A History of the Present Illness

A History of the Present Illness A History of the Present Illness takes readers into overlooked lives in the neighborhoods hospitals and nursing homes of San Francisco offering a deeply humane and incisive portrait of health and i

  • Title: A History of the Present Illness
  • Author: Louise Aronson
  • ISBN: 9781608198306
  • Page: 231
  • Format: Hardcover
  • A History of the Present Illness takes readers into overlooked lives in the neighborhoods, hospitals, and nursing homes of San Francisco, offering a deeply humane and incisive portrait of health and illness in America today An elderly Chinese immigrant sacrifices his demented wife s well being to his son s authority A busy Latina physician s eldest daughter s need for moA History of the Present Illness takes readers into overlooked lives in the neighborhoods, hospitals, and nursing homes of San Francisco, offering a deeply humane and incisive portrait of health and illness in America today An elderly Chinese immigrant sacrifices his demented wife s well being to his son s authority A busy Latina physician s eldest daughter s need for attention has disastrous consequences A young veteran s injuries become a metaphor for the rest of his life A gay doctor learns very different lessons about family from his life and his work, and a psychiatrist who advocates for the underserved may herself be crazy Together, these honest and compassionate stories introduce a striking new literary voice and provide a view of what it means to be a doctor and a patient unlike anything we ve read before.In the tradition of Oliver Sacks and Abraham Verghese, Aronson s writing is based on personal experience and addresses topics of current social relevance Masterfully told, A History of the Present Illness explores the role of stories in medicine and creates a world pulsating with life, speaking truths about what makes us human.

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    About “Louise Aronson

    • Louise Aronson

      Louise Aronson is a writer and a doctor whose work appears in literary magazines, newspapers, and medical journals, including Narrative Magazine, the Bellevue Literary Review, the New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, New England Journal and Lancet She is Professor of Medicine at the University of California where she does Housecalls, directs the Northern California Geriatrics Education Center and UCSF Medical Humanities, and leads the Public Medical Writing curriculum Her first book, A History of the Present Illness, was a finalist for the PEN Bingham and Chautauqua awards.



    162 thoughts on “A History of the Present Illness

    • I loved this book. The stories are marvelous. They’re exceptional. They’re incredibly deftly written. Each story is a gem, as is the entire narrative. Though I thoroughly enjoyed the book, it wasn’t a comfort read for me. In fact, all my hypochondriac tendencies and fears about my future health status were activated, but I loved the stories anyway, despite feeling sad, infuriated, and especially really scared at times while reading. It greatly helped that the compassionate nature of the wr [...]


    • this author makes me so jealous/envious -- harvard MD. AND MFA. AND she lives in san francisco!? AND is generally awesome and wins writing prizes!? *sigh*Louise Aronson has an MFA from Warren Wilson College and an MD from Harvard. She has received the Sonora Review prize, the New Millennium short fiction award, and three Pushcart nominations. Her fiction has appeared in Bellevue Literary Review and the Literary Review, among other publications. She is an associate professor of medicine at UCSF, [...]


    • "History of the Present Illness" is a superb story collection. This is not the standard medical memoir: "here's what happened to me in the ER today." No, this is spell-binding fiction a la John Cheever or Alice Munroe. The stories are surprising, eclectic, engaging, and edifying. The characters are fully drawn and so alive on the page. There is not another book like this in the literary medical world. Once you start it, you will not put it down. Easily once of the best books I've read in a long [...]


    • Aronson is an MD who completed the strenuous Warren Wilson part-time MFA program; she is a close observer of the human condition, empathetic without drama, perceptive to an almost painful degree. All the stories in this collection (her first publication) grow out of the experiences of patients, families of patients, medical caregivers and their families. Others have done this -- and done it well -- but Aronson's work stands out specifically for the insight into the lives of women who take up med [...]


    • See my full review here: booksaremyfavouriteandbest.worI’ve got a couple of friends who are nurses and doctors. Two have them have worked in the emergency department of a major city hospital in Melbourne. They have the BEST dinner party stories.I wonder if Louise Aronson, a doctor and an author, wrote A History of the Present Illness at the prompting of her friends? Maybe not – her collection of interlinked short stories are a brilliant mix of the delicate, hard-hitting, personal and coolly [...]


