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Literature & Medicine

A reading and discussion program for health care professionals.


Meghan Reedy
Program Officer
(207) 773-5051


Literature & Medicine Resources


Literature & Medicine readings are carefully selected by the scholars who facilitate our groups, in consultation with MHC staff and the host site’s liaison. They include works of fiction, poetry, drama, and nonfiction that represent a diverse variety of voices and perspectives. All of the readings raise issues pertinent to caring for people, whether they are well, sick, or dying.

Echoes of War book coverEchoes of War: A Literature and Medicine Anthology (2009)

Edited by Suzanne Hunter Brown. Available for purchase directly from MHC for $15.00. Contact Meghan Reedy if you are interested in purchasing copies.

Created as a reader for health care professionals working in Veterans Administration Medical Centers, the selections focus on issues unique to, or more acute for, Soldiers. Nevertheless, any group of health care professionals can benefit from the readings, both because all health care facilities will increasingly see Veterans, and because “Veterans’ issues” often illuminate general medical concerns. We hope, too, that the general public will appreciate these readings as a way to better understand the experience of the men and women who serve in the armed forces.

The anthology includes work by: Anna Brashler, Raymond Carver, Andre Dubus, Louise Erdrich, George Garrett, Atul Gawande, Arthur Kleinman, Nancy Mairs, Marilyn Nelson, Veneta Masson, Platon, John Stone, Brian Turner, and several other authors and poets.

Download a copy of the Table of Contents.

Favorite Literature & Medicine readings


  • W;t by Margaret Edson
  • The Cure at Troy: A Version of Sophocles’ Philoctetes by Seamus Heaney
  • Medical Reader’s Theater: A Guide and Scripts ed. T.L. Savitt


  • “A Nurse’s Story” from A Nurse’s Story and Others by Peter Baida
  • Regeneration by Pat Barker
  • Redeployment by Phil Klay
  • The Plague by Albert Camus
  • Cathedral by Raymond Carver
  • “He’s at the Office” by Allan Gurganus
  • “In the Cemetery where Al Jolson is Buried” by Amy Hempel
  • Returning to Earth by Jim Harrison
  • You Are Not A Stranger Here by Adam Haslett
  • The Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri
  • The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
  • The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien
  • Tell Me a Riddle by Tillie Olsen
  • “People Like That Are the Only People Here” from Birds of America by Lorrie Moore
  • “Milk” by Eileen Pollack
  • Pale Horse, Pale Rider by Katherine Anne Porter
  • Lying Awake by Mark Salzman
  • The Round House by Louise Erdritch
  • Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko
  • The Death of Ivan Illyich by Leo Tolstoy
  • The Doctor Stories by William Carlos Williams


  • The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby
  • Where Is the Mango Princess by Cathy Crimmins
  • The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
  • The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
  • The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman
  • Better and Complications: A Surgeon’s Notes on an Imperfect Science by Atul Gawande
  • Autobiography of a Face by Lucy Grealy
  • Nurses at the Front: Writing the Wounds of the Great War by Margaret R. Higonnet
  • Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder
  • Achilles in Vietnam and Odysseus in America by Jonathan Shay
  • Refuge by Terry Tempest Williams


  • “Case History” by Dannie Abse
  • All of Us: The Collected Poems by Raymond Carver
  • Without by Donald Hall
  • Otherwise: Collected Poems by Jane Kenyon
  • Rehab at the Florida Avenue Grill, poems by Veneta Masson
  • The Book of Job trans. Stephen Mitchell
  • “Report from the Hospital” by Wislawa Szymborska

Short Stories/Essays/Poetry

  • Between the Heart Beats: Poetry & Prose by Nurses edited by Cortney Davis and Judy Schaefer
  • POWDER: Writing by Women in the Ranks, From Vietnam to Iraq,Lisa Bowden and Shannon Cain, editors, 2008.


  • “This helped foster communication across the hierarchy of medical culture, which was great and much needed.”


  • "The book group was an excellent opportunity to come together as a staff
    and talk about issues of concern that we don't often get an opportunity
    during school-sponsored workshops to discuss."


  • "I found myself feeling better connected to the day to day issues
    affecting the many young people I have had the good fortune to teach."


  • “I am amazed by how differently we read these books. It makes me wonder how differently we hear our patients’ stories. And how our patients perceive us.”


  • “I now think about what people are feeling when they approach my desk, and I am more conscious of the fact that I am the first person they speak to when they come to the hospital.”

    -Hospital Receptionist

  • “I always knew my role [as a nurse] was valuable, but I think I more fully understand how far-reaching that can be. I have learned how important it is to listen to each individual, to hear what their need is and also to hear the needs of the extended family."


  • "Our staff is often without opportunities to have deep, professional
    discussions outside of our departments. This is such a shame. This
    experience was a chance to know and share time with colleagues who I don't
    often see or spend time with. There is one colleague who I have had some
    trouble with... we have very different outlooks. I have come to understand
    a bit more about where she is coming from, which has encouraged me to seek
    her out on a couple of occasions to check in informally. I have felt
    better about this relationship, and I believe that the exposure through
    this group has been what has sparked a change."


  • “The program helps me reaffirm the need to attempt to bring a supportive healing attitude to my work area.”


  • “I joined this group due to burnout. Burnout is not about waiting until you feel like you can’t do your job—it’s constantly asking yourself what you are doing and feeling and helping prevent burnout from occurring by paying attention every day, not waiting until too late.”


Funded By:

The Hospice Fund and the Welch Charitable Fund

at the Maine Community Foundation

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