I've been tagged again

I was looking over my Technorati page a while ago and noted that Michelle Francl of Quantum Chemistry had tagged me with the Book Meme nearly three weeks ago! Thanks to the unprecedented flood of referrals from my little tirade last week about the RFK Jr. article a couple of weeks ago, I actually hadn't noticed any referrals from Michelle, at least not initially. After I did notice, other topics always seemed to keep getting in the way of answering her call. The long holiday weekend seems as good a time as any to take care of loose ends like this that I've had on the back burner and wanted to get to.

I don't do every meme (or even most of them) that people try to tag me with. Some of them I find to be downright silly and not worth my time to do, no matter how much I might like and/or respect some of the bloggers who try to tag me with them. However, given how much I love to read, I don't mind doing this one at all. Now that things are finally settling down and getting back to normal around this blog, I thought this would be a fine time to take on this meme. So here we go:

Number of books I own. I really have no idea how many books I own. I haven't counted them in years, probably decades. It has to be hundreds. Probably not over a thousand, though, because over the years I've gotten rid of a lot of books that I read that weren't that good. Even books I thought to be mediocre at best or even downright awful were hard to part with, though, but moving four times in four years between the years (in 1996, 1997, 1999, and 2000, to be precise), two of which were moves of hundreds of miles, was a major motivator to get rid of them. There's no doubt that over my lifetime I have owned thousands of books.

Last book I bought. History on Trial: My Day in Court with David Irving by Deborah E. Lipstadt. Unfortunately, I haven't gotten around to reading it yet because I'm still working on Rising '44: The Battle for Warsaw by Norman Davies. Even more unfortunately, I don't think I'll get to it that soon, because the new Harry Potter book is coming out in a mere two weeks, and I'm afraid Harry Potter will probably trump my desire to savor the details of the trial that forever showed David Irving to be a Holocaust denier. I just hope I can finish Rising '44 before that, because I can't wait to see if my predictions for the sixth Harry Potter book were correct.

Last book I read for the first time. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J. K. Rowling.

Five books that mean a lot to me:

The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien. This one goes without saying, as anyone who's been a regular will know. My all-time favorite novel, and the work that first got me into epic fantasy. Many have tried, but no one has yet surpassed the master. It's the only book (or trilogy of books) that I've read completely more than five times. I also routinely pick them up and read a chapter or two here and there when I'm in the mood.

The Nazi Doctors: Medical Killing and the Psychology of Genocide by Robert Jay Lifton. This is the one, more than any other, that got me interested in the Holocaust and the role of physicians in conceiving and carrying out the atrocities of Nazi Germany. Fortunately, it's now available online free at the Mazal Library. This is the definitive work (so far) on how physicians trained to heal could become willing instruments in the machinery of death in the T-4 euthanasia program and at Auschwitz. Here, too, was what gave me some of the background needed to do my small part in combatting Holocaust denial.

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle. It may sound silly, but I read this book at a very young age, and it had a profound effect on my reading habits for the rest of my life. It was probably the first book that got me interested in science fiction, an interest that continues to this very day. It's been decades since I last read it. Maybe I should read it again now.

A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller, Jr. I actually trace back a little of my interest in critical thinking to this set of three novellas set in a post-apocalyptic earth (the atomic war was called, appropriately enough, the great Simplification), where simple monks struggle to keep ancient knowledge, including science and history, alive in a new Dark Ages.

Handbook of the Hospital Corps United States Navy 1939. This one means a lot to me for sentimental reasons. My late uncle was a Navy corpsman in the last year of World War II, and I keep his old corpsman manual as a remembrance. It's also a fascinating historical document, full of instructions on how to give morphine and other medications, take care of wounds major and minor, field-dress the corpses of soldiers killed in battle for the trip back to the U.S., and a variety of other medical information of the period. To show how important corpsmen were, the 1953 edition of the Handbook included this tribute:
Out of every 100 men of the United States Navy and Marine Corps who were wounded in World War II, 97 recovered .

That is a record not equaled anywhere anytime.

Every individual who was thus saved from death, owes an everlasting debt to the Navy's Hospital Corps. The Navy is indebted to the corps. The entire nation is its debtor for thousands of citizens are living normal, constructive, happy and productive lives who, but for the skill and toil of the Hospital Corps, might be dead or disheartened by crippling invalidism.

So, to the 200,000 men and women of the Hospital Corps, I say on behalf of the United States Navy:

"Well Done. Well done, indeed!"

Without your service, the Navy's Medical Corps could not have achieved the life-saving record and the mind-saving record its physicians and surgeons and psychiatrists achieved. That others might live, your fellow corpsmen have given their lives; 889 of them were killed or mortally wounded. Others died as heroically from disease they were trying to combat. In all, the Corps' casualty list contains 1,724 names, an honor roll of special distinction because none among them bore arms.

The hospital corpsmen saved lives on tall the beaches that the Marines stormed. Corpsmen were at the forefront of every invasion, in all the actions at sea, on all carrier decks. You were on your own in submarines and the smaller ships of the fleet, performing emergency surgery at times when you had to take the fearsome responsibility of trying to save a life by heroic means or see the patient die. Your presence at every post of danger gave immeasurable confidence to your comrades under arms. Their bravery was fortified by the knowledge that the corpsmen, the sailor of solace, were literally at their sides with the skill and means to staunch wounds, allay pain and to carry them back, if need be, to safe shelter and the ministrations of the finest medical talent in the world.

