The Woodward Financial Advisors Bookshelf: What We’re Reading

Bookshelf

As the weather gets a little cooler and it becomes that much more enticing to sit in front of the fireplace with a good book, we thought we would pass along two titles from the Woodward Financial Advisors bookshelf. For variety, we’ve included both a fiction and non-fiction recommendation.

Dear Committee Members, by Julie Schumacher

I first heard about this book on NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast in early summer, well before it was released in August. Based on the brief review, I was excited to read the book when it finally came out, and I wasn’t disappointed. And if you’ve ever written, requested, read or been asked to write a letter of recommendation, you won’t be either. The book consists of letters of recommendation written by the main character, Jason T. Fitger (Professor of creative writing and English at fictitious Payne University), to, among others, his dean, his literary agent, his department chair, numerous potential employers for his students, his ex-wife, and his ex-mistress.

As an epistolary novel, the book is admittedly a little gimmicky. But the gimmick works. The letters range from being funny, biting, emotional and painful. Parents may want to suggest this book to their college-age children as a cautionary tale: it’s just a bad idea to ask professors with whom you only have a marginal relationship to write letters of recommendation, particularly if those professors are as cynical, pompous and jaded as Fitger. And academics may want to suggest this book to each other, as Schumacher superbly captures the tedium, banality and pettiness of interdepartmental squabbles. The book is a great reflection of Wallace Sayre’s quote about academic politics being the most vicious and bitter form of politics, because the stakes are so low. This is a quick read, and a good one.

Your Medical Mind: How to Decide What is Right for You, by Jerome Groopman, MD and Pamela Hartzband, MD

Released in 2011, Your Medical Mind lays waste to the idea that all we need to make good, rational medical decisions is a sufficient amount of information. In fact, what’s more likely is that we’re now inundated with too much information, ranging from differing doctor’s opinions to expert (and not-so-expert) recommendations to the vast rabbit hole of Internet forums and message boards. What’s been lost along the way is the fact that medical decisions are inherently personal and unique. And in being personal, each individuals’ experience and world view has a powerful impact on how they might weigh the benefits and risks of various treatments.

This book came highly recommended by a fellow financial planner who happens to be a trained physician. I actually found the book to be a little light in some spots, and maybe even a little too “self-helpy” in others. But the saving grace – and perhaps a good enough reason on its own to read the book – is the chapter that deals with how doctors and hospitals respond to Health Care Powers of Attorney and Advanced Directives. Using real life examples, Groopman and Hartzband paint a somewhat disturbing picture of how our medical decision beliefs sometimes change in the face of what seems to be impending death, as well as the challenge of simply getting physicians to honor what may be expressed in health care planning documents. The most recent Woodward Financial Advisors newsletter talked about how people can start planning a “good death.” Your Medical Mind is a great companion book to help frame your thoughts around these important issues.

About Ben Birken

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