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Health Books: The Prescription for Giving (ouch!)
By David Pitt

Here's a gift that's (literally) for the whole family: Everything You Need to Know Before You Call the Doctor (Black Dog & Leventhal, hardcover). Originally published in Germany, and compiled by fifty-five or so physicians from Germany and Austria and thereabouts, it's a fairly comprehensive medical reference book. It's sensibly put together: first the authors identify common symptoms and their possible causes; then they move on to common ailments and complaints (how to identify them, potential complications, tips on prevention); examination and treatment (including a wealth of information about those tests the doctors always send you for); and, finally, a discussion of the techniques -- and wisdom -- and self-treatment. A smartly presented, highly informative book indeed.

Another very useful medical reference book is The Essential Guide to Prescription Drugs 2003 (HarperCollins, hardcover), by James J. Rybacki. It's pretty much what it says it is: a guide to prescription medication. The book's organized in a common-sense manner (alphabetically), and provides a ton of information. The entry for Albuterol, for instance (I picked it randomly), lists other names by which the drug is known; runs down the benefits versus risks of taking it; describes conditions under which the drug shouldn't be taken; discusses potential side effects and possible effects of overuse; and much more. This is one of those books you keep handy; you never know when you'll need it.

Editor's Note: This is one of a series on coffee table books as holiday gifts. Find more suggestions in our Columns.
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