Where (!) to write a Neurosurgery Book

In about 6 months since “The Neurosurgeon’s Handbook” hit Amazon, the Publisher pressed the button for second print. The book became instantly successful in the UK and USA and is selling in Europe, Australia, Middle and Far East. Am I surprised?

For four years I was writing and editing a book with a clear blueprint in my mind; the book I would like to have when I was starting my neurosurgical training. Fragments of the story of how the book was written are on my amazon author page.

In this blog let me share with you some of the places where the book was written.

Parts of the book were written during busy on calls at The Radcliffe Infirmary in Oxford. Every time I had a difficult referral or a clinical problem with no clear answer in my existing books I would take notes while my pager was going off or was about to get scrubbed for surgery. Or when seeing endless patients in outpatient clinics I would still save interesting scans in my memory stick with brief notes. I knew that if these scans helped me understand a neurosurgical problem will also help other trainees understand the same problem of another patient, in another country somewhere on the planet.

Some of it was written in supercool libraries, like the Radcliffe Science Library in Oxford, on Parks Road. I contributed to several of the 120,000 visits that the library has every year. Sometimes I would sit on the second floor surrounded by walls of dark grey stone and massive dark brown bookcases; sometimes I would sit in the basement with a retro-futuristic design resembling movies from the 60s.

If you happen to wonder to that side of the world, for lunch I would suggest to grab a custom-made sandwich in Cattle Street (easy to find when you spot the long, playful queues of university students outside the shop) and munch it sitting at the green courtyard of the library, outside the neo-gothic Oxford Museum of Natural History, built sometime in 1850s.

Parts of the book were written at the British Library in London, on Euston Road; I used to pile volumes after volumes of journals and books on the fine green leather of the Library’s elegant desks under the tolerant glances of the library’s mixed population of readers ranging from geniuses to wonderfully weird people with whom I used to talk during by breaks. The British Library has always been a sanctuary in the heart of crazy-busy London where I would seek asylum when preparing for major exams or doing research.

Some of it was written in Oxford or London parks lying on the warm grass, basking in the summer sun.

The book was finished at the University Library on rue de Ecole de Medicine, in the bohemian Latin Quarter of Paris, during my fellowship in 2008. In my breaks I used to grab a bite in front of the fountains of Sorbonne University, browsing books at Gibert Joseph bookstore, or chatting to French people in a little park off Boulevard Saint Michel.

One beautiful evening of June outside the Library I saw a music band performing on the street. When I turned the corner there was another one! I asked. I found out that this was La Fête de la Musique, the summer street festival where hundreds of amateurs (or professional) musicians jamming in the streets or cafes all night and Parisians dance and drink around them. The night was stunning, you could smell the warm summer, you could hear the sounds and melodies merging in the distance, Paris is very seductive, especially when you have peace of mind that you worked a lot during the day.Back to the question: Am I surprised with the instant success of the book? I knew it before I started!

Do you want my secret recipe? Genuine desire to help people (trainees, surgeons, patients), tons of hard work and loads of fun!

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