April 1, 2017 Booklist 9 www.booklistonline.com
such as the balance between professional knowledge and patient-centered care. —Patricia Smith
Miracle Cure: The Creation of Antibiotics and the Birth of
By William Rosen.
May 2017. 368p. illus. Viking, $28 (9780525428107). 615.7.
Like any good story, the creation of antibiotics involves compelling
characters, exotic (and mundane) settings, con;ict, and a theme. Add
a heaping of dirt and mold, because these “wonder drugs” were often
derived from bacteria in soil. Rosen (;e Most Powerful Idea in the
World, 2010) follows antibiotics from their detection to industrial development to proliferation to overutilization. Such familiar ;gures as
Alexander Fleming and Paul Ehrlich are introduced, along with many
others, including doctors, chemists, government o;cials, philanthropists, and drug company executives. Antibiotics have been likened to
“magic bullets,” targeting a disease-causing microbe without injuring
the human host. Golden-age antibiotics (penicillin, streptomycin, tetracycline, erythromycin, chloramphenicol) are reviewed, with special
attention paid to the discovery and mass production of penicillin,
which involved physician Howard Florey, manufacturing innovations,
and a moldy cantaloupe in a Peoria, Illinois, market. Presently, the
introduction of new antibiotics is dangerously slow; fewer than 100
are currently available. ;e war between man and pathogenic microbes
continues to be waged, and our arsenal of antibiotics sure can use an
upgrade. — Tony Miksanek
Sonata: A Memoir of Pain and the Piano.
By Andrea Avery.
May 2017. 272p. Pegasus, $27.95 (9781681774091). 616.
Most of us take our health for granted, but what if, for most of
your life, you were subjected to interminable pain and surgery after
surgery? ;is is what Avery chronicles in her memoir of living with
a chronic illness: rheumatoid arthritis. Her life changed forever in
May 1989, when, at 12 years of age, she received the o;cial diagnosis and her body turned on itself, attacking her joints, muscles,
bones, and tendons. ;ere were plenty of moments when the symptoms disappeared, only to return again with a vengeance. Music
helped save her life—speci;cally, playing the piano and, even more
speci;cally, Schubert’s sonata in B-;at D960. By the time she was a
teenager and the disease had ravaged her hands, she knew “nothing
better than the piano. I loved nothing—no one—more.” Her ;ngers were “extraordinarily good” before they became “extraordinarily
bad.” Despite her devastating condition, Avery makes it clear that
her illness does not de;ne who she is. She may be always sick, but, as
she notes, she is not “sickly.” A moving memoir of living with pain,
and with music. —June Sawyers
Square One: Returning to Life and Competitive Running after
My Devastating Stroke.
By Dirk Vlieks.
May 2017. 224p. illus. Skyhorse, $19.99 (9781510721005); e-book (9781510721012).
Triathlete Vlieks believed that his sport was the most arduous challenge possible. He was mistaken, as life would so dramatically teach
him. Fit and feeling good, Vlieks was about 50 minutes into a 2006
Hawaiian half-Ironman triathlon (a 1.2-mile swim in the ocean followed by a 56-mile bike ride and capped by a 13.1-mile run) when
he suddenly felt strange. He became dizzy, his vision blurred, his head
hurt, his speech slurred, and eventually, the left side of his body became paralyzed. He had experienced a massive hemorrhagic stroke.
Vlieks recounts his six weeks in an intensive care unit, time spent in
a rehabilitation facility, and a ;ve-hour, computer-assisted surgery on
his brain. ;ere was also the welter of emotions—anger, fear, self-pity,
sadness, but always hope, too. At 34, he had to relearn how to eat and
speak and walk. His mending was facilitated by the support of others
and by embracing the importance of patience and kindling the competitive ;re. Happily, ;ve years later, Vlieks returned to Hawaii and
completed the race. — Tony Miksanek
A Stitch of Time: The Year a Brain Injury Changed My
Language and Life.
By Lauren Marks.
May 2017. 368p. Simon & Schuster, $26 (9781451697513); e-book (9781451697612).
Like Susannah Cahalan’s Brain on Fire (2012), Marks’ memoir retraces a period during which she faced an unexpected health challenge
that changed her very identity. A pathogen invaded her body and
jump-started brain in;ammation, paranoia, and seizures, making her
walk and talk like a late-stage Alzheimer’s patient. Marks also experienced a hemorrhagic stroke that damaged tissues and cells in her brain
and impaired her abilities to speak and write. Drawing on the diary
she started in the hospital and kept up in 2007 and 2008, Marks raises
such signi;cant questions as “What kinds of thoughts are impossible
without our full, natural language?” ;is is an intimate chronicle of
a surprisingly common condition, aphasia, the loss of language following brain injury. One in 250 people experience it, making it more
common than Parkinson’s or multiple sclerosis. ;ey and their families
will undoubtedly identify with many of the issues Marks addresses.
Especially helpful is the concluding “Afterthoughts and suggested
reading,” which provides an epilogue on Marks’ condition and excellent resources. —Karen Springen
Through the Shadowlands: A Science Writer’s Odyssey into an
Illness That Science Doesn’t Understand.
By Julie Rehmeyer.
May 2017. 288p. Rodale, $25.99 (9781623367657); e-book (9781623367664). 616.
Most of us know what it feels like to be bone-weary exhausted. But
a good night’s rest usually allows us to wake up the next day feeling
refreshed. But not Rehmeyer. A mathematician and science journalist, she reveals what it is like to live with chronic fatigue syndrome,
a mysterious illness that still bewilders doctors. She describes feeling
so tired that she could barely walk, never mind work, because of
overwhelming lethargy. After seeing doctor after doctor who failed
to help her, she decided to head for the desert, fully expecting to
die. But instead, she slowly learned how to manage her illness. She
worked when she could; she socialized when she felt up to it. She
experimented with her diet. She met with an immunologist. She
researched the possible causes of her condition, looking into the effects of mold and trauma on the human body, and she studied the
positive e;ects of physic healing. “I’m doing really well,” she concludes, “but I’m also not cured.” A hopeful memoir laced with ample
doses of reality. —June Sawyers