How many times will you admire somebody's big present this year with the wish that it would be worn "in good health," used "in good health," lived-in "in good health," driven, eaten, enjoyed "in good health?"
"Health" by itself isn't exactly a stocking stuffer, but maybe this is a time for reading, not only "in" good health, but about it.
Here is a selection of some of the scores of health books published in the past year and other oldies-but-goodies. Not, by any means, a definitive list, there are merely some of the books which have touched -- and impressed -- me.
Some are special-interest reading.
Some are for everybody.
Some are useful references to keep around the house.
Some are for browsing; others almost need to be memorized.
At least one -- Jonathan Miller's "The Body in Question," (Random House, $17.95) -- is a joy to read for its sheer literary quality, as well as for its thorough survey of medical history. Its color plates range from Botticelli to blue fingernails. It was an outgrowth of his elegant TV series, now showing on PBS stations.
Others: General Interest
"Rand McNally Atlas of the Body and Mind," ($19.95). Beautifully illustrated, with relatively lucid explanations of a lot of the human body's complicated functionings -- from smiles to cyclic AMPs. Spoon-fed physiology for the intelligent amateur.
"Medical Self Care," (Summit Books, $8.95). Dr. Tom Ferguson's syllabus for learning how to take care of yourself, and where to find the information and tools to help you do so.
"Take Care of Yourself, A Consumer's Guide to Medical Care," by Drs. Donald M. Vickery and James F. Fries ($5.95, Addison-Wesley). Everybody ought to have a copy of this book. It uses flow charts for the 68 most common medical problems and leads the reader to one of several conclusions: See the doctor NOW; see the doctor today; make an appointment to see the doctor, or apply home treatment.
"How To Be Your Own Doctor (Sometimes)," by Keith W. Schnert with Howard Eisenberg. (Grosset & Dunlap, $4.95). Introduces the concept of the "activated patient," and a patient's text.
"Dr. Heimlich's Home Guide to Emergency Medical Situations," by Dr. Henry J. Heimlich with Lawrence Galton (Simon & Schuster, $10.95).
"The American Medical Association's Handbook of First Aid and Emergency Care," (Random House, $5.95). Handy References
"The Medicine Show," (Pantheon Books, $5.95). By the editors of Consumer Reports Books. Everybody ought to have this one. Revised, 1980, it includes the latest word -- medical and consumer -- on the most advertised and most prescribed over-the-counter medicines.
"The People's Pharmacy, 2," by Joe Graedon (Avon, $4.95). Another splendid consumer book with a useful section on drug interactions with foods and other drugs.
"Vitamins and You," by Robert J. Benowicz (Grosset & Dunlap, $5.95).
"Dorland's Medical Dictionary" (Shorter Edition), by Dr. Franz J. Ingelfinger (The Saunders Press, $12.95). Translates Medical into English. Mainly for the intelligent hypochondriac, or Dr. Schnert's "activated patient." Dr. Ingelfinger is editor emeritus of the New England Journal of Medicine.
"The Doctors and Patients Handbook of Medicines and Drugs," by Dr. Peter Parish (Knopf, $7.95). Mind Over Body
"The Stress of Life," (McGraw Hill Paperbacks, $4.95), and "Stress Without Distress," (Signet, $1.95), both by Dr. Hans Selye, who gave the word "stress" its present-day definition. Classics in the field.
"Mind as Healer/Mind as Slayer," by Kenneth R. Pelletier (Dell, $4.95). Considered among the best expositions of the role of stress in disease and various methods in which stress can be defused -- from meditation to biofeedback.
"Health for the Whole Person," edited by Arthur C. Hastings, James Fadiman and James S. Gordon, MD. (Westview Press, $12.95). Based on a report for the National Institute of Mental Health, this book is probably the most comprehensive overview currently available of advances in the holistic health, or "wellness" movement. Its contributors are giants in their areas, among them Kenneth Pelletier (stress), Joe Kamiya (biofeedback), Dr. Herbert Benson (relaxation). Its forward is by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy. A must for anyone interested in this broadening field.
"Anatomy of an Illness," (W.W. Norton, $9.95). Norman Cousins' already-classic injection of laughter into healing.
"Confessions of a Medical Heretic," by Dr. Robert S. Mendelsohn, (Warner Books, $2.75). The breezily written indictment of Western medicine in the late 20th century, which pointed straight to the holistic health movement, even though Dr. Mendelsohn didn't know it when he wrote it. For Women
"The Doctors' Case Against the Pill," (updated) by Barbara Seaman (Doubleday, $6.50) and "Women and the Crisis in Sex Hormones," by Barbara Seaman and Gideon Seaman, MD. (Bantam, $3.50). hBarbara Seaman founded the Women's Health Network. Her books, often anti-establishment, often controversial, ought to be "must" reading. She has done as much as anyone to change the way women are treated by the medical profession.
"The Good Looks Book," edited by Miriam Stoppard, MD. (Viking, $25). A thorough and attractively put-together compendium of how the good life affects the good looks, relating health to beauty with more reliance on beauty from healthy living -- and less on beauty from the drug store.
"Unfinished Business, Pressure Points in the Lives of Women," by Maggie Scarf (Doubleday, $14.95). A sensitive, comprehensive documentation of depression in women, the how and why of differences from depression in men. Special Interest
"Choices," By Marion Morra & Eve Potts. (Avon, $8.95). The things anybody needs to know about cancer -- or, at least, how to find out.
"Arthritis. A Comprehensive Guide," by Dr. James F. Fries. Informative, useful and hopeful. Dr. Fries is head of the Stanford (University) Arthritis Clinic.
"STD, A Commonsense Guide," by Maria Corsaro and Carole Korzeniowsky (St. Martins Press, $9.95). A useful, no-nonsense approach to the sexually transmitted diseases.
"Beat Heart Disease!" by Dr. Risteard Mulcahy (Arco, $4.95). You can, if you do as he says.
"The High Blood Pressure Book," by Dr. Edward D. Freis & Gina Bari Kolata. (Elsevier-Dutton, $12.95). A thorough and clearly illustrated text for the layman on hypertension -- who gets it, why and how it can be controlled. One More Thing That Doesn't Fit Under a Tree:
Do yourself a favor and give your spouse, child, significant other a course in Cardiac Pulmonary Resuscitation. And to show how much you love him or her, get yourself one as well. Call your Red Cross or health department for more information. The life they save may be yours.
And, of course, t'other way 'round as well.