Review: Better Now by Danielle Martin

Better Now by Danielle MartinAuthor: Danielle Martin
Title: Better Now: Six Big Ideas to Improve Health Care for All Canadians
Format/Source: ebook/Netgalley
Published: 10 January 2017
Publisher: Allen Lane
Length: 368 pages
Genre: Non-fiction
Why I Read: Browsing NetGalley; topic I’m interested in
Rating: ★★★½
GoodReads | Indigo | IndieBound

I received a complimentary copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

DR. DANIELLE MARTIN see the challenges in our health care system every day. As a family doctor and a hospital vice president, she observes how those deficiencies adversely affect patients. And as a health policy expert, she knows how to close those gaps. A passionate believer in the value of fairness that underpins the Canadian health care system, Dr. Martin is on a mission to improve medicare. In Better Now, she shows how bold fixes are both achievable and affordable. Her patients stories and her own family s experiences illustrate the evidence she presents about what works best to improve health care for all. Better Now outlines Six Big Ideas to bolster Canada s health care system. Each one is centred on a typical Canadian patient, making it clear how close to home these issues strike.

A few days ago, I came across an expose by the CBC’s The Fifth Estate on “The High Cost of Pharmaceuticals: Canada’s Big Drug Problem.” A lot of what that investigation discussed sounded familiar. I had just read all about it in this book, Better Now. I had originally decided to read this book because I thought it would a good supplement to the books I had read last year – books by life and death professionals (ex. family doctor, crematorium technician) about their work and how to improve their field through anecdotal stories about their patients and their own personal lives (is that specific enough? haha).  As described above, Better Now, written by a family doctor who believes ‘in the value of fairness that underpins the Canadian health care system’, presents the following ‘Six Big Ideas’ to improve the system:

  1. Ensure relationship-based primary health care for every Canadian
  2. Bring prescription drugs under Medicare
  3. Reduce unnecessary tests and interventions
  4. Reorganize health care delivery to reduce wait times and improve quality
  5. Implement a basic income guarantee
  6. Scale up successful solutions across the country.

This book turned out to be even more personally relevant than I expected. I am currently searching for a new family doctor, as I found my old one unsatisfactory. I couldn’t pintpoint exactly why, but after reading about these ideas and some of the issues with our system, I see my relationship with my previous doctor reflected in them.  Idea #5 surprised me in a good way. I appreciated how Dr. Martin considers the bigger picture and explores social factors, especially in ideas #5 and #6. Her proposals are indeed ‘big ideas’. She acknowledges the potential difficulties in implementing them, but also presents them as actionable realities. She strikes an appropriate balance between support for the current healthcare system and addressing its shortcomings, which can be improved upon. One area she doesn’t explicitly address is the education of medical professionals, which is an area I imagine could use some changes.

Better Now is written in an accessible style, with straightforward prose. These are complex ideas, but there isn’t too much technical jargon or infodump – just enough so the reader can understand the ideas being presented. This is a short book and therefore largely a starting point. If one concept intrigues you, Martin provides many resources for further reading at the end of the book.

The Bottom Line:

Is it too trite of me to say ‘I recommend this book to any Canadian’? I could say, ‘I recommend this book to any Canadian with a stake in our healthcare system’ – well, isn’t that the same thing? But seriously, if you have any interest or care for your healthcare, check out this book.

Further Reading:

  • Author’s Twitter
  • Book website
  • “The doctor on a mission to heal medicare” @ The Star
  • “Toronto doctor who gave U.S. Senator a lesson on healthcare outlines her ‘6 big ideas’ for Canada” @ CTV News Health

Top 10 Tuesday: 2016 Releases I Didn’t Get To

Top 10 Tuesday banner
Hosted by The Broke and Bookish

I have historically been slow to read ‘new’ releases. I find there can anywhere from one to three years between me adding a yet-to-be-published book to my TBR, and actually getting around to reading it. One of my general priorities this year is to read more front list titles. 2016 gave us a lot of great releases that I have heard so much about, but still haven’t read. Here are 10 2016 releases I want to catch up on this year (links to Goodreads).

