Summer Reading at Pitt Public Health


We have a lot on our summer "To Be Read" pile, particularly titles we're considering for our next One Book, One Community program. Read about the program at and check out Facebook and Instagram to let us know what you're reading and what you think would make a good OBOC selection. 

Here's what some of us are reading: 

Gerry Barron

associate professor, health policy and management and behavioral and community health sciences
deputy director, Center for Public Health Practice

The Overstory
Richard Powers

The Overstory, winner of the 2019 Pulitzer Prize in Fiction, is a sweeping, impassioned work of activism and resistance that is also a stunning evocation of—and paean to—the natural world. From the roots to the crown and back to the seeds, Richard Powers’ twelfth novel unfolds in concentric rings of interlocking fables that range from antebellum New York to the late twentieth-century Timber Wars of the Pacific Northwest and beyond. There is a world alongside ours—vast, slow, interconnected, resourceful, magnificently inventive, and almost invisible to us. This is the story of a handful of people who learn how to see that world and who are drawn up into its unfolding catastrophe.

"The author is speaking at the Carnegie Music Hall on Monday, December 9 as part of the Pittsburgh Arts and Lecture Series. I think it would make a good One Book, One community book." 

Jessie Burke

professor and associate chair, behavioral and community health sciences
associate dean for education
One Book, One Community administrator

The Bell Jar
Sylvia Plath

Esther Greenwood is brilliant, beauiful, enormously talented, and successful, but slowly going under - maybe for the last time. In her acclaimed and enduring masterwork, Sylvia Plath brilliantly draws the reader into Esther's breakdown with such intensity that her insanity becomes palpably real, even rational - as accessilble and experience as going to the movies. A deep penetration into the darkest and most harrowing corners of the human psyche, The Bell Jar is an extraordinary accomplishment and a haunting American classic. 

While the Gods Were Sleeping: A Journey through Love and Rebellion in Nepal
Elizabeth Enslin

Love and marriage brought American anthropologist Elizabeth Enslin to a world she never planned to make her own: a life among Brahman in-laws in a remote village in the plains of Nepal. As she faced the challenges of married life, birth, and childrearing in a foreign culture, she discovered as much about human resilience, and the capacity for courage, as she did about herself. While the Gods Were Sleeping: A Journey Through Love and Rebellion in Nepal tells a compelling story of a woman transformed in intimate and unexpected ways. 

Sandro Galea

In Well, physician Sandro Galea examines what Americans miss when they fixate on healthcare: health. Americans spend more money on health than people anywhere else in the world. And what do they get for it? Statistically, not much. Americans today live shorter, less healthy lives than citizens of other rich countries, and these trends show no signs of letting up. The problem, Sandro Galea argues, is that Americans focus on the wrong things when they think about health.

Carol Reichbaum

program manager, WalkWorks, Center for Public Health Practice

A Fine Balance
Rohinton Mistry

A Fine Balance captures the cruelty and corruption, dignity and heroism of India. Set in 1975, at a time when the government had declared a state of internal emergency, the story focuses on the lives of four unlikely people who find themselves living in the same humble city. Through the dramatic turns of their lives, the reader gets an intimate view of their world, but also of India in all its extraordinary variety. As the characters move from distrust to friendship and from friendship to love, the author created an enduring panorama of the human spirit in an inhuman state.

Martha Terry

associate professor, behavioral and community health sciences

Reading Lolita in Tehran

Every Thursday morning for two years in the Islamic Republic of Iran, Azar Nafisi, a bold and inspired teacher, secretly gathered seven of her most committed female students to read forbidden Western classics. Some came from conservative and religious families, others were progressive and secular; some had spent time in jail. They were shy and uncomfortable at first, unaccustomed to being asked to speak their minds, but soon they removed their veils and began to speak more freely–their stories intertwining with the novels they were reading by Jane Austen, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Henry James, and Vladimir Nabokov. As Islamic morality squads staged arbitrary raids in Tehran, as fundamentalists seized hold of the universities and a blind censor stifled artistic expression, the women in Nafisi’s living room spoke not only of the books they were reading but also about themselves, their dreams and disappointments.

A friend gave her a copy as a suggestion, and she thinks it "...might generate some interesting conversations about how assumptions about the way the world works impact how we thing about public health."

Periods Gone Public: Taking a Stand for Menstrual Equity
Jennifer Weiss-Wolf

After centuries of being shrouded in taboo and superstition, periods have gone mainstream. Seemingly overnight, a new, high-profile movement has emerged—one dedicated to bold activism, creative product innovation, and smart policy advocacy—to address the centrality of menstruation in relation to core issues of gender equality and equity. In Periods Gone Public, Jennifer Weiss-Wolf—the woman Bustle dubbed one of the nation's "badass menstrual activists"—explores why periods have become a prominent political cause. 

"One of my big issues right now is around menstrual health ... while that may appear to be of interest to only half the people in the world, everyone should be interested."


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