CRC - The Green Bookshop: Recommended Reading for Doctors and Others from the Medical Journal Education for Primary Care

Organization: CRC
Publication Date: 31 May 2009
Page Count: 160


What makes a perfect bookshop? For me the London Review of Books Bookshop in London comes very close. It is not very big but the books are chosen with such care that the choice is always both intriguing and beguiling and it is very rare for me to summon the restraint necessary to leave emptyhanded. It also includes a delightful little café with very good coffee and cakes that are much too tempting. John Salinsky's Green Bookshop has all these components, with a particular emphasis on the importance of the coffee, but it is even better on two counts: fi rstly, his selection is equally broad but it has a subtle slant informed by his years of listening and talking to patients in general practice; and then there is the gentle erudition and commitment of the proprietor himself.

John believes in books as a force for good in the world in general and within general practice in particular. He relishes the power of words to help us make sense of what happens in the worlds around and within us and perhaps particularly to help us to understand the predicament of the other, of those whose experience of life is so different from our own. He believes in the capacity of books to enlarge our sympathies, our outlook and our experience and he knows that this potential is particularly important for doctors. He offers his own delight in books and sets out to tempt his customers to open a book and begin reading but he is never didactic, never seeks to impose his own view or interpretation. His hope is to share one of the great pleasures of his life

John carefully mines books for 'beautiful insights' and 'little images' which stay with him and change his view of the world and of the struggles of his patients within it. He is intrigued by the presence of doctors both as writers and as characters and much of his belief in the importance of literature for doctors is captured in the quotation he selects from Ian McEwan's Atonement:

For this was the point, surely: he would be a better doctor for having read literature. What deep readings his modifi ed sensibility might make of human suffering, of the self-destructive folly or sheer bad luck that drives men towards ill health! Birth, death and frailty in between. Rise and fall - this was the doctor's business and it was literature's, too.

I envy John his hours spent in the peace and comfort of this marvellous bookshop, waiting for customers and reading, always reading. I want to read or re-read every book that he mentions and somehow I must fi nd the time to do this. One obvious and very attractive solution would be to give up paying any attention to the degraded use of words that makes up so much of the policy literature of healthcare and the health service. What a liberation that would be.

On the basis of John Salinsky's fi rst volume on Medicine and Literature, I resolved to read Tristram Shandy and within its magnifi cent prodigality I found, among much else, some wonderful ripostes to the contemporary abuse of words:

- their heads, Sir, are stuck so full of rules and compasses, and have that eternal propensity to apply them upon all occasions, that a work of genius had better go to the devil at once, than stand to be pricked and tortured to death by 'em.

This time, in The Green Bookshop, I have found the perfect gift for my husband's next birthday but its identity must remain a secret. Thank you John.

Authors: John Salinsky, Iona Heath, Matthew Walters