Life On the Ground Floor: Letters From the Edge of Emergency Medicine

Life On the Ground Floor: Letters From the Edge of Emergency Medicine

by James Maskalyk
  • from-ontario
  • health
  • memoir

In this deeply personal book, humanitarian doctor and activist James Maskalyk, author of the highly acclaimed international bestseller Six Months in Sudan, draws upon his experience treating patients as an emergency physician from Toronto to Addis Ababa, Dadaab to Abyei. He discovers that although the cultures, resources and medical challenges of each hospital may differ, they are linked indelibly by the ground floor: the location of their emergency rooms. Here, on the ground floor, is where Dr. Maskalyk witnesses the story of “human aliveness”—our mourning and laughter, tragedies and hopes, the frailty of being and the resilience of the human spirit. And it’s here too that he is swept into the story, confronting his fears and doubts and questioning what it is to be a doctor.

Masterfully written and artfully structured, Life on the Ground Floor is more than just an emergency doctor’s memoir or travelogue—it’s a meditation on health, sickness and the wonder of life.


James Maskalyk, author

Dr. James Maskalyk is a physician and author. He practices emergency medicine at St. Michael’s in Toronto and is director of a program that works with Ethiopian partners at Addis Ababa University to train emergency physicians. He is a member of Medecins Sans Frontieres.


  • [His] idealism and passion are obvious... but the strength of the book is that it captures the viscera, real and symbolic, of the ER—its sights, sounds, smells, pulse—without romanticizing the work... Ultimately, that’s what the book is about—making connections, across continents, culture and social classes, and clinging to the joyful moments that can be found amid the horror. - The Globe and Mail Link to review


  • National Bestseller
  • Shortlisted, 2018 Charles Taylor Non-Fiction Award
  • A Globe & Mail Best Book of 2017
  • Longlisted, 2017 BC Book Award
  • Finalist, 2017 Toronto Book Award
  • Winner, 2017 Writers Trust Hilary Weston Award for Non-Fiction

Rights Holder

Rights Holder: Westwood Creative Artists



rights sold: English (World, Doubleday Canada), Italy (Einaudi), Taiwan (Faces Publications)

rights available: World

Additional Information

number of pages: 254

publication date: 04/11/2017

Original language of pub: English

Materials Available: finished book