    • Every one of the sixteen short stories in this interlocked collection is an exquisitely etched jewel. Set in the SF Bay area in various medical care facilities they bring us characters experiencing health crisis and their families and care givers with the aggregate effect shining a spotlight on the state of the American health care industry. Every story is unique, varying in style, tone, length, voice, tempo and form. From the intergenerational family (made-for-TV-move?) drama in 'Heart Failure' [...]


    • Such a beautiful work of literature and social commentary, without heavy handed moralizing. One is left to ponder many sides of complex issues around illness and medicine in an American city.


    • “In medicine, the ‘history of the present illness’, or HPI, is the critical first portion of the medical note that describes the onset, duration, character, context, and severity of the illness. Basically, it’s the story, and without it, you can’t understand what’s going on with your patient.”A History of the Present Illness is an extraordinary collection of peripherally linked vignettes that explore the current practice and experience of health care in America. Insightful, honest [...]


    • I admire short fiction writers. I do not admire any books set in hospitals, because hospitals make me queasy. That said, I enjoyed this book very much, set in several hospitals of San Francisco, all playing into my queasiness. I think it's the tone that does it. The people in the different stories belong to various social strata/race/health. Aronson gives them all their own voice, while still keeping her narrative tone. She brings her own experience as a doctor, and she personalizes the people t [...]


    • A wonderful and nuanced collection of (fictional) short stories about a variety of doctors and their patients, exploring physicians' motivations for entering medical school and for some--leaving it, selecting a specialty, the demands, the decisions and the consequences that characterize a life in medicine. A number of the stories focus on the plight of the elderly and end-of-life care. Highly recommended. I hope Dr. Arsonson will write more!Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing [...]


    • Medically themed short stories, some loosely interrelated, written by a physician. Pretty readable. One story told from the point of view of a woman from the start of medical school was the best account of the kind of relationship that blossoms and dies in the pressure cooker of training that I've ever read. Another story in a more experimental format about a troubled child missed the mark. Is it easiest for doctors to empathize with other doctors? I did not find enough momentum to finish this b [...]


    • 3.5 What a fantastic journey through the medical facilities and nursing homes of San Francisco. Immigrants, the doctors themselves, psychiatrists, their families and wives are all represented in these incredible, relatedstories. The characters are everyday people, the prose is very readable and they are all very pertinent in today's medical trials and travails. Enjoyed these short stories very much. ARC from NetGalley.


    • I won this through first reads and I couldn't wait to get it in the mail.I found "A History of The Present Illness" a remarkable read, showing the triumphs and failures of the American health care system through amazing writing. This is a MUST READ BOOK


    • Collection of interlinked short stories that I enjoyed very much. They are all set in San Francisco and all focus on medical issues, usually from the point of view of a physician.


    • Review of A History of the Present Illness by Louise AronsonBy Celeste Rousselot7 January 2017Louise Aronson, MD has delivered a book of fascinating stories about patients and their physicians that are both true (with a capital T) and fictional. In other words, they really happened to her, her patients, their families, or other MD’s, but the names and some situations have been changed to protect privacy. As Dr. Aronson writes, “Within weeks of completing my medical training, I began taking w [...]


    • I started the book this morning, and I couldn't put it down until it was over. It was a gripping collection of moments that featured both patients and providers. I love how they were loosely connected through both themes and characters. The format of each chapter varied, but the stories were all raw and honest and poignant and beautifully written. I especially loved this because it's set in San Francisco, and I'll be starting my own medical studies at UCSF soon, so it felt like I was getting an [...]


    • How can one person be so talented? Both a medical doctor and an accomplished author, Aronson uses her experience to create fictional(?) short stories that revolve around patients and doctors, their relationships and inner struggles. Most of the stories are very engaging, though I didn’t enjoy the experimental entries quite as much (told through lists, a letter with extensive footnotes and short episodes that flip between perspectives). A for artistic creativity, though!If you’re looking for [...]


    • Very interesting and insightful anecdotes from patient, family, and physician perspectives. Several left me wanting resolution, which I suppose was the idea. Would definitely recommend for those in medical school (or interested in medicine) or anyone who wants more insight into some of the personalities and intersections between doctors and the communities they serve.


    • I just finished reading this book for the second time. Shortly after the first time I read this compilation of sixteen fictional medical stories, the powerful video "Empathy: The Human Connection to Patient Care" from the Cleveland Clinic went viral, and I thought "This video is the perfect visualization of Dr. Aronson's stories."Her writing shows the thoughts and motivations of each character, even those "just passing through." For example, this passage from "Snapshots From an Institution":"Wit [...]


