I really enjoy doing the weekly New Nonfiction list, but it's made my TBR list so long that it is laughable.
I just finished one of the first books that really jumped out at me from one of those lists: Kevin Hazzard's A Thousand Naked Strangers: A Paramedics Wild Ride to the Edge and Back. Of course I had to get this one, as I am a total sucker for Work Memoirs of any kind*.
This one's about Hazzard's decade-long stint as a paramedic in the Atlanta area, and it's a good read. Not a great one, mind you--I've read other memoirs on similar subjects that I've enjoyed far more (Michael Perry's Population 485, about his years living in his Wisconsin hometown and working as an emergency responder, comes to mind, as does Jane Stern's Ambulance Girl: How I Saved Myself by Becoming an EMT), but this one was certainly enlightening in its own way:
"I grab the blood pressure cuff and check Mr. Perry's pressure. If he has one, I can't tell what it is. I've pushed my fingers into his neck to count his thready pulse when, without warning, he opens his mouth and shoots a geyser of dark brown blood straight up into the air.
I scream for help, but Jonathan keeps driving. There's nothing to do but roll Mr. Perry onto his side and let him soak the cabinets, the equipment, the sheets, everything, with partially digested blood. A Stephen King novel has nothing on this." (p. 44.)
And that's in his FIRST week of working. And that anecdote precedes the second one, wherein his partner in the ambulance pays a local homeless guy ten bucks to wash the ambulance down.
It occurs to me now that if you're at all squeamish, this might not be the book for you. I found it interesting, and it was quickly paced, although some of the chapters felt a bit unfinished to me. I think that's my criticism of the entire book: a vivid look behind the scenes of working in an ambulance, without much in the way of reflection or closure.
*And: the blurbs are a rich source of similar work memoirs, yay: Joe Connelly's Bringing Out the Dead, Theresa Brown's Critical Care: A New Nurse Faces Death, Life, and Everything In Between, Judy Melinek's Working Stiff: Two Years, 262 Bodies, and the Making of a Medical Examiner, and Julie Holland's Weekends at Bellevue: Nine Years on the Night Shift at the Psych ER.