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Staff Book Reviews by Genre: Science/Mathematics

A Field Guide to Lies: Critical Thinking in the Information Age
Levitin, Daniel J.
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Most adults and teens would greatly benefit from reading this book, especially now that we live in a world where "fake news" is a dire problem. Don't take what you read or hear at face value - really think about it, and decide if what you are reading makes sense. Daniel J. Levitin spells out exactly how (and why) to do that.

For me, some of this was very basic, some of it was review, and some of it was completely new. All of it was useful. It had the added advantage of being easy to read and easy to understand. Almost every segment would start with Levitin presenting a claim and then evaluating the claim for its truthiness. He takes many facets of information dissemination to task - from the various types of information found on the internet to respected news organizations to doctors to scientific journals. It really is something of a field guide as well; I consider myself to be a decent critical thinker, but there were several tips and tricks that I plan to use in the future that I never would've considered had I not read this book. Levitin does a really great job of being non-partisan - he goes out of his way not to come down on one side or another on any issue, he merely evaluates the truth of different assertions (and if he points out the lies on one side of the political aisle, he quickly follows with a lie from the opposing side).

As someone who works at a library, I think information literacy is crucially important. It's even more important today as more and more specious information becomes available through the internet. This book will show you how to sift through the lies and find the truth, an essential skill for everyone. 5 stars.

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Awards:
When Breath Becomes Air
Kalanithi, Paul
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

This memoir by a brilliant neurosurgeon who contracts lung cancer movingly describes the anguish of terminal illness from the doctor and patient perspectives simultaneously. An accomplished writer with an astonishing grasp of literature, he side steps all the easy answers and leaves the reader in love with life and astonished by living, not intimidated by disease.

Reviewer's Name: David R.
Grunt
Roach, Mary
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Mary Roach covers military science in a way that seemingly only she can: by covering the weird, little known aspects like genitalia injuries, shark repellent, military fashion, and, of course, diarrhea. The result is an interesting, engaging and very accessible non-fiction read.

I listened to this book, and I think that was probably a mistake. Mary Roach tends to jump around from topic to topic even within a larger topic (in a chapter about shark repellent you may jump from sharks to polar bears pretty abruptly), which can be fun to read, but was hard to listen to. Zone out for a minute, and you'll find yourself completely lost. My listening enjoyment was also hampered by the insane amount of acronyms used by the military. I had a lot of "wait, what does that stand for again?" moments, and in an audiobook, there's not really a way to go back and check, and its not like I'm going to google whilst driving. Oh yeah, and the narrator was not to my taste. Her voice just didn't do it for me.

But overall, it managed to be both informative and funny which is not an oft found combination. I really enjoyed it, and I'll be booktalking this one in the fall.

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Awards:
The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: a Hmong child, her American doctors, and the collision of two cultures
Fadiman, Anne
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

An insightful look at intercultural conflicts in the medical field. This book follows the case of a young Hmong girl named Lia Lee, the daughter of refugees, who presented with epilepsy in her infancy. The author, Anne Fadiman, follows both the parents and the doctors involved in the case, interviewing the key parties and untangling the miscommunication that led to Lia’s eventual brain death. The author is respectful to both sides and manages to explore the conflict that arises over the medical care without placing blame, instead asking what both sides viewed as good medicine, what they hoped to accomplish, and why they were unable to communicate their ideas to one another and agree on how to handle Lia’s treatment. The edition I read also had a helpful afterword in which the author updated readers on where the people she interviewed are now, some 20 years later, and how the hospital in Merced (and other hospitals throughout the country) are starting to change how they train their staff to interact with a multicultural community that might have very different ideas about what good medical care looks like. This book always makes top non-fiction lists, and now that I’ve finally gotten around to reading it I can say that for me it lived up to the hype.

Reviewer's Name: Lauren
Book Review: Being Mortal
Gawande, Atul
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This book was a very hard read for me. Not because of the writing, but because of the subject matter. I had just placed my father and his wife into a continuing care community when my book club chose this book. The stories of lost independence and the price of safety on quality of life hit me hard. After they moved in my dad went straight to Memory Care. His freedom is gone and he feels it keenly. It's true that he's safe, but I feel like I had a hand in ending his freedom. Of course in my head I know this isn't true, the circumstances were - and still are - way beyond my control, but still.

The takeaway from this book is to communicate clearly with your loved ones what you want as an end-of-life plan. Also, it's important to take an active role in choosing help and help communities. Finally, hospice is a far more humane way to treat the end-of-life experience than heroic measures and ICU. Quality of life is the most important thing and this is defined on a individual basis.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Cain, Susan
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

As an introvert, reading this book felt like coming home. There were many times when I so identified with the feelings and behaviors Susan describes it was like looking into a mirror. Cain examines different facets of personality and why we as a society value certain traits over others. She also looks at what introverts can offer to businesses and in leadership positions. Great read for introverts and extroverts alike!

Reviewer's Name: Becca
Frankl, Viktor
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

That something so important could come out of the holocaust is amazing. I can imagine Dr. Frankl studying and analyzing the psychology of survival in his head while a prisoner, and then finally writing and publishing his greatest achievement. Logotherapy is a sound explanation on the meaning of life. Great book.

Reviewer's Name: Virginia
Gonzales, Laurence
2 stars = Meh
Review:

I only read half of this book. The writing style was too jumpy/jumbled for me. I felt that Laurence Gonzales was repeating the same things over and over. I did like the survival (or in some cases non-survival stories) and wished there had been more of those with the follow-up to the incident instead of so much description of the brain functions of survival. This was just an okay book for me.

Reviewer's Name: Melissa
Millard, Candice
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Great for the reader interested in history, science, and adventure. A wonderful insight into Theodore Roosevelt's lifelong love for nature.

Reviewer's Name: Abby
Dawkins, Richard
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Great book. Dr. Dawkins takes everyday questions and answers them both via myth and via science in a manner that is accessible to the average layperson. The height of the book for me was the discussion of "Sod's Law" and the understanding that reacting as if there is a threat when the possibility arises assures survival. Also, I thought it was interesting that we are living the good life (at least I am), and natural selection favors a struggle. The illustrations were also great. A big thumbs up!

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Millard, Candice
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Explore an uncharted tributary of the Amazon River with President Theodore Roosevelt in The River of Doubt by Candice Millard. The adventure encompasses United States history, South American politics, native populations along the Amazon, and the relationship that President Roosevelt had with his son. Learn about the animals and plants along the dangerous Amazon and the near death of the President.

Reviewer's Name: Janie
Cahalan, Susannah
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

I started out giving this book 4 stars - it is a fascinating inside look at this author's hospitalization for a rare autoimmune disorder which caused her complete memory loss of the time she was ill and could have eventually led to her death had her doctor given up on her.

The more I think about this book, however, the more I liked it - I've found myself talking about it with friends and family over the past few days and marveling at this author's tenacity on recreating her "month of madness" through interviews and tapes. I feel this is a wonderful and well-written book, not only of one woman's experiences with an illness that displayed itself so quickly and violently, but a fascinating look into our brains and how they work (or don't work).

Reviewer's Name: Krista