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LIANE HANSEN, host:

The lazy days of summer season formally arrived this week. It's a time to plot vacations and to think about what books to buy, borrow, or check out of the library.

For our summer reading series this week, we called Dr. Abraham Verghese. He's the Director of the Center for Medical Humanities and Ethics at the University of Texas Health Sciences Center in San Antonio.

Hi, Dr. Verghese, welcome to the show.

Dr. ABRAHAM VERGHESE (University of Texas Health Services Center): Good morning. Thank you for having me.

HANSEN: What are you reading now?

Dr. VERGHESE: Well, I just put down a wonderful book by Scott Anderson called The Moonlight Hotel. It's a novel, very much about a fictional Middle Eastern country going through a revolution. And Scott Anderson is a war correspondent and this is his second novel. And it's beautifully informed. I found myself completely engrossed in the plot.

HANSEN: What is the timeframe?

Dr. VERGHESE: It's contemporary, so its set, you know, almost as an allegory, one could say, of what is going on now in terms of political upheaval and involvement of foreign countries. And it's just very, very well done. Beautiful.

HANSEN: Your profession is medicine, and so you're reading about politics. Do you have required reading you have to do this summer as well, professional reading?

Dr. VERGHESE: Well, I have professional reading that never stops. But the great joy in my life is being able to step outside of that. And I think it's important. I preach to my medical students that, as Dorothy Allison said, fiction is the great lie that tells the truth about how the rest of the world lives. And so I justify all my lighter fictional reading as a way of understanding how my patients' lives really are.

HANSEN: So you just finished one. What are you picking up next?

Dr. VERGHESE: Well, I have a couple. In fact, I'm ready to go for a family reunion, and one thing that I'm looking forward to reading is a collection of short stories by Charlie D'Ambrosio, a wonderful short story writer whose stories appear in the New Yorker from time to time. And this latest collection is called The Dead Fish Museum.

HANSEN: Yeah, but those are short stories. Anything longer?

Dr. VERGHESE: Yeah. The one long book that I am looking forward to reading again is called In the Skin of a Lion. It's one of Michael Ondaatje's early books, and I think until The English Patient came out, those early books were not widely available here, and they're now out in paperback. And I remember reading that book years ago, and I think its one of his best books. And it actually, it sort of has some of the characters that became more fully fleshed out in The English Patients, like Caravaggio, the thief, and so on. So it's a delightful book that I'd love to go back to.

HANSEN: So you have all the time in the world and you can settle in to read one book. What would it be?

Dr. VERGHESE: Love in the Time of Cholera, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

HANSEN: Dr. Abraham Verghese is Director of the Center for Medical Humanities and Ethics at the University of Texas Health Sciences Center at San Antonio, and the author of My Own Country.

Thanks a lot for your time.

Dr. VERGHESE: Thank you for having me.

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