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Saint Jordi 2016: 9 Books on Cooperation and Health for 9 Television Series


Let’s forget emerging plagues and planetary disturbances: the real evil of our times is that our partners (yes, yours also) have banished us from their centre of interest in favor of the, oh, omnipresent screens. But let’s not despair, because this Saint Jordi we have the ideal solution: offer them a book on international development and health on the ground that they have a lot in common with their favourite series. If that doesn’t work either, we will always have Meetic.

1. “The Bing Bang Theory” or the origin of the universo and all the rest  

It is difficult to imagine the know-it-all but faint-hearted Sheldon Cooper, or any of his colleagues, as the prototype of the hunter-gatherer, but his phobia to infections and the ambivalence of his virtues fit like a glove in the thesis of this 1997 Pulitzer prize that is now published in Spanish. 

Jared Diamond. Armas, gérmenes y acero. Debolsillo, 2016.

2. “House of Cards” or the power that hangs by a thread  

If the US presidency is held by someone that (spoiler!) despite having killed with his own hands attracts us compulsively, it means that the country’s destiny can be in anyone’s hands, as a Spanish president unabashedly confessed. This book is Mark Zukerberg’s (the multimillionaire in a T-shirt) favourite, and it explains why. 

Moisés Naím. El fin del poder. Debate, 2013.

3. “Homeland” or the world according to the good, the bad, and those in the middle  

Globalisation has its winners, its losers, and those that do not know it but live in constant risk of becoming something else. That same logic of argument can be applied to one (hatred leads to terror) and the other (technology as source of inequality), as illustrated by the economist and former head of the World Bank, Branko Milanoviç. 

Branko Milanovic. Global Inequality: A New Approach for the Age of Globalization. Harvard University Press, 2016.


4. “El Ministerio del Tiempo” or how much we owe our ancestors  

Why do we live longer and better (well, sort of) now than 200 years ago? Do disguised doctors travel back in time to correct our forbearers’ foolishness? Or were they more astute than we care to admit? Nothing like an old history professor to dispel doubts.  

James C. Riley. Rising Life Expectancy: A Global History. Cambridge University Press, 2001.

5. “Game of Thrones” or survival politics    

It is far from being as scary, but this detailed account on how imperial governments in nineteenth-century Europe conspired, manipulated, were scared and yielded to deal with virus and bacteria that regularly wiped out their populations is worth reading.  

Peter Baldwin. Contagion and the State in Europe, 1830-1930. Cambridge University Press, 2005.

6. “Borgen” or the prêt-à-porter of public policies

No need to transport yourself to Christiansborg Palace to boast of a list of difficult but necessary political decisions. This extensive although somewhat irregular manual offers a detailed compendium of measures and countermeasures that need to be considered in the diverse areas of global health. Whether they work, that’s something else.  

Garrett W. Brown, Gavin Yamey & Sarah Wamala (Eds.). The Handbook of Global Health Policy. Wiley, 2014.

7. “La que se avecina " or the fallacy of good intentions 

For some, he is the Antonio Recio of international cooperation: devious, deceptive, uninformed; for others, he is the Enrique Pastor: honest, brave, quixotic. The truth is that the black beast of aid workers of (excessive) good faith leaves nobody indifferent. One of his first books was translated into Spanish last year. 

William Easterly. La carga del hombre blanco: el fracaso de la ayuda al desarrollo. Debate, 2015.

8. “How to get away with murder” or falling from grace

All right, the Jeffrey Sachs depicted in this assay, an incorrigible self-righteous person, is not devoted to eliminating his fellow humans; at least not on purpose. But the famous economist needed his own Annalise Keating to obtain his acquittal despite the overwhelming evidence for the deleterious consequences of his acts.  

Nina Munk. The Idealist: Jeffrey Sachs and the Quest to End Poverty. Doubleday, 2013.

9. “The Good Wife” or the unbreakable glass ceiling    

Just like the good Alicia Florrick, our heroine had fight tooth and nail to make her way in a world dominated by men who believed that a woman’s place was at home caring for the family or supporting her husband when necessary. Luckily for all those that benefited from her work, she decided to follow her own path. 

Mary Guinan con Anne D. Mather. The Adventures of a Female Medical Detective. Johns Hopkins University Press, 2016.