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  • Our Malady

  • Lessons in Liberty from a Hospital Diary
  • Written by: Timothy Snyder
  • Narrated by: Timothy Snyder
  • Length: 3 hrs and 1 min
  • 4.7 out of 5 stars (6 ratings)

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Our Malady

Written by: Timothy Snyder
Narrated by: Timothy Snyder
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Publisher's Summary

New York Times best seller

From the author of the number-one New York Times best seller On Tyranny comes an impassioned condemnation of America's pandemic response and an urgent call to rethink health and freedom.

On December 29, 2019, historian Timothy Snyder fell gravely ill. Unable to stand, barely able to think, he waited for hours in an emergency room before being correctly diagnosed and rushed into surgery. Over the next few days, as he clung to life and the first light of a new year came through his window, he found himself reflecting on the fragility of health, not recognized in America as a human right but without which all rights and freedoms have no meaning.

And that was before the pandemic. We have since watched American hospitals, long understaffed and undersupplied, buckling under waves of ill patients. The federal government made matters worse through willful ignorance, misinformation, and profiteering. Our system of commercial medicine failed the ultimate test, and thousands of Americans died.

In this eye-opening cri de coeur, Snyder traces the societal forces that led us here and outlines the lessons we must learn to survive. In examining some of the darkest moments of recent history and of his own life, Snyder finds glimmers of hope and principles that could lead us out of our current malaise. Only by enshrining healthcare as a human right, elevating the authority of doctors and medical knowledge, and planning for our children’s future can we create an America where everyone is truly free.

©2020 Timothy Snyder (P)2020 Random House Audio

What the critics say

“[Snyder’s] litany of the many ways the United States bungled the coronavirus response is eloquent and pointed.... His cry of rage is certain to get your attention.” (The Washington Post)

“Compelling ... Snyder combines moving personal experience with keen historical and political analysis in Our Malady.... A powerful argument for universal health care as a fundamental right.” (Chicago Tribune)

What listeners say about Our Malady

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Partisan whinge devoid of any useful suggestions

I was so disappointed with this book. No suggestions for potential solutions to the problems with the healthcare system were made. Although I can empathize with the author's experiences, having experienced some awful medical treatment in several different countries, his story came across as more of a repetitive whinge than a reasoned critique. This book really put me off from reading any other of Snyder's books, which is a shame as they too look interesting at first glance. The content was also very repetitive to the point where a good editor would have reduced it by a third at least. Perhaps in time someone, if not Mr Snyder, will consider doing a rewrite or an entirely new book with a more objective critique along with suggestions for potential solutions for the problems with the healthcare system in the US.

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  • J.B.
  • 2020-09-08

Our Medical System Flayed

Our Malady, Lessons in Liberty from a Hospital Diary written and read by Timothy Snyder. If you are considering reading this very long essay (but short novel) be prepared. Prepared for object brilliance in reasoned argument. Those of you who know Mr. Snyder, understand, one should expect nothing less from this gift of an educator, political commentator, and savior of analysis. What do I mean by all this hyperbole? If A and B equal C; then C minus B equals A – that is how Mr. Snyder presents his arguments. He will construct a set of facts and analyze their historical effect on the body politic. He will then test his perceived rule against other known political history and reason out the truth (or weakness) of the proposition. If proven to be insightful he then takes the rule and applies it forward against existing political theatre. Brilliance in considering that which is abject. An exciting political theorist.

In Our Malady, he considers our medical system’s weakness to societal liberty. (Yes, I got that comparison correct.) Mr. Snyder compares his recent bout with death (a non-COVID-19 ailment which was not properly diagnosed) with our present malady: Covid-19. In this work, we consider the individual's need for continued life. In his tale, he rages then contemplates the failure of our medical system against the failures of our political systems. (Yes, I got that comparison correct, too.) His focus is on our health system and its malaise. He explains why a health system should be calculated not by profit from short lives but rather achievement in providing for long lives.

This is not just about a President and a failed response to a pandemic, which is discussed and analyzed with surgical precisions, but about our medical system's inability to provide for a proper response, which is flayed for all to see in its elemental state. His stories are captivating.