If I Was Your GirlEvery Heart a DoorwayThe Charmed Children of Rookskill CastleThe Girl From Everywhere

  1. The Children’s Home by Charles Lambert (5 Jan)
  2. The Girl From Everywhere by Heidi Heilig (16 Feb)
  3. The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle by Janet Fox (15 Mar)
  4. Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan Mcguire (5 Apr)
  5. If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo (3 May)
  6. Before the Fall by Noah Hawley (31 May) – currently borrowing from the library
  7. The Last Days of New Paris by China Mieville (9 Aug)
  8. The Evil Wizard Smallbone by Delia Sherman (13 Sept) – currently borrowing from the library
  9. When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore (4 Oct) – won a copy from Monika @ Lovely Bookshelf
  10. When the Sea Turned to Silver by Grace Lin (4 Oct) – currently borrowing from the library

When the Sea Turned to SilverWhen the Moon Was OursThe Evil Wizard Smallbonethe last days of new parisBefore the Fall

Have you read any of these books? What books from 2016 do you still want to read?

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What Happened on Thursday

Millennium Library ArchitectureThis is a personal post about an awful incident I witnessed at my library a few days ago. You may wish to skip this one.  Writing it out has been helpful for me. I don’t usually talk about my personal life on the blog, and I debated whether I should share this. I’ve decided to post it because my library is such an important place to me, a safe place, a comfortable place, an almost sacred place. Discovering books, writing my blog, reading books, all these activities I do at the library are so closely tied into who I am. I have so much love for my beautiful library. I visit at least once a week. It was the place I missed most when I spent a year in Japan. I wrote a lot about it in 2014 for the Summer Library Reading Challenge.  My library is four stories tall and known for its impressive wall of windows and open staircase. You can see in the photos.

This is what happened: I was on the fourth floor. I saw a man fall from the fourth floor. I had been working on a book review at one of the public computers. Only later did I learn the man had become deeply upset by something he may have seen on the computer, just a few stations over from where I was working. I didn’t notice him until someone yelled, “What are you doing?” I saw a man clinging to the glass. So many people rushed to grab him – even I instinctively took a few steps towards him even though I was probably 50 feet away – but then I heard people scream and I closed my eyes and covered my ears.

I wrote out a long version of this story, with all the details of what I did and saw and felt in the moment. I don’t think that needs to be shared publicly. I’m glad I wrote it, though. Writing it out has been something of a purging process for me.

On Thursday I was shaky, unable to comprehend that what I had seen has really happened. The man was in critical condition. Maybe he would make it. I cried and cried on Friday, when I read that he had passed away. He was 25 years old, the same as me. On Saturday I settled down a bit. Every now and then I had a burst of selfish anger, like “Why did this happen?!” Today I feel pretty good. This helped. I’m not thinking about it non-stop. I didn’t know the man personally (how do his loved ones feel?), I didn’t see the worst moments (my heart breaks for those who did). Mostly I’m a little nervous about how I’ll feel when I go back to the library. I’ll have to remember that the library remains the the exact same place I know and love.

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Wrapping Up 2016, Looking Forward 2017

Welcome to my seventh annual ‘Wrapping Up, Looking Forward’ post. In this post, I like to take a general look back at how I did with my goals in 2016, and set some new goals for 2017.

I posted 62 times. This number falls just two short of my goal of 64. Although I didn’t follow the schedule I had dreamed of (8 posts/month, one review/week), I am satisfied with the posts I did write. I’m going to keep this goal – min. 8 posts/week, including one review or brief thoughts.

I read 114 books, smashing my goal of 84. My success can be largely credited to my participation in the Cybils as a round one judge for middle grade fiction. I believe this is the first time I’ve read 100+ books in a year. When I started 2016, I set my reading goal with the expectation that I would read very little during my four months of travel in New Zealand. I actually read 29 books while travelling. Most of the books I read were whatever my hosts happened to have lying around. Between travelling and Cybils, I had just four months to freely read and borrow from the library whatever I felt like. I am looking forward to taking charge of my reading choices in 2017. Hopefully I will make a better dent in my TBR list!

 

2016 Reading Challenge

2016 Reading Challenge
Jenna has
read 63 books toward
their goal of
84 books.
hide

I didn’t make my reading challenges a priority during the middle part of the year, when I had ample reading time and no other obligations. Thus my poor performance . I am less bitter about this than last year, though, as travelling Middle-Earth and participating in the Cybils were wonderful experiences that I was happy to prioritize over reading. I started to recap my challenges, but the numbers are so low, best to pretend I just didn’t have any. Instead let’s move right on to my personal challenges for 2017! 😀 I have three goals with specific numbers, but also a number of undefined goals (i.e. read more than in 2016).

