is harming young people and offers suggestions for parents, schools, and policymakers.

Weathering: The Extraordinary Stress of Ordinary Life in an Unjust Society by Arline T. Geronimus explains the physical toll that the stress of social injustice takes on people from marginalized populations. Geronimus coined the term “weathering” decades ago after observing that prolonged activation of the body’s fight-or-flight response prematurely ages people, raising their risk, at younger ages, of developing chronic diseases and pregnancy complications. In this book, she updates the theory with the latest science.

Blood by Jen Gunter offers a comprehensive and accessible overview of the menstrual cycle, the common concerns that face menstruating people, and the treatments available for reproductive health complications. Gunter also takes aim at a patriarchal medical system that has long treated women as off-brand men and dismissed their unique health issues.

The Cancer Factory by Jim Morris follows the growth of a bladder cancer cluster at a Goodyear tire factor due to workers’ exposure to a carcinogenic chemical used to make synthetic rubber tires. The book weaves together voices of cross-generational workers, their families, and their advocates, and calls out failures throughout a system that continues to neglect workers’ health.

Death in Custody by Roger A. Mitchell and Jay D. Aronson argues that how we count people who die in legal custody is a justice issue in and of itself. Connecting history, data, and contemporary policy, the book explores how the deaths of people the public often thinks “had it coming” reveal long-standing inequalities in the criminal legal system.

Project UnLonely by Jeremy Nobel explores the physical and mental health consequences of loneliness and how to develop effective treatment protocols while reducing the stigma around the condition. Nobel advocates for loneliness screening at checkups and suggests “treatments” like museum visits, classes, and nature walks.

Ultra-Processed People by Chris van Tulleken places the blame for chronic diet-related diseases on industrial and synthetic food. The author interweaves expert interviews and academic studies with his story of experimenting with eating an ultra-processed diet—which he says gave him insatiable cravings, weight gain, and health complications.

—Amy Roeder and Harvard Public Health staff

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