Sun and sand

The DO Book Club, July 2024: Summer beach reads with a medical twist

The DO staff and Book Club writers share our top suggestions for summer beach reads. From autobiography to fiction, there is something for everyone.


Summer is in full swing, and many of us are planning to spend some of this season at the beach. For those looking to kick back and relax with a good book, The DO staff and Book Club writers have pulled together our top suggestions for summer beach reads—ranging from autobiography to fiction, there is something for everyone, and each selection has a medical component.

Below are The DO’s recommendations for summer 2024—let us know in the comments what your favorite beach read is!

“The Collected Regrets of Clover” by Mikki Brammer

Recommended by: Joan Naidorf, DO

As physicians, we spend much of our time and energy trying to keep our patients well and, when necessary, ease their worries toward the end of life. Wouldn’t it be so much easier if our patients were more prepared for and accepting of their inevitable end?

We can all learn a few lessons from Clover, a death doula living in New York City. End-of-life doulas are professionals who help people prepare for their death and reflect on their lives. Author Mikki Brammer has composed a tale of youthful angst, wisdom and biting insight in this lovely novel.

We follow Clover through the highs and lows as she helps move people toward dying peacefully. It may sound morbid, but this is generally a happy book. Clover helps people write letters, make calls and summon their loved ones at the end. For one dying woman, Clover implores her to hang on until her parents can arrive at the bedside to say goodbye.

Clover has been so invested in helping people have a beautiful death, she has isolated herself from having a big, interactive life. She prides herself on hiding her emotions and lives vicariously through her beloved romantic comedy movies. The fortress she has built around her heart eventually starts to crack.

A very wise old neighbor finally advises Clover: “… the secret to a beautiful death is to live a beautiful life. Putting your heart out there. Letting it get broken. Taking chances. Making mistakes … promise me kid, that you’ll let yourself live.” (p. 293)

I promise you, for a book largely about death and dying, this is an uplifting and charming read that will enrich your summer.

“Demon Copperhead” by Barbara Kingsolver

Recommended by: Rose Raymond, AOA assistant director of content

Last summer, during my family’s annual vacation in Northern Michigan, my mother spent hours camped out on the deck of our Airbnb utterly absorbed with this Pulitzer Prize-winning novel. When she recommended it to me, I was skeptical, as it generally covers how the opioid epidemic began in Appalachia in the 1990s. Although this is an important topic worth understanding, I was worried the book would be too dark and would leave me feeling sad. 

However, my mom assured me that the book is intense but ultimately uplifting, and after seeing how she couldn’t put it down, I decided to give it a read, and I am so glad I did. Reading this book gave me a better understanding of both the opioid crisis and the Appalachian region.

In the novel, Kingsolver deftly explains how the opioid crisis began in Appalachia through the lens of well-developed and memorable characters. She also, through the characters’ stories, covers the factors at play, such as lack of investment and inadequate health care access, that created an environment where opioids could easily establish a foothold.

Kingsolver is also a master storyteller, and the narrative arc of the main character, who is nicknamed “Demon,” left me breathless and anxious to find out what was going to happen next. The book and Demon are loosely based on Charles Dickens’ “David Copperfield,” and Dickens fans will delight in recognizing the parallels between the two novels. 

“At Least You Have Your Health” by Madi Sinha, MD

Recommended by: Katie Arvia, AOA digital content specialist

When I have free time, it’s likely that I’ll be reading. Last year alone, I read over 100 novels, and I’m on track to finish about 80 this year. My taste in books is all over the place, but I always enjoy stories that are both emotional and empowering. “At Least You Have Your Health” checks both of those boxes, as well as several others that make this novel so enjoyable.

Dr. Sinha’s book follows Maya Rao, MD, a gynecologist who is struggling to navigate the expectations of her career, family and society. A second-generation Indian American, Dr. Rao often encounters casual racism and microaggressions from those around her, sometimes even from her patients. One of those latter instances ultimately leads her to losing her job at the city hospital where she attended residency and worked for her entire career.

When she meets an entrepreneur who is passionate about women’s health and empowerment, Dr. Rao joins Eunoia, a concierge wellness clinic that offers house calls to its wealthy (and often out-of-touch) clients. Dr. Rao begins caring for patients who prefer to march to the beat of their own drum (and invest in healing crystals rather than follow Dr. Rao’s proven medical advice), which often forces her to question her own morals. Plus, when her boss’s daughter comes down with a mysterious ailment, Dr. Rao must face her own past trauma head-on and ultimately do what’s right for her patients.

