Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Checklist Manifesto

When Jon Stewart interviewed Atul Gawande about his book The Checklist Manifesto, I was watching the show with my friend Amanda. After the interview, Amanda said, "Boy that book sounds boring," at the same time as I said, "Wow, this book is going to be interesting." Luckily, my prediction was the correct one.

True, I'm predisposed to like this book: I make myself checklists on a regular basis, and I love rules. However, even if you aren't as list-happy as I am, you could definitely get into The Checklist Manifesto.

The Checklist Manifesto mainly deals with the checklist in relation to surgery. Gawande begins by sharing the story of a five-item checklist that Peter Pronovost, a critical care specialist at John Hopkins Hospital, developed to reduce central line infections (Spoiler Alert: This checklist worked amazingly, decreasing the infection rate of the Michigan Hospital that tested it by 66%). Additionally, much of the book focuses on Gawande's creation of a 19-item checklist for all surgeries. However, Gawande also spends time in other fields where checklists play a large role, including aviation and construction.

Before picking up The Checklist Manifesto, though I knew I was interested in the subject matter, I was a little concerned about the writing style; after all, Gawande's primary career is a surgeon, not a writer. I had nothing to worry about though. Gawande writes in an easy-to-understand, engaging style, telling thrilling stories of surgeries without much doctor jargon. It is a non-fiction book without the "I'm reading this textbook for school" feel.

I give it a 4/5; the only thing that keeps it from getting a 5 is that occasionally, Gawande goes on a bit long, particularly when discussing the role the checklist plays in construction. You should still read it though, if only to read the one thing about Walmart that will make you hate it less.


  1. I think I will "check it out" - Disney loves checklists, I'm around them a lot.

  2. You definitely should. It's good, and it doesn't take that long to read!