You corpsmen performed fox-hole surgery while shell fragments clipped your clothing, shattered the plasma bottles from which you poured new life into the wounded, and sniper's bullets were aimed at the brassards on your arms. On Iwo Jima, for example, the percentage of casualties among your corps was greater than the proportion of losses among the Marines. Two of your colleagues who gave their lives in that historic battle were posthumously cited for the Medal of Honor. One of the citations reads: "By his great personal valor in saving others at the sacrifice of his own life (he) inspired his companions, although terrifically out numbered, to launch a fiercely determined attack and repulse the enemy force." All that he had in his hands were the tools of mercy, yet he won a memorable victory at the cost of his own life.

No wonder men and women are proud to wear the emblem of the Hospital Corps! It is a badge of mercy and valor, a token of unselfish service in the highest calling the saving of life in the service of your country.

Your corps' men and women toiled, often and dangerously, never less vitally, in areas remote from battle: In hospitals, on hospital ships, in airplanes, in laboratories and pharmacies and dispensaries. They helped, and are helping (for the task is far from over) in the salvage of men's broken bodies and minds that is the grim product and perennial aftermath of war. Some of you contributed skills in dental technology, some engaged in pest control to diminish unfamiliar diseases, others taught natives of distant islands the benefits of modern hygiene, even to midwifery and everyday sanitation.

Scores of corpsmen, made prisoners of war, used their skill and strength to retain life and hope in their fellow captives through long years of imprisonment and deprivation.

Whatever their duty, wherever they were, the men and women of the Hospital Corps served the Navy and served Humanity, with exemplary courage, sagacity and effort. The performance of their duties has been "in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service." That, to any man or woman, is the highest of praise. The corps has earned it an continues to earn it.

For, as I said, the task is not yet completed. Thousands of the War's casualties will long need the ministrations of physicians, nurses, and the Hospital Corps before they can return to normal peacetime pursuits. Hundreds may have to be cared for as long as they live; that these unfortunates are so few is in large measure due to the prompt, skillful aid accorded our wounded and stricken, by your corps.

Illness and accident will add to these numbers, of course. There will always be the sick and injured, and there will always be need for trained personnel to help restore them. The Navy's best laboratories are forever engaging in research to combat disease, to speed the healing of torn flesh and broken bones, to devise new aids for the maimed to lead a normal life. And so I am impelled to address this message not only to the men and women of the corps who have completed their service to the Navy, but to those who are joining-or rejoining-in that inspiring career.

It is no easy profession, even in peacetime. There is danger in the test tubes and culture racks as menacing as in the guns of an unvanquished enemy. The Hospital Corps is never at peace. It is forever on the firing line in the ceaseless war against disease and premature death. That is why the corps' emblem is truly "the red badge of courage," a designation to all the world that the person who wears it has been self-dedicated to the service of humanity.

Customarily the "Well done" signal is reserved for the closing phrase of a message of congratulations, but I placed it in the forefront where, in this instance, it most fittingly belongs. I repeat it, here with the postscript that in earning its "well done" the Hospital Corps is assured no other unit in the Navy did better in the degree of essential duty inspiringly performed.

Five bloggers to tag (apologies if they've already been tagged and I didn't notice it):

St. Nate: Hopefully, he will be able tear himself away from his Betta Setting and putting his new apartment together momentarily, that is, unless he's going to the Live 8 Concert this weekend. (I had momentarily contemplated jumping a train to Philly to check it out, but decided against it. Maybe it's old age; I'm much less tolerant of enormous crowds than I used to be.

Autism Diva: She's done some commentary on books like Evidence of Harm by David Kirby (which she didn't much like), but what books does she really value? Besides, you can't really say you're an experienced blogger until someone's tagged you with a meme (even if she did say once she was "anti-meme").

Skeptico: What books made Skeptico Skeptico?

Dr. Charles: A well-read man like Dr. Charles should certainly be able to give a fascinating answer to this meme, perhaps after he's recovered from attending the Live 8 show in Philadelphia today. Besides, two other bloggers (Michelle and Hedwig) have already tagged him, and he hasn't responded yet.

The Mad House Madman: Just as soon as he's recovered from his jet lag, of course.


  1. I recommend Doctors of Death by P. Ariz (1976) - a sickening 4 volume set but something that should be read.

  2. OH, Great!

    Is this like a chain letter?


    So Autism Diva is supposed to answer the questions and then tag 5 other unfortunates?

    Autism Diva still doesn't quite "get" half of the blogosphere traditions/requirements.


  3. There is no requirement to do it, of course. Certainly I don't do all the ones that I get tagged with.

    And what's "unfortunate" about it? This one is rather fun; otherwise I wouldn't have done it!

  4. Hi,

    Autism Diva retracts the "unfortunate" comment.

    She's working on the book meme.

    "A classic is something that everybody wants to have read and nobody wants to read." - Mark Twain


  5. What's your take on the Bloche and Marks Perspectives piece in NEJM? This following their Feb. 4, 2005 NY Times editorial detailing the negligently planned and supported medical facilities at Abu Ghraib.

    I fear unless policy changes, US military medical personnel are going to be put in more ethically challenging and more physically dangerous positions.

  6. would you believe I really don't know the answers to most of these questions. I haven't read that many books and when I really introspect I don't think I haev an obsession with anything. I guess it comes with being a gemini.

    I may give it a shot but I'm afraid it may make me feel shallow.

  7. I tagged you with this too, but I forgot to tell you :)

  8. Nice list...this meme provoked lots of off-line conversation around our dinner table for family and guests both.

    I read A Canticle for Leibowitz many years ago, and had forgotten it. Thanks for bringing it back to mind...I'll have to find it in the collection and read it again...


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