Reviews - e-book and audiobook non-fiction: on journalism, English, and medicine
That’s Not English
by Erin Moore
Two nations separated by a common language is a topic that keeps being repackaged. But Erin Moore finds a way to hold our interest in her book about the differences between British and American English. An American expat who lives in London, she has encountered firsthand the differences in nuance that come with the use of words such as “cheers”, “partner”, even “quite” (when used to modify a gradable adjective, the English use it as a qualifier, the Americans as an emphasiser). Moore explains the words by delving into cultural and historical context, exploring, among other things, class in Britain and pointing out that such distinctions have largely disappeared in the US. Class comes into play, for example, when dealing with “toilet” and its euphemisms. Britons’ “negative politeness” (politeness as refusal) is among Moore’s more interesting essays, as are her musings on “bespoke”, a word “virtually unknown in America”, although “having it your way”, Moore writes, is considered a birthright by Americans.
by Judith Miller
Simon & Schuster
Judith Miller's contribution to The New York Times earned the newspaper a Pulitzer Prize for its reporting in 2001 on al-Qaeda's global network and the US government's underestimation of its threat, but her coverage of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programme was wrong, based, as the stories were, on faulty intelligence. Much of Miller's memoir, chronicling her 28-year career at the publication, concerns how she feels she was made the paper's "scapegoat" (the title of chapter 19). This after bloggers and others started characterising her as a "warmonger who had helped sell … the [Iraq] war" and her own paper fingered her for the mistakes of others. She was not the only reporter who had written articles on the subject that were later proved to be wrong, she notes. Nor was she solely responsible for the false stories about Iraq's mobile germ labs. Those unfamiliar with newsrooms will learn much about their sometimes venomous environments; others will consider how editors also play crucial roles in the way stories are packaged.
The Real Doctor Will See You Shortly
by Matt McCarthy
Random House Audio
The insatiable appetite for behind-the-scenes books about the medical profession may have the target audience being choosy about what they buy. The Real Doctor Will See You Shortly is for would-be medicos and possibly teachers who have forgotten the intense year interns go through to prove their mettle. Matt McCarthy recalls the sometimes 30-hour shifts that earned him the confidence (and competence) to become a supervising resident at a New York hospital. Although a graduate of Harvard Medical School, he was still a beginner when it came to drawing blood: that might explain his near-disastrous accidental needle stick, which resulted in a month of worry and bucketloads of post-exposure HIV prophylactic drugs. Mostly, though, he frets about mistakes he's made that affect others, including missed diagnoses. McCarthy, who is his own narrator, reveals emotional extremes: he is high after bringing back to life a 95-year-old lung cancer patient, but bursts into tears when things go awry. One small criticism is the excessive use of dialogue.