Atul Gawande: The Thoughtful Doctor

Atul Gawande has been many things: Rhodes scholar, husband, father, journalist, surgeon, political advisor, and author. His writings show that he is as thoughtful as he is meticulous.

After graduating from Stanford, Gawande studied philosophy, politics, and economics at Oxford for one year as a Rhodes scholar. He then began medical school at Harvard, but took a brief detour to advise President Bill Clinton during his 1992 campaign. After finishing medical school, he wrote for Slate and The New Yorker during his residency.

Gawande brings his years of experience to each of his books. His writing breaks down complex issues in a way that is easy to digest without dumbing them down or glossing over certain facts or realities.

Whether you are an insider in the medical community or an outsider looking in, you will leave Atul Gawande’s books having learned something, having been inspired, and having had a lot to think over.


Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right

Drawing from his years of medical experience, Gawande makes the case for checklists, and the order they create out of chaos, in Checklist Manifesto. Though he primarily discusses their use in medical settings, anyone who needs a little more organization in their lives can benefit from this one.

Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End

Our September Book of the Month and Gawande’s most important book to date. Being Mortal examines the ways in which modern medicine can help or hinder us at the end of our lives. Beautifully written with both compassion and logic, this is a must.


Better: A Surgeon’s Notes on Performance

With the precision of a surgeon wielding a scalpel, Gawande’s essays in Better take readings around the world in bizarre and day-to-day situations that surgeons must face. Stumbling over obstacles both ethical and practical, these surgeons must make decisions that will save lives.


Complications: A Surgeon’s Notes on an Imperfect Science

Complications collects Gawande’s New Yorker articles written during his residency. Carefully crafted, these essays critically examine the pressures and expertise required in the field of medicine, and in particular, surgery.

Being Mortal is our September Book of the Month!

Book of the Month: Being Mortal

When we pick our Book of the Month, we don’t just pick a book. We pick a topic, a world, an idea. These have so far been far-ranging matters, from hypothetical science to the Italian coast, busking in Boston to satire in Seattle.

This month’s topic might be the most important we’ve chosen yet: Being Mortal by Atul Gawande.

Because let’s face it: not only are we all going to die someday, but we’re all going to experience the loss of our loved ones, if we haven’t already.

In Being Mortal, doctor and writer Atul Gawande discusses end-of-life care. He takes us through the history of gerontology, assisted living, and provides countless sets of data and anecdotes. Through it all, Gawande says that the medical community as well as patients’ families treat patients as subjects rather than as human beings. It’s rare that we consult the patient on what they really want. But Gawande says that we need to ask people what is important to them, what parts of their lifestyles are they determined to keep.

He gives insight into what the end of life means for different people, and arms listeners with questions to ask, decisions to make, and conversations to start.

But he doesn’t give clear answers. It’s different for everyone. Each individual case is just that—individual. While listening, I couldn’t help but think of my two grandfathers. One, an Indiana farmboy lived a healthy lifestyle but suffered the last years of his life. The other, a white-collar worker with a little too much interest in fun, faced complications at the age of 90, and died relatively peacefully a few months later. I don’t think it gets much more individual than that.

Like me, everyone will bring their own experiences, their own family histories to this book, homing in on the things that we’ve faced in our own lives.

It’s not always comfortable to think about these things. Nobody wants to say to their aging grandmother, “So, you probably have, what? Five good years left? What do you want that to look like?” This book prompts us to ask those questions (though hopefully a little more tactfully).

As for me, I’ve talked to my wife, Dianne, and told her that I believe in quality over quantity of life. I don’t think it’s doing justice to a person to prolong their life if it makes them miserable. But again, it’s individual.

One thing’s for sure. This book is as thought provoking as it is necessary.

Being Mortal is our September Book of the Month. Get it now for $17.95.

Indie Picks: September 2015

The IndieNext bestseller list is one of the best places to find out what’s hot at independent bookstores around the United States. Based on reporting from hundreds of independent bookstores, here’s a sampling of some of the best nonfiction books right now.

Take a look, and remember to #ChooseIndie.

Being Mortal

Being Mortal

by Atul Gawande


H Is for Hawk

by Helen Macdonald


I Am Malala

by Malala Yousafzai


Think Like a Freak

by Steven D. Levitt & Stephen J. Dubner


David and Goliath

by Malcolm Gladwell

Sign up for our newsletter to hear more about your favorite books and indie booksellers.

Get More Done!

I’m lucky. I know that. Most people don’t get to be their own boss, immerse themselves in a field they love and are interested in, or work with their friends. So I know that working as an independent publisher and a cofounder of is unlike most careers.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t find myself stuck, unmotivated, and, on occasion, more likely to go for a run or plan my next vacation than to answer emails or set up business meetings. And in that, I know I’m not alone. Like most people, I ask my friends and colleagues what they do when they get into a rut. The following are some of my and the rest of the team’s favorite books to help us get more done.

We are, after all, going to die someday, as Todd Henry points out in the first few pages of Die Empty. Henry then proceeds to take that stomach-churning, animal anxiety that we have at hearing those words and turn it into a positive, a powerful motivator. To die empty, Henry says, is to die with your best work out there in the world, rather than unrealized.

After feeling the need to create, do, or share, many people are still stuck, feeling exposed, asking, “but can I?” That’s where You Are Now Less Dumb by David McRaney comes into play. McRaney shares tips to beat your own brain, circumventing your own logical fallacies and building up happiness.

Drive and confidence are only part of the equation. If you really want to maximize time, sloughing off hours of labor, take advice from Tim Ferriss, author of The 4-Hour Work Week. Ferriss offers solid advice for delegating tasks, negotiating with confidence and authority, and minimizing actual work. Ferriss is not a psychologist or an economist. He’s a real person, who has managed to turn his life around, going from, as he says “14-hour days and $40,000 per year to 4-hour weeks and $40,000 per month.” Four hours of work may be too extreme for some people. After all, there is more to work than just money, and some of us, myself included, love what we do. But there’s no denying that Ferriss’s techniques are worth exploring.

Speaking of efficiency, The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande demonstrates the power of putting pen to paper and getting more done through simple checklists. The Economist described it as “both a meditation on the growing complexity of the world and a how-to book on coping with that complexity.” Drawing from his background as an endocrine and general surgeon, Gawande shows how something as simple as a checklist can break down any intensive and overwhelming task. In compelling prose, he shares stories of pilots, doctors, chefs and more, using these tricks to deconstruct what would otherwise be tasks too intricate for the human brain to tackle. Checklists are even more important in many of these stories because so often people in these situations are working in vast teams.

I don’t know about you, but I’m actually excited to get back to work already. I’m going to make a list in Simplenote right now.

What books help you fight procrastination? Let us know in the comments or link to your own review. Sign up for our newsletter to hear more about these great authors.