    • I guess I just don't understand books like this. It's described as "honest and compassionate," but it's just plain depressing. The stories are short and don't seem to go anywhere. Most were negative, in some way, so were they meant as "don't live life this way" messages? Actually, though, I was interested in the first couple of stories: "An American Problem" where a young girl took advantage of her 3 free psychiatric visits which weren't enough to help her, "Giving Good Death" about a doctor who [...]


    • Had to read this for med school, but they only gave us an excerpt (about 30 pages). But I found it interesting and fascinating enough to want to finish reading it. Which goodness, hopefully I'll have the time to do. I'm still in the middle of Anna Karenina anyway.So I marked it down as "want to read" but gave it a review for the portion I've already read. I'll see if I can pick it up at the library or something.It's an interesting take on the medical world through the eyes of a woman. Stereotype [...]


    • It's hard to judge fairly because I feel pretty jealous of Dr. Aronson. It sounds like our life paths were so similar in many ways, yet we made different choices and she has won a lot of awards and is firmly identified as a doctor-writer, more widely than I am likely to ever be - just to say my opinion may be clouded!!Having said that, some of these stories are SO beautiful. "An American Problem" stands alone as one of the best stories I've ever read.The others are all well-written, but the book [...]


    • Beautifully crafted short fiction created over a decade out of the mess that is life in distress. Set in emergency rooms, doctors offices and "care" facilities, these stories may be fiction, but LA's work as a doctor and medical administrator for various clinics and universities have the insight that experience brings. She also displays an admirable sense of restraint and a keen eye for quiet details.These stories don't flinch or offer easy answers to any of the flaws in the medical system, quit [...]


    • I've decided to change my rating based on my personal experiences. I've been an RN at UCLA for the past 6 1/2 years and although I am on "friendly" terms with some of the physicians I work with, I have NEVER come across one of them who express sentiments like these. Doctors rarely give their patients a second thought after leaving the room (if they ever enter it to begin with) much less show any empathy at all. They don't even do a hand-on exam any more. They rely on the bedside nurse who is wit [...]


    • This book is a collection of essays, written by a doctor and looks at "the history of the present illness". For those non medical types, the HPI is sort of the background of the patient encounter. A very promising premise for a story.Each essay was well crafted. The author used a variety of styles to tell each assorted story. I found myself reflecting on ,y own patient encounters and thinking Wow, that sounds like Mrs. X. But I really wish in some way she connected a few of the essays a little b [...]


    • This book is depressing but I couldn't stop reading it. It describes things that happen to almost anyone, like getting old, dealing with injury or dealing with trauma, in a really poignant and truthful way. I think the reason it's so depressing is because it is so truthful; you can imagine these stories happening to family members or friends. The short stories are not bundled up in a neat package. Almost with every story, I couldn't believe it was over because there was no resolution. Also I am [...]


    • I won this in a giveaway.Aronson has compiled stories based on real events she's witnessed over her years in the medical field. The first third of the stories were interesting, entertaining, and even adorable. They tugged at my heart and made me glad I'm not a doctor or nurse.But then they started to drag, and I had to push myself to continue reading. There were some good ones interspersed, but mainly I felt that they were bland. Overall the stories show the life a doctor lives from their inter [...]


    • I read a review of this book in the Statesman and was motivated to read it because of it's witness to the lives of physicians and patients. The short collection of short stories are both lovely and honest, illustrating the grueling experience of medical training and the impact it can have on the personal lives of those thus engaged, and also capturing in sometimes heartbreaking fashion the human drama of medical care. I'm sure Aronson is a well trained, compassionate physician, but she's also a [...]


    • This book (my book!) kept appearing on my page as "want to read' which began to seem absurd. I have read, and read, and read these stories. So i moved them to read. As the author, I won't review them, though i did just learn of a recent review that captured most of what I hoped to do. I don't know the reviewer or the site but now that I've discovered Nomadreader, I'll be back. They have a great review format and an impressive range of books. Here's their review of A History of the Present Illnes [...]


    • Aronson holds an MFA and MD, which she puts to very good use in this collection of short stories about the nursing homes and hospitals in the San Francisco area. I was intrigued when I heard about this book, but a bit trepidacious with it being about medical issues. Fear not as Aronson writes with beautiful clarity and focuses on the human struggle of patients as well as doctors and nurses. I particularly enjoyed "Becoming a Doctor", "Vital Signs Stable" and "The Promise". This is both hopeful a [...]


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