Good Reads Make Great Gifts
The folks on your shopping list are likely an eclectic mix, with various interests and opinions and points of view. But all of them have some interest in some aspect of health - if not their own, certainly a loved one's. By no small coincidence, the Health staff is made up of a similar list of people.

So we're here to help.

Without further ado, here's a disparate list of some of our newly favorite books. Perhaps one or more will fit the bill. And, best of all, they can be bought at one shop or website, giving you more time to work out afterward. That's what we do at the end of a long day of shopping.

1. The Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper, and Fairer Health Care

T.R. Reid

Penguin Press, $25.95

Even if you don't keep up with the daily horse race of healthcare in this country - senators and representatives and agencies and organizations and lobbyists weighing in and out and attacking and counterattacking and fortunes of individual elements rising and falling and taking a back seat and gaining new ground - you can still grasp the basics of healthcare delivery beyond the U.S. political vacuum. And you'll have T.R. Reid's sore shoulder to thank for your intelligent water-cooler conversation and, perhaps, informed opinion.

From his prologue: "Contrary to conventional American wisdom, most developed countries manage health care without resorting to 'socialized medicine.' How do they do it? That's what this book is about."

The journalist and author traveled the globe in his dual quest to alleviate his shoulder pain and assess various types of medical systems. The resulting book explains in highly readable fashion how other countries manage to offer healthcare to their citizens - and what those citizens can expect for their money.

The differences are considerable even among countries that try very hard to get it right. (His recount of the Ayurvedic approach in India is especially riveting.) And of note, "universal healthcare" is markedly different than a universal approach.

Whether you're primed to agree with Reid's bleak assessment of the U.S. healthcare system or not, his perspective -- both global and intimate -- makes for worthwhile and timely reading.

2. Don't Swallow Your Gum: Myths, Half-Truths, and Outright Lies About Your Body and Health

Dr. Aaron E. Carroll and Dr. Rachel C. Vreeman

St. Martin's Griffin,$13.95

Double-dipping with chips really can transfer bacteria into the dip, especially if it's a runny dip, such as salsa. Mayonnaise-containing food such as potato salad is far less likely than unwashed fruits and vegetables - or undercooked meat - to make you sick at a summer picnic. And thirst is not a sign you're already dehydrated.

Two physicians at the Indiana University School of Medicine have combed through medical research to present the evidence, not just anecdotes, behind our medical notions and misconceptions.

They also weigh in on today's more controversial health-related topics. Among them: co-sleeping with infants, fluoridated water and the purported link between vaccines and autism.

3. The Cultural Study of Menstruation

Elissa Stein and Susan Kim