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5 books to read that inspires health literacy

I am a passionate reader and has always been. My family says I am addicted to books and I can't pass a bookshop without having to make a visit. The great thing about books is that they can be passed on and on and in this way convey information to knowledge and inspire actions and social change not only of one person, but many.

Here is a short list of 5 books that have recently inspired my thoughts and work on health literacy. Perhaps they can inspire you too...

1. Last Reader Standing: The Story of a Man who Learned to Read at 54 written by Archie Willard

This book was recommended by American health literacy colleagues. Sadly, Archie Willard recently passed away, but his thoughts will keep inspire many to be aware of and support people who face difficulties with reading and writing. His advocacy for adult learners is truly admirable.

2. The First Signs. Unlocking the Mysteries of the World's Oldest Symbols written by Genevieve von Petzinger

The author brings us back to pre-historic times in her quest to identify the first signs made by humans. From cave to cave she explores the variation and similarities of signs and drawings and discusses the creativity and its impact on the development of communication tools and cognition among the first people on earth. Advancing health literacy these days is just one more step along this line of development which stretches back through thousands of years.

3. The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman

This book was recommended by a student of mine participating in the summer school on health literacy at Maastricht University in 2016. It tells the story about a hmong child, her American doctors, and the collision of two cultures. Living in multi-national societies the story of this book is relevant for many countries and it reminds us about the many barriers that are still present in health systems today.

4. Changing Lives: Gustavo Dudamel, El Sistema, and the Transformative Power of Music written by Tricia Tunstall

On the first day of the year it has been a tradition to listen to the New Year's Concert transmitted from Vienna in Austria. This year, it was particular interesting as it was one of the youngest conductors ever to perform with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. The conductor was Gustavo Dudamei and reading about his achievements and his thoughts on the transformative power of music for social change was uplifting. Through the investment of time, attention and capacity building it is possible to develop the fullest potential of children to become active citizens in their communities.

5. Insanely Simple. The Obsession That Drives Apple's Success by Ken Segall

Again and again we talk about lowering barriers to overcome the challenge of complexity in healthcare. This book about Apple's success that leans on simplicity, user-friendliness and a persistent fight to avoid any un-needed distractions provides inspirational input on how we could proceed with our work, if we dare look for lessons learned in other sectors.


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