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December 12, 1980

What's in It for Me?

JAMA. 1980;244(23):2642. doi:10.1001/jama.1980.03310230044024

Reading for pure pleasure is a privilege readily available to millions. Paradoxically, many cannot partake fully of this privilege, because of an acquired vocational bias. Physicians, for instance, when reading for pleasure, still tend to choose books that are linked, however tenuously, with medicine. They will favor novels by Somerset Maugham, Walker Percy, or Michael Crichton or poems by William Carlos Williams, if only because these authors were or are physicians and their writings are apt to reflect their medical experiences and insights. Even works by lay authors dealing perceptively with a disease, such as Leo Tolstoy's The Death of Ivan Illitch, are among the favorites of the physicians' pleasure reading. And when reaching for a mystery story, physicians will prefer one with a medical twist. They may even derive perverse pleasure from Norman Cousins' Anatomy of a Disease. After all, there is much to be said for the pleasures