Do no harm

by Henry Marsh

This book had long been in the bestseller charts before I picked it up. I forget who recommended it to me, but it took two or three mentions from people close to me before I tried it and then I was like everyone else who has read it - evangelistically urging everyone I know to read it too!

How could a book about brain surgery be so interesting, so accessible and so compelling? I knew nothing about the author before reading this book and haven't heard him on the radio or seen him on tv, though I have since been told he has had a high media presence. Through this account of his professional life, he comes across as a very attractive individual - in how he has dealt with success and failure, the challenges he has faced, saving lives, making mistakes, and acknowledging when there is no more to be done.

While he doesn't underplay the intricacies of the brain or the skill of the surgeon, he doesn't overwhelm us with the science. He has succeeded in making the subject and the practice fascinating and accessible. The injuries and diseases do not seem so terrifying because it is so astonishing what can be achieved by the medical profession. And the surgeon is presented as human and flawed, but also compassionate, dedicated and hardworking.

Reading the book I felt I wanted to contribute to the science and the work! That isn't to deny the author's undeniable skill, experience and intellect, or to have an over-inflated sense of my own capability, but rather an indication of the power of the writing. I felt inspired, liberated, enabled, encouraged by Marsh. I wanted to learn more and more because he was so clear in his explanations and made the subject so fascinating.

I am thrilled that this book has won so many awards, plaudits and recognition. It is remarkable. Everyone should read it!

Review date: December 2015
Do no harm by Henry Marsh