Quackery, by Dr. Lydia Kang and Nate Pedersen
I had waited for more than a month to read Quackery - A Brief History of the Worst Way to Cure Everything. I had requested this recently published book from my local library soon after listening to an NPR interview with one of the authors, Dr. Lydia Kang (with Nate Pedersen). Was it worth the wait…well, - yes but…. While the writing here is entertaining and informative it’s also, at times, excessively snarky (and I’m a fan of snarky); almost to the point of being distracting. The detailed rundown of medical “cures” from the dawn of mankind is exhaustive; antimony, radium, leeches, enemas, gold therapy, arsenic, snake oil, lobotomies, and many other dubious treatments are presented here. All are well-researched and remarkably, some of the discredited practices have reemerged as having legitimate places in modern medicine. (Today, leeches are used to help prevent delicate reconstructive sites from becoming engorged with blood post-surgically; low levels of arsenic have been effective in some leukemia treatments). A special perk for me personally were the references to the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893 (Nikola Tesla’s unveiling of his “Violet Ray Device”, Keeley’s miraculous gold “addiction cure”) just after I had read (and reviewed here on Hummingbird!) Erik Larsen’s, The Devil in the White City. I would recommend Quackery with some reservations; the subject matter itself is entertaining enough without the need for the ad lib overkill.
Review by Sarah Ehrenson