Summer Reading

July / August 2012

Editor’s Notebook

Summer Reading

These days, summer schedules seldom deviate from the hectic pace most of us maintain during the rest of the year, but some delightful seasonal traditions persistsummer reading, for example. I have been catching up on some reading this summer, and there are three books I’d like to share.

First is Paul Levy’s book on leadership, Goal Play! Levy’s professional experience spans healthcare (currently as an advocate for patient-driven care, formerly CEO of Boston’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center [BIDMC]), academia (executive dean administration, Harvard Medical School), and government (executive director of Massachusetts Water Resources Authority). He also has served as volunteer coach of youth soccer teams for more than 20 years. Levy’s coaching experience provides effective, down-to-earth examples of leadership principles, but the book’s value for me is in having numerous core concepts crystallized in one concise volume with illustrative stories not only from soccer but also from a wide array of industries. It’s no surprise that the writing is immediate and engaging; Levy writes one of the top blogs about healthcare issues (started when Levy was CEO of BIDMC, it is now titled “Not Running a Hospital” but retains its original URL: In Goal Play!, Levy applies his easy, engaging writing style to advanced leadership principles, which makes this book a valuable resource and reference.

Goal Play!
Paul F. Levy

The Human Contribution
James Reason

Illuminating Florence
Alex Attewell

Second on my list is James Reason’s The Human Contribution: Unsafe Acts, Accidents, and Heroic Recoveriestopics that don’t hit most summer reading lists. Readers of PSQH may be familiar with Reason’s Swiss cheese model for describing the trajectory of errors leading to accidents and injuries, which Reason first published in his book Human Error (1990). In The Human Contribution (2008), Reason continues to develop his thinking about human error and how to insure safety in highly complex industries. Reason points out that while consistent, predictable actions improve safety, there is no denying the dynamic, ever-changing nature of complex systems, especially in healthcare. We most often focus on humans as hazards, but Reason reminds us that humans also act as heroes whose adaptations and compensations have brought troubled systems back from the brink of disaster on a significant number of occasions. Reason moves toward a new balance between an individual and system approach to hazard, again leading the way to a deeper understanding of safety.

Last, Illuminating Florence, published recently by Sigma Theta Tau International, is an attractive collection of images and text that provides a substantial review of the work and writings of Florence Nightingale in a slim volume. The author, Nightingale expert Alex Attewell, is a former curator and director of the Florence Nightingale Museum in London. Atwell demonstrates Nightingale’s continuing relevance through introductory text on key topics, his choice of quotations, and the juxtaposition of vintage images of Nightingale with scenes from present-day nursing. References and notes for each image add depth and value to this inspiring and delightful book.