Cracking Chests: How Thoracic Surgery Got From Rocks to Sticks

Original price was: $24.99.Current price is: $19.99.

“Who knew chest surgery could be so entertaining? Cracking Chests: How Thoracic Surgery Got from Rocks to Sticks,” by Dr. Alex G. Little, could deliver the biggest surprise of any book you read this year….”—Dan Shearer, Green Valley News, Book Reviews 3/26/23

Finalist in “Health:General” category in the 2023 Better Book Awards (


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Cracking Chests is a tale of the origins and development of chest surgery—its inner workings, told by a prominent chest surgeon. Interspersed with humorous self-reflection are insights into the field’s pioneers both in and out of the operating room, told with zestful detail about the challenges posed by their times, cultures, and the typically rudimentary state of medical science. We watch the trial and error of the development of chest surgery—gratefully on other patients long past.

The book helps us understand what it took to make possible today’s safe and effective operations for lung and esophageal cancer, as well as Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) and other  benign disorders, suffered by many in modern times.

Cracking Chests, less a formal history than a story, is written for the curious general reader both passionately and factually. All technical terms are explained, often with fascinating stories and many with carefully drawn illustrations. It shows that there is as much drama and intrigue in the real surgical world as in the many movies and TV series that feature surgeons.

The author’s experiences in medical school, residency training, and career as an academic thoracic surgeon provide a factual and poignant counterpoint to the book’s tracing of history. Cracking Chests shines a light on the little-known academic side of thoracic surgery while offering insider’s tales of interactions with many of the highlighted surgeons and their successors, as well as his own patients.

About the Author

Dr. Alex Little has spent his career as an academic general thoracic surgeon. He graduated from Johns Hopkins Medical School and trained in surgery both at Hopkins and the University of Chicago. Subsequently, he was a faculty member in Chicago before acting as chair of the Departments of Surgery for the Universities of Nevada and Wright State (Ohio). Dr. Little also served as President of the American College of Chest Physicians.

His career overlaps with a time of rapid growth for general thoracic surgery—surgery for the lungs, esophagus, and other chest organs. He has worked with and knew many of the surgeons instrumental in the development of the specialty. As a lifetime teacher of students and residents and practitioner of thoracic surgery, he has the perspective and experience to tell the story of the origins and development of this specialty.

In retirement, he lives in Tucson with his wife, who dazzles him every day.

Additional information

Weight17.44 oz
Dimensions9 × 6 × .56250 in
Finalist Better Book Awards

Finalist in "Health:General" category in the 2023 Better Book Awards (


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Cracking Chests: How Thoracic Surgery Got From Rocks to Sticks
Original price was: $24.99.Current price is: $19.99.