8 people found this helpful

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  • barry orvell
  • 2020-10-21

A book that all doctors and patients should read

As a physician, I agree with this vilification of commercial medicine and with the remedies suggested in this important book As in his previous books Snyder tells us truth at a turning point in history when truth is most needed . Doctors will find support by this affirmation of the feelings they carry in secret.
This writer understands deeply the plight of medicine in America at this time.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 2021-01-01

Required reading

This extraordinary account of Timothy Snyder’s journey should be a required reading for all healthcare providers, administrators, policy makers, all levels of local and national government officials, educators, students, parents, historians, journalists, reporters, and humanitarians. Perfectly and eloquently written and spoken.

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  • Laurie
  • 2021-11-11

Extended Editorial

I don’t know that these complaint sessions do much good. Why can’t we be like Europe? Why can’t we have better health care, better schools, better family and community support? Why can’t we have more paid time off work? Why did we completely blow our response to the pandemic when other nations didn’t? To quote from a popular movie, “I’m drowning here and you’re describing the water!”

This will get listened to (or read) by a lot of people like me, who are fully aware of the problems. If you want to listen to a sermon about the troubles of this country and provide an “Amen” chorus in the background, go ahead. I was personally hoping to learn a few things and maybe hear some creative solutions. I didn’t. This is the sort of thing that the far Right likes to publish, only in reverse. It’s a diatribe. An outrage op-ed meant to make you mad.

Maybe I should cut Snyder a break. He’s recovering from a severe illness. I just have to say that this does not deliver the same thoughtfulness as On Tyranny. And making comparisons to the Holocaust and the USSR under Stalin? Really now. Maybe he can get away with this because it’s his area of study but I think it’s way off the mark. He can do better. And has.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Thomas
  • 2021-02-10

Snyder at the height of hos powers despite illness

More specific in its focus than his other recent work, just as vast in its implications.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 2021-02-02

Atheoretic

A rumination on the shortcomings of the American medical system that while moving eschews a serious analytical element.

1 person found this helpful

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  • elephant749
  • 2022-09-17

Great Read to Learn about the Medical System in US

The lessons are great. I particularly like the author's description of how profit-driven systems nudge medical professionals to care less for individual patients.

The only thing that I can nitpick about this book is he overused his own story in the chapters. It would be better if he only kept one record of it in the prologue. His arguments are already convincing on their own with the figures and reasoning. Repeating his story many times while stressing that he has terrific medical resources compared to regular folks harms the prospect of reaching his intended audience - people who hate rich leftist humble-braggers.

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  • Ellen Zucker
  • 2022-04-21

A most compelling argument I’ve seen for universal healthcare


Although I’ve been very fortunate — I have a roof over my head and through a combination of frugal living and luck I am able to take care of my financial needs. Living in the US I’m exquisitely aware the one thing that could topple the apple cart is a medical event. And, yes, I do have insurance.

I recall listening to an American man who had lived in a variety of countries in Latin America for many years. He said it was routine for a doctor to spend 45 minutes with you and give you his personal cellphone number. He said after experiencing the health care there he became very angry when thinking about how poorly he was treated in the US.

I didn’t understand until listening to your book.
Thank you, Timothy Snyder.

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  • Becky
  • 2022-04-18

Some big truths here

As a retired Hospital financial officer, this book brought me back to pricing decisions, payor mix, staffing per bed, occupied beds and many other metrics we used to determine how efficient & effective the hospital ran. Having been retired 10+ yrs I'd actually forgotten a lot of it. Mr Snyder's Medical Industrial Machine analogy is spot on. We've been brain washed about the quality & thus the cost of our Healthcare in the US. This book tells an amazing personal story & talks about what we could do different. bravo!

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  • Valrie Barrett
  • 2022-03-30

Better than EXCELLENT . A must read (or preferably must listen)

Every person in the medical profession should read this book - every doctor, nurse, technician, hospital administrator, among others. This book should also be read by EVERY politician.
Thank you, Professor Snyder. Very well written, and hearing you read it made it even more interesting and meaningful.
I recommend this very highly.