  • 6 books by Indigenous Canadians
  • 4 books about Japanese spirituality
  • 5 books about/by J.R.R. Tolkien (not including re-reads)
  • Read more picture books and graphic novels (esp. ones people assume I’ve already read…)
  • Read more classic middle grade and speculative fiction middle grade
  • Read more non-fiction
  • Reread more!

This year, I also want to participate in some ‘official’ challenges. I don’t have any specific goals, but I hope these challenges will help me expand my reading horizons. Diversity Bingo originated on Twitter. Naz @ Read Diverse Books is hosting a reviewing diverse books challenge that complements the bingo. I found another bingo (apparently I like concept of bookish bingos) for Canadian literature, which feels especially appropriate given that it’s Canada’s 150th anniversary this year. This one is hosted in the Goodreads group Canadian Content.

Read Diverse 2017

2017 Canadian literature bingoDiversity Bingo 2017

That’s it for my 2017 goals! I may adopt additional challenges throughout the year. I haven’t yet planned to participate in any events, but I’m sure I will. Now that I have a couple years of book blogging under my belt, I don’t feel the need to plan out my year in much detail. I think I know enough to wing it 😛 How was your 2016 reading year? What goals or challenges are you undertaking in 2017?

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Cybils 2016 Finalists

Cybils 2016

I am excited to share that Cybils 2016 (Children’s and Young Adult Bloggers Literary Awards) finalists have been announced! From October to December, I served on a panel of five judges who read through the 100+ nominees in the middle grade fiction category. I had a great time discussing books with Karen, Sarah, Mindy, and Ryan. We had a lot of strong books to choose from this year. Without further ado, here are the middle grade finalists and a few of my thoughts on each:

Slacker by Gordon kormanMs. Bixby's Last Day

Full of Beans by Jennifer HolmSome Kind of Happiness In the Footsteps of Crazy HorseGhost by Jason Reynolds

  • Slacker by Gordon Korman – Slacker is Korman in his element, writing a hilarious tale about Cameron, who just wants to play video games. He creates a fake school club (the Positive Action Group) to convince his parents that he’s participating in extracurricular activities. His plan backfires as other students become interested in joining the club. I grew up reading old editions of the Macdonald Hall books, so it felt a little strange for me to read a Korman book where kids are playing PC games and using cell phones. Regardless of the time period, Slacker is classic Korman.
  • Save Me a Seat by Sarah Weeks and Gita Varadarajan – Check out my Family Reads post on this one.
  • Ms. Bixby’s Last Day by John David Anderson – A humorous yet moving story about three students who plan a special day for their favourite teacher, who has an aggressive form of cancer. Narrated in alternating chapters from the perspectives of the three boys, the reader learns about the friendship between the boys and why Ms. Bixby was such an important teacher to each of them.
  • In the Footsteps of Crazy Horse by Joseph Marshall III – Jimmy McLean, a Lakota boy, undertakes a road trip with his grandfather. They visit historical locations with connection to Crazy Horse. As they travel, Jimmy’s grandfather tells him stories about Crazy Horse (which sometimes differ from the official White versions of the history). This is a great story about an important Indigenous historical figure, grandson-grandfather relationships, Indigenous identity, and American history.
  • Some Kind of Happiness by Claire Legrand – I would have loved this book as a kid. Finley has depression and anxiety, but she doesn’t know that. When she has to spend the summer at her grandparents house with a bunch of family she’s never met, she takes to writing fantasy stories about the woods around the home. What’s the story behind the burned out home in the forest? Some Kind of Happiness deals beautifully with the struggles of mental illness that some children face.
  • Full of Beans by Jennifer Holm – My first impression of this book was “historical fiction for kids as it should be”. Set in 1934 Key West, Florida, money is short and Beans Curry (marbles champion) wants to help his mother out. He strikes up a working deal with a local smuggler. What could go wrong? A fun tale with a unique setting.
  • Ghost by Jason Reynolds – I have never been a reader of ‘sports book’, but here is a book that will appeal to sports fan and non-fans alike – even if the feature sport is track. Ghosts is a story about a kid finding something he loves doing, and learning how to push himself and be better. This is the first book I’ve read by Reynolds. Now I can see his appeal!

You can read more about each book in blurbs written by my fellow panelists on the Cybils website. The awards process will now move onto round two, where another group of judges will select a single winner from this shortlist. Winners will be announced on February 14. I think these are all excellent books and I’m glad I didn’t have to choose just one! There are 12 other categories (including picture books, young adult, and audiobooks) so be sure to check those out too.

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