National Library Week: Two Book Reviews (Part 1)

Note: To celebrate National Library Week I have two “Healthy Reading” reviews. The first is Hospital Land USA, reviewed below, and the second one is Dropping Acid:THE REFLUX DIET COOKBOOK & CURE, to be my next posting, which includes a tasty recipe.

Hospital Land USA:  Sociological Adventures in Medicalization by Wendy Simonds

In this scathing exposé of all that is wrong with our medical system, written by Wendy Simonds, a professor of Sociology and Director of Graduate Studies in the Gerontology Institute at Georgetown University.  So her credentials are solid. But in this book, Wendy also includes her own personal, subjective view of everyday hospital practices, so we have a combination of personal and objective viewpoints.

First, let’s define the term “medicalization” from the lengthy Introduction. To be medicalized “Means to submit to medical authority, to understand one’s body, mind, self through a medical lens.”  Simonds explains further about “through a medical lens,” which means that “We tend to accept medicalized approaches to health as definitive and morally right.” (p. 11)

The bookis dedicated to the memory of Chet Weeks, young friend and colleague, whose life was cut short by cancer. Simonds provides a blow-by-blow description of Ceht’s hospitalization for cancer and ultimate death in 2008, including his collaboration with the author while he was hospitalized. The story is not pretty and shows the way patients are often treated with little true compassion or care under the guise of excellent medical care. Her own hospital experiences and those of her father are also included, so much of the book is subjective.

Since she is a sociologist, her personal views are mixed in with her own field of expertise, so at times, the two merge. For example, the author takes photos of signs in the hospital which she often describes as callous, disrespectful and filled with sick humor, for both the patient and staff. I think she sees the photos through both her personal experiences and through the eyes of a sociologist with a wry sense of humor. Also, she invokes the term S&M, but in this book it stands for Science and Medicine.

This is not an easy book to read, because much of it is painfully true, especially if you have ever been hospitalized and found medical treatment to be impersonal, detached, and matter-of-fact about a serious illness. The author includes statistics
to back up her premises, and some of the personal stories I could identify with as a patient in a hospital.

The title Hospital Land USA with a picture of a ferris wheel in the background gives the message that much of what goes on in hospitals and doctors’ offices is like a circus with lousy rides, terrible food, and people who run the circus totally oblivious or unaware/uncaring of how poorly the circus is run. You need to read it yourself to see if Simonds is only grinding her own axe or if what she writes about rings true.

What I do agree with is another statement from the Introduction: “Medicalization is so omnipresent in the United States, and we are so steeped in it that it can be difficult (or even impossible) to see.” For me, this book is a perfect example of the children’s story, “The Emporer’s New Clothes.” And Wendy Simonds is like the child who was bold enough to expose the king, or in this case, hospitals. And her extensive Bibilograpy provides lots of proof!

Hospital Land USA is published by Rutledge, New York & England. 258 pages.

P.S. The back page has five endorsements that are worth noting. For example, Wendy Chapkis, PhD Professor of Sociology writes a good description of what this book offers: “Fueled by equal parts grief and rage and infused with acerbic humor, Hospital Land USA captures the dehumanizing and disempowering effects of treratment and hospitalization……” And Gayle Sulik, PhD author of Pink Ribbon Blues: How Breast Cancer Culture Undermines Women’s Health that I reviewed in 2011*, notes that “….The curing and caring that co-exists in this medicalized space often fails to account for the suffering involved in caring for the sick and old. Highly recommended.” *Link to my review:

Falling in Love Again by Monica Morris, PhD

I wish I had this book when I was navigating the dating scene after 30 years of marriage, which ended in a painful divorce.  Monica Morris, PhD would have been a big help! But for those of you who find yourself newly single, whether it is due to divorce, or if you are widowed, as the author Dr. Morris was after 40 years of a self-described good marriage, this is a must-read guide.

As the author notes in the preface: “Human beings thrive on love.” Of course, I had convinced myself that love of family and friends would be enough if I could not find a mate. After 13 years of being single, I had just about convinced myself that there were worse things than being single. And there were, but that was my “excuse” for not finding a mate.

This book will help you search for a new partner—if that is what you are seeking. The subtitle, “The Mature Woman’s Guide to Finding Romantic Fulfillment,” further defines the topics covered in the book. After explaining her own personal single situation, the author (who is a sociologist) launches into the various aspects of being single after a long relationship and gently guides us through our options.

The book is laced with ideas and guidelines, but the most important aspect, I think, is that Dr. Morris emphasizes confidence as the key to finding love again. Her list on page 2 sets the tone, noting that the confidence to be brave comes with the following:

  • having reasonable expectations
  • understanding the situation
  • understanding yourself
  • knowing you have done the best with what you have
  • knowing you are prepared
  • getting involved in the world
  • having something to say for yourself
  • knowing that what you want is “normal”
  • knowing you can look after yourself

Using herself as the guinea pig, Dr. Morris conducted research by dating many, many men and researching the whole world of what I call “singledom.” The chapters cover topics such as: personal ads and dating services, enriching your life while looking, to sleep with your date or not, and alternatives to romantic love.

I like the author’s no-nonsense approach to the idea of finding love as an older person. I was 65 when I met my second husband, and the road was bumpy because this book had not yet been written. Since I experienced much of what the author describes, it has an authentic ring for me and I think it will for you, as well. Her background in sociology provides added value to the research, especially the stories included of other women seeking mates. The book, in general, has a strong ring of validity.

The only area Dr. Morris did not cover was that of women who find themselves attracted to other women later in life.  I think this topic would be a great one for the author’s next book.

Falling in Love Again is published by Square One Publishers and sells for $14.95. Look for it in your favorite bookstore or from Amazon online (Click on link below.).

Also available from and

Trivia Note: When I first saw the topic, the title was so familiar. My (second) husband reminded me that it is from a song with the same title and the song was sung by Marlene Dietrich in 1929. Dietrich landed the breakthrough role of Lola-Lola, a cabaret singer who causes the downfall of a hitherto respected schoolmaster.

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