Here are very short reviews of a few good books

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Photo by Sincerely Media on Unsplash

During the pandemic, I actually haven’t read as much as usual. Real life has been distracting lately. Combined with some personal struggles and my final semester of college, reading just hasn’t been at the top of my list of things to do. However, I have managed to read some good non-fiction worth sharing, and so here’s a list of some books I enjoyed to take your mind off the world outside.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (5/5) By Rebecca Skloot

Technology & Escape in Clinical Settings

Life on the Oncology ward of a Children’s hospital is a balance of knowing. On one hand, from the moment you walk into the space, you know you’re safe. The walls are full of colorful painted butterflies and the floor to ceiling windows let in a penthouse view of the surrounding city. The nurses smile at you and give you warm blankets. You know everyone’s name. It’s the only place in the world you’ve ever seen another bald person your age and you get excited to see your patient friends. …

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I often feel as though I have to spend every second of my life explaining my worth to other people. As a 20 something disabled woman in the ‘high-risk’ category during the COVID-19 pandemic, it has become more and more difficult for me to read the news or go on social media. It has become exhausting to read comments sections and listen to debates about whether or not masks are effective. My social media feed has become akin to the 7th ring of hell as my peers return to bars and brunch dates. At this point, everything just feels insulting. …

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Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

The first time I had to wear an N95 mask was on July 3, 2018 — the first day of my bone marrow transplant treatment. I was 20 years old, set to start chemotherapy the next day, and although I wasn’t yet immune-compromised, I was in an air compressed room on the Oncology floor of a children’s hospital, and it was the rule for all admitted patients and guests to wear one.

“Trust me,” the physical therapist said as she handed me a small, blue N95 mask, “The sooner you get used to wearing it, the easier this will be.”

I turned the mask awkwardly over in my hands, taking in another new rule that I was supposed to follow. I maneuvered the strap over my newly bald head and moved the mask into place. It felt tight on my face; I felt like I couldn’t take a full breath. I fiddled with it a bit as I walked down the hallway, my IV pole in tow. I remember making a joke about feeling like Bane from The Dark Knight, and I wondered how anyone managed to function with one on every day. I hoped that it wouldn’t be a long term thing and the doctors assured me it wouldn’t be. Just 100 days of isolation after chemotherapy. …

This America has always been here. Nothing has changed.

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Photo by visuals on Unsplash

All of my worlds are being brought together in the midst of a national disaster. While the rest of America is hoarding supplies, worrying about physical contact, and experiencing the terrors and loneliness of isolation for the first time, nothing in my life has actually changed that much. In fact, for me, it has always been this way. The world of accommodation and the broken American health care system has always existed, but the American public is only just now starting to experience the full picture.

As an immune-compromised person who has been practicing social distancing and extreme cleanliness for almost two years, watching the rest of the world begin to adjust to my everyday life has been interesting. I first began to notice the change about a month ago when wearing my mask in public started to bring unwanted attention. I’ve been wearing a mask in public every day since July of 2018 without a problem, but suddenly in February people began to take an interest — asking me why I was wearing it, where I got it, and if I was sick every time I left the house. Then the cleaning supplies shortage started. The Clorox and Lysol wipes that I’d been using every day were suddenly either completely gone or overly expensive. The masks that I’d been using regularly slowly became impossible to buy. For the first time, I started to notice that other people were being more careful about handshakes; opting to smile or touch elbows instead. …

26 is a Scary Number in America. Moderate Health Care Policy Won’t Fix it.

I am terrified of college graduation. Like most of my peers, impending graduation day feels like I’m being pushed off of a cliff into the real world.

But unlike most of my graduating class, I’m not worried about getting a job or possibly getting engaged. I’m more concerned about what I might lose once those things happen — specifically my health care.

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Photo by Hush Naidoo on Unsplash

As a non-related bone marrow transplant survivor, my life has revolved around my health care for about a decade. I was diagnosed with multiple autoimmune conditions and a rare blood disease when I was 18, although my issues began long before the diagnosis. At the age of 20, in the middle of my undergraduate degree, I received a bone marrow transplant in July of 2018. Now, almost a year and a half later, I have been cured of my disease but require constant treatment to manage my brand new immune system. …

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Screen shot from Amazon

Rating: 5/5 Stars

This book is good for: People with a basic understanding of Biology/interest in modern medicine, Pre-med students, students interested in research, anyone interested in end of life care or health policy.

This book is not good for: A light/fun casual read. Do NOT send this to a cancer patient or their family as a gift. Do NOT read this book if you’re not in a good headspace.

Read this book if you liked: Being Mortal, The Emperor of all Maladies, books by Malcolm Gladwell, Books by Yuval Noah Harari, Medical research. …

How to Stay Human in Hospitals

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Photo by Marcelo Leal on Unsplash

“Are you ready for your bath?” The nurse turns on the computer and scrolls through my chart, “It looks like you haven’t used your wipes yet today.”

I groan and turn my body to face her, “Shouldn’t I wait until this is done? I’m not sure I could get out of this shirt even if I tried.” I motion to the IV drip connected to the double broviac in my chest. This is the typical method of IV insertion for bone marrow transplant patients, although some doctors prefer a port, depending on the dose of chemotherapy a patient is receiving.

A double broviac is surgically implanted in the chest and has two IV lines that can be used to send medication directly to the veins in the heart. This is different than a port, because it is constantly present and cannot be covered up. A port, on the other hand, can be covered by the skin for periods of time when it’s not being used and then ‘accessed’ again. All things considered, I didn’t mind my broviac most of the time — it meant I was poked a lot less. …

A Pro-Choice Argument for English Majors

COLUMBUS — With the recent introduction of a total abortion ban in the state of Ohio, the real meaning of seemingly arbitrary words has never felt more relevant. The proposed legislation is very focused on the definition of the word person and it could determine a lot more than you might think.

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Photo by Romain Vignes on Unsplash

As a young woman studying English in undergrad, I spend a lot time thinking about words and their meanings. Like anyone who dreams of someday becoming a writer, I know that the words we choose to describe the world matter — just ask Donald Trump’s Twitter feed or the Anti-Vaxx Mom’s on Facebook. Language is the king of social media and arguably the key to understanding the most important issues of our time. …

Roxane Gay takes up space. In your brain, on the page, on Twitter — and she wants you to know it too. In the Bad Feminist essayist’s newest book Hunger, Gay tackles her own complicities and insecurities, tracing her life as a black fat queer woman through the events that have unfolded over the course of her life. From the beginning, it’s clear that Gay isn’t going to give us the traditional tale of redemption or the traditional happy ending, which she tells the reader within the first couple of pages. Instead, she is focused on making the reader understand what the story is not. “This is not a story of triumph,” Gay says from page one. “Mine is not a success story. Mine is, simply, a true story.” Her starting paragraphs set the tone for the rest of the memoir, both in their honesty and in their structure. Gay is definitely an essayist at heart and not your typical narrative writer; nor is her exploration of her own life typical. She lays the foundation of the book in her childhood innocence, her rape, and everything afterwards. In this way she effectively lays out the real effect of trauma — it is not simply the act that is impactful, but everything that comes afterwards. Throughout the book, the reader is brought to understand Gay’s understanding of the real reason behind her weight gain and loss, her chaotic twenties, and the events that brought her moments of clarity in between. The book’s resolution is not necessarily a happy ending, but a process of coming to a bittersweet understanding and almost acceptance.


Kathryn Poe

Non-Fiction Books. Health Care. Politics. Inquires:,

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