“At Least You Have Your Health” examines wealth disparities in health care, the power of overcoming trauma and the dedication of physicians. These themes will be very relatable to many health care professionals. Dr. Rao is a lovable main character whom I couldn’t help but root for; she experiences realistic character development and is resilient despite the hurdles in her path. This poignant and well-crafted piece of fiction is a must-read for the summer.

“The Beauty of Dusk: On Vision Lost and Found” by Frank Bruni

Recommended by: Tim Barreiro, DO

On what seemed to be a routine evening, New York Times bestselling author Frank Bruni went to bed seeing the world one way and woke up seeing it another. After a battery of testing and clinical uncertainty, he learns that he has non-arteritic anterior ischemic optic neuropathy (NAION), a rare disorder with extraordinarily little scientific understanding. His sight is permanently affected, as is the life he once loved and must learn to love again.

This is a phenomenal read that is highly personal and soberly reflective. In the autobiography, the author shares about his experiences in the medical community, along with the personal and emotional changes of relearning the world. The uncertainty of his new situation set the author on a path of personal growth and spiritual enlightenment, even for an agnostic. Illness changes his worldly and personal views about loss, love and understanding.

His writing style is fluid; words flow with deep, thought-provoking elements that make one contemplate what is a good life and appreciate what we all take for granted. The autobiography explores how Bruni and others with similar disabilities deliberately and purposefully shape their own lives and find happiness. The author is forced to face his past and the new challenges that come from hardship.

This book has similar qualities to “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly,” a memoir published in 1997 by journalist and editor-in-chief of French Elle, Jean-Dominique Bauby. Bauby also describes his life before and after he fell victim to a rare brain stem stroke that left him with locked-in syndrome. Bauby’s book describes the aftermath of a 20-day coma, after which he awakes to a new world in which only his left eye is working. Miraculously, he can express himself dictating a word at a time, blinking to select each letter. His journey, like Bruni’s, is one of understanding and enriched emotions.

“The Beauty of Dusk” explores humanity in terms of memory, freedom, isolation, resilience and determination. It is a fascinating and informational autobiography for clinicians seeking a deeper understanding of what patients go through.

“The Weight of Beautiful” by Jackie Goldschneider

Recommended by: Alexa Matthews, AOA multimedia content specialist

Don’t let the fact that this author is a Real Housewife turn you off from this book. This autobiography is empowering, inspirational and relatable. “The Weight of Beautiful” tells the story of author Jackie Goldschneider’s decades-long eating disorder as she transitions from a young, insecure teen to her current roles as both a mom and reality star.

When her pediatrician first broaches the idea of Goldschneider losing weight as a teen, she is embarrassed and works hard to hide these feelings from her friends and family, who praise each pound she loses until it gets to a scary place. This book provides a glance into the minds of those who have and are suffering from eating disorders. Goldschneider is vulnerable throughout each chapter, giving snippets of what it was like obsessively tracking calories, working out for hours at a time and breaking down as her body changed throughout the years.

While eating disorders are more frequently talked about these days, it can still be difficult to know how to handle the situation as a friend or loved one. Goldschneider provides insights into what her family and friends could have done to help her dig out of this hole, and what lessons she needed to learn on her own.

“I talk myself through [these feelings] until those toxic thoughts leave, so I can continue on with this beautiful new life where I can finally eat, where I feed my body like a human body is meant to be fed, and where I love myself the way I always should have, the way I never knew how to before,” writes Goldschneider (p. 217).

Although at times these struggles leave the reader feeling concerned for the author’s health, there is also a major lesson in both hope and growth. Goldschneider is eventually able to overcome the disorder, and is honest with her challenges in doing so. If you’re currently going through a similar experience, you may find comfort and empowerment in the hope that you will also be able to arrive at this healing place one day. This is an educational, emotional and hopeful book for those wanting a more personal summer read.

Editor’s note: The views expressed in this article are the authors’ own and do not necessarily represent the views of The DO or the AOA.

Related reading:

The DO Book Club, May 2024: ‘Perimenopause for Dummies’

The DO Book Club, March 2024: ‘Go by Boat’ and ‘Island Medicine’

One comment

  1. Susan Engle RN, MSN

    My labor patient was reading a book that she highly recommended.
    Remedies For Sorrow by Megan Nix. This book was very well written and is a story of one mom’s journey with a second child who contracted congenital CMV and was profoundly deaf at birth. It is heartwarming, informative and a must read for anyone who wants to have a child and avoid exposure to CMV while pregnant. CMV is highly contagious, and physicians are not reviewing the risks with pregnant patients like they should.

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