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The Best Medicine: How Science and Public Health Gave Children a Future


The fight against child mortality that transformed parenting, doctoring, and the way we live.

Only one hundred years ago, in even the world’s wealthiest nations, children died in great numbers―of diarrhea, diphtheria, and measles, of scarlet fever and tuberculosis. Throughout history, culture has been shaped by these deaths; diaries and letters recorded them, and writers such as Louisa May Alcott, W. E. B. Du Bois, and Eugene O’Neill wrote about and mourned them. Not even the powerful and the wealthy could escape: of Abraham and Mary Lincoln’s four children, only one survived to adulthood, and the first billionaire in history, John D. Rockefeller, lost his beloved grandson to scarlet fever. For children of the poor, immigrants, enslaved people and their descendants, the chances of dying were far worse.

The steady beating back of infant and child mortality is one of our greatest human achievements. Interweaving her own experiences as a medical student and doctor, Perri Klass pays tribute to groundbreaking women doctors like Rebecca Lee Crumpler, Mary Putnam Jacobi, and Josephine Baker, and to the nurses, public health advocates, and scientists who brought new approaches and scientific ideas about sanitation and vaccination to families. These scientists, healers, reformers, and parents rewrote the human experience so that―for the first time in human memory―early death is now the exception rather than the rule, bringing about a fundamental transformation in society, culture, and family life.

Previously published in hardcover as A Good Time to Be Born.



Book cover image hi res.jpg
Book cover image hi res.jpg
Book cover image hi res.jpg
A Good Time to Be Born: How Science and Public Health Gave Children a Future


The fight against child mortality that transformed parenting, doctoring and the way we live.


Only one hundred years ago, even in the world’s wealthiest nations, children died in great numbers—of diarrhea, diphtheria and measles, of scarlet fever and meningitis. Culture was shaped by these deaths; diaries and letters recorded them, poets and writers wrote about and lamented them. Not even the high and mighty could escape: presidents and titans of industry lost their children, the poor and powerless lost theirs even more frequently.



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Quirky Kids


Seasoned pediatricians Perri Klass and Eileen Costello provide the expert guidance that families with quirky children so desperately need. Klass and Costello illuminate the confusing list of terms often applied to quirky children—from Asperger's syndrome and nonverbal learning disability to obsessive-compulsive behavior and sensory integration dysfunction. The authors also discuss various therapy options, coping strategies, and available medications. Most of all, they will help quirky kids lead rich, fulfilling lives at home, at school, even on the playground.

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Treatment Kind and Fair: Letters to a Young Doctor


Expertise versus commonsense practice; moral judgments on young patients or their parents; asking tough questions; death and physician-assisted suicide; daily life with a doctor's job (yours or a family member's); doctors as patients. This series of letters to the author's son as he considers a life in medicine addresses the primary issues in the life of any doctor and, by extension, the lives of those for whom they care.

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The Mercy Rule: A Novel


A funny rueful novel about the all-important job of taking care of children. Dr. Lucy Weiss looks like the typical high-achieving, upper-middle-class working mother who, along with her husband, is bringing up much-beloved children. Having overcome a difficult childhood in foster care, she is what's called a super-survivor. Now a pediatrician, Lucy finds herself working with some of those same at-risk patients and their families.

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Every Mother Is a Daughter


A mother-daughter memoir in which both voices can be heard. Perri Klass and her mother, Sheila Solomon Klass, both gifted professional writers, prove to be ideal collaborators as they examine their decades of motherhood, daughterhood, and the wonderful, if sometimes fraught, ways their lives have overlapped.

Two Sweaters for My Father


Beyond the garments, scarves, blankets, and sweaters, knitting offers the kind of nonmaterial rewards discussed in these essays: the repetitive, rhythmic finger movements soothe, reduce stress, and bind a knitter to her community. Knitting's psychological dimension is celebrated in these personal accounts of one woman's experience knitting in the hospital, at a college reunion, and while making garments for her father and loved ones. These thoughtful reflections reveal that the real power of knitting has more to do with what goes on in the head and the heart than what happens with needles.

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The Mystery of Breathing


An impassioned and gifted neonatal physician, Dr. Maggie Claymore fights for the lives of her newborn patients with a fierceness that has gained her the devotion of worried parents and sometimes the ire of her colleagues. Maggie is just shy of forty, and her career is on the rise: she is on the verge of receiving a coveted promotion at a prestigious Boston research hospital. That is, until an anonymous hate campaign calls her credentials and her ethics into question, threatening to destroy her professional reputation. Suspicion and doubt begin to shade all of her relationships, from her professional connections to her own blissful marriage. Worst of all, the rumors surrounding her begin to shake her deepest sense of who she is. Psychologically riveting, The Mystery of Breathing explores modern personal and ethical dilemmas in a story of one woman's struggle to maintain her identity.

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Love and Modern Medicine


A literary tapestry of the beauties and terrors of contemporary domesticity. Instantly recognizable, the appealing characters in these stories are the able sort who can cope with any crisis at work but are often undone by the complexities of life at home. They are parents, doctors, patients, friends, and lovers, who encounter one another in sickness and in health, for better or for worse, in a world in which professional expertise—even the finest medical expertise—cannot always ward off threats to everyday happiness.

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A Not Entirely Benign Procedure: Four Years as a Medical Student, Revised Edition


Acclaimed pediatrician, journalist, and novelist Perri Klass offers a provocative look at the ups and downs of medical school—from those first exams to the day she became a doctor. In a direct, candid style, Klass shares what it is like to be a first-time mother while attending med school; the unique lingo of the med student; how to deal with every bodily fluid imaginable; and the humor and heartbreak of working with patients. With this collection of essays, Klass established herself as a go-to voice for a generation of med students and doctors, with her frank and witty perspective. Klass also brings a proven ability to make the medical world accessible to the lay reader, through her extensive literary and journalistic experience. This edition is updated for a new generation of doctors and readers, with a brand-new foreword and annotated by Klass.

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Baby Doctor: A Pediatrician's Training,
Revised Edition


In her honest, riveting prose, Perri Klass—writer, mother, and doctor—takes readers through her extraordinary three years of internship and residency as a pediatrician in a Boston children's hospital. Responsible for newborns, the chronically ill, and the mysteriously sick, Klass set high standards for her own performance and for those who worked with her tiny charges.


Originally published nearly two decades ago, this beloved classic memoir of residency by renowned pediatrician and writer Perri Klass is as fresh and pertinent as it was upon publication. Publisher’s Weekly called it “Riveting…An inspiring coming-of-age story and an inside look at medical education…A colorful, candid view of the exhausting, exhilarating and dehumanizing subculture of pediatric residency.”

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The Real Life of a Pediatrician


The first time you have to deliver bad news to a parent. The tenth screaming baby you've seen today. The thousandth time you've stayed just a bit later than your shift, helping one more sick child. Every one of these kids has a story, and so does each doctor who treats them.


Unusual diagnoses. Heartbreaking losses. Triumphant healing. From med student to intern to practicing specialist, The Real Life of a Pediatrician traces the careers of these family practitioners. When children are the patients, so much can be at stake, and emotions often run high. How do you tell a mother that her child has a terminal illness? What do you do when your patient is too young to tell you what's wrong with him?

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