8 Books to add to your Summer Reading List

1 Comment

I probably read more in the summer than the rest of the year combined.  Summer is my time for fiction and to catch up on CME, and I also use summer to enhance my professional administrative growth.  This summer’s recommended reading list is a mix that I hope will challenge you to grow personally and professionally.

Designing Your Life by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans


I’m sure I’ve had friends walk away from medicine before, but it seems like a much more common discussion I’m having with people over the past year.  While it’s one thing to say I’m changing jobs, it’s a whole other thing to consider leaving the ER.  Most of us probably know what we’re walking away from, but we haven’t quite figured out what we’re looking for. This book will walk you through a process to help you redirect your path by taking actionable steps and making intelligent decisions.

The authors are from Stanford, the academic home of one of my favorite authors, Bob Sutton, who wrote The No Asshole Rule (previously on my summer reading list). Next, the book is based on a course the authors teach and comes with homework that will help you define your “roadmap” as well as help you “build your compass.”  This refers to figuring out the decision in front of you and also understanding what work is and why do you do it, as well as what makes good work.

There are tips and tools to help you define unfixable problems (ER docs won’t get paid like orthopedists) as well as how to get unstuck from the seemingly unsolvable “anchor” situations that weigh you down. These authors use a design mindset to get you out of the cycle of perpetual analysis and instead try out (in their language, “prototype”) potential solutions. Changing careers to improve your life is a process, and I do believe this book can help you along the way.


What Made Maddy Run: The Secret Struggles and Tragic Death of an All-American Teen by Kate Fagan

Almost every ER I’ve worked at is located near a college.  I’ve seen my share of students presenting with palpitations secondary to Adderall intake during finals and more than my share of super intoxicated kids.  Unfortunately, I’ve also seen my share of students presenting with mental health issues.  There’s been a handful of college athletes that had well-publicized suicides this past year.

This book dives deep into the life of a college runner. Written after her death, initially as an article for espnW, the author conducted extensive interviews with family, friends, teammates and coaches. This is an intense and sad read that as a father of a college-aged daughter, really hit me hard.  But I’m glad I read it, and this book certainly sheds light on the importance of considering the mental health of college athletes (and really all college students) anytime we see these high-achieving people in the ER.


Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death at a Storm Ravaged Hospital by Sheri Fink

The night before Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, I sat on my deck talking to a good friend living on the Mississippi coast about his preparation for the storm.  Like many of the docs he worked with, his story would make an amazing story in and of itself.  In this book’s case, the author spent six years reconstructing five days at Memorial Medical Center (now Ochsner Baptist Medical Center) in New Orleans, as the doctors and staff dealt with post hurricane issues, including flooding and generator failure.

Thousands of staff, patients and evacuees required evacuation by boat or helicopter from the hospital. This led the staff to ration healthcare. The staff deprioritized some critically ill patients from being transferred out—ambulatory patients were initially prioritized and DNR patients were put last on the list.

It was alleged that some patients were euthanized. The book’s second half describes the legal and political ramifications the staff took. There were criminal charges brought afterward, and the author, a physician turned journalist, walks through the ethical dilemmas of disaster management and euthanasia.

Even the ventilator rationing conversations I participated in at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic were chilling, and they were all hypothetical conversations.  I can’t imagine working in an ER post-natural disaster and needing to make some of these decisions.  But it’s clear this topic has come up before and will continue to come up, and as healthcare leaders, maybe we should be driving this conversation with our Ethics Committee now?

The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace by Gary Chapman and Paul White

You’ve probably heard of the 5 Languages of Love as a means to better communicate with your significant other by identifying how individuals prefer to give and receive love.  It turns out there is a workplace application as well.  And in today’s times, it’s essential to be able to understand your team and show appreciation.  The rock gifts that some hospitals gave to their nursing teams probably didn’t have the desired effects the hospital administration intended.

I love getting pizza at work, but it’s sometimes become a bit of a joke to the staff. The authors walk you through their four guiding principles (not everyone feels appreciated the same way, words of praise don’t work for everyone, develop a culture of appreciation at work and appreciation should be delivered regularly, personally and authentically). They then give very clear steps on how to build the five languages of employee appreciation into practice. Employees that feel appreciated are more likely to be satisfied, leading to higher customer satisfaction and retention rates.

First, Break All The Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently  by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman from the Gallup Organization

I love incorporating real-life data into lessons and who better than Gallup gets the data and uses real-life examples to teach us. This book starts with data on 80,000 leaders and focuses on front line managers who were great at developing talent and helping maximize each person’s potential.

Long ago, I was told that the most important part of the chair job is recruiting, and perhaps a close second is developing that talent.  The question is, how do you learn how to develop talent? This book shows that it’s okay, and perhaps necessary, to be unconventional and break the rules to be a successful leader. Identifying and developing each team member’s talent is critical to our ER’s long-term success.

Language is Leadership: The Hidden Power of What You Say—And What You Don’t by  L. David Marquet

One of my favorite quotes in leadership development lectures is from presidential speechwriter James Humes.  He said, “The art of communication is the language of leadership.”  In Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers (still a must-read if you haven’t read it yet), failure to communicate effectively can lead to commercial airline crashes.  In his second book, former Naval Officer and Naval Academy graduate Marquet uses the incident of a container ship sailing directly into a hurricane and sinking in 2015 to illustrate his new playbook of leadership communication.

Within this system, he walks readers through commitment, collaboration, clock management, goal setting, improving outcomes, and connecting with people. Marquet also emphasizes the importance of balancing “doing” and “thinking.”

Doing is the physical interaction with the world and is more automatic than thinking.  Thinking is deliberate and curious to interpret the world around us. Too much “doing” can result in bad decisions and too much “thinking” can result in inaction and frustration. This book will also translate to your clinical world.  You may even want to start with his first book Turn the Ship Around.

Safety at the Sharp End: A Guide to Non-Technical Skills by Rhona Flin, Paul O’Connor and Margaret Crichton

Safety at the Sharp End: A Guide to Non-Technical Skills by Rhona Flin, Paul O’Connor and Margaret Crichton

Similar to Language is Leadership, this book focuses on the impact of communication and how the development of non-technical skills can improve organizational safety. Hospitals are high-risk, complex organizations that involve many teams when caring for patients.  Although medicine may seem easy and routine, non-technical skills may be the difference between having a serious safety event at work or not.

Patient safety and the development of a culture of safety involve teaching these non-technical skills to everyone involved in patient care.  Airlines have developed the “cognitive and social skills required for efficient and safe interactions,” often called Crew Resource Management. To no surprise, when I’ve met with patient safety consulting organizations, they often utilize pilots to teach hospital staff how to communicate and the importance of being responsive when someone has a concern.

Selling to the C-Suite (2nd edition) by Nicholas Read and Stephen Bistritz

I’m not meeting with my C-suite to generally sell them a product, but I am meeting with them regularly to discuss the ER and the hospital.  Sometimes issues arise and how I approach anything involving money now becomes a sales job.

As an ER chair, access to the C-suite rarely is my issue, but I want to make the most of the time I get with them and crafting my message is important.  Before you ask for money in this year’s budget to build your psych ER, add scribe hours, or take on an obs unit, this book may help you prioritize your message to get the outcome/approval from the C-suite you want.


It’s summer.  You have permission to relax and enjoy a few good books on the porch, deck or beach.  Enjoy the break from work.


EXECUTIVE EDITOR Dr. Silverman is Chairman of Emergency Medicine at the Virginia Hospital Center. He also serves as the Director of the Alteon-Mid Atlantic Leadership Academy. Dr. Silverman’s practical wisdom is available in an easy-to-use reference guide, available on Amazon. Follow on Twitter @drmikesilverman

1 Comment

Leave A Reply