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Science/Mathematics

Book Review: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
Author: 
Skloot, Rebecca
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

This book tells three intertwining stories and spans decades, centering on an immortal line of human cells, taken from an African American woman named Henrietta Lacks in the 1950’s. She was afflicted with an aggressive form of cervical cancer, and through deception, gave her consent for the doctor to take cell samples. Her cell sample was coded as HeLa, and her real identity was not known. This event starts a fascinating, disturbing tale of medical ethics gone awry, capitalism in medicine, investigative journalism, and the contrasting lives of Lacks descendants.

The discovery of Henrietta’s immortal cancer cells, laid the foundation for most of the scientific discoveries we have made, and created a multi-billion dollar industry where her cells were sold all over the world as an infinite supply of scientific testing material. At the same time companies and hospitals were selling the HeLa cells, the Lacks family were living in extreme poverty, with no medical care. Author Rebecca Skloot bounces back and forth between Henrietta’s final days, and the present day, as she attempts to gain the trust of the Lacks family, discover who HeLa was, and how medical ethics were not always a reality. For a non-fiction book about cellular biology, it is a riveting detective story that also exposes medicines sordid past, and makes the reader question whether advancement of medicine is worth it at any cost.

Reviewer's Name: 
Michael

Book Review: 100 Skills You'll Need for the End of the World (As We Know It)

100 Skills You'll Need for the End of the World (As We Know It)
Author: 
Spagna, Ana Maria
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

This little book is full of more information than you can imagine. Each section is just enough to get you started, to pique your interest. (But if there is an entry that speaks to you, remember to check the library for a more in-depth book!)

From Bartering to Foraging and even Porch Sitting, each passage is illustrated delightfully. I chuckled every other page. Written playfully, yet with much seriousness - it is easy to quickly get sucked in and keep reading until you think your brain might burst from all that delicious information!

As soon as I got to the Hoarding passage, I sincerely wished Ana were my friend, or at the very least, nearby if and when the world (as we know it) ends.

Reviewer's Name: 
Morgan

Book Review: Nikola Tesla: A Spark of Genius

Nikola Tesla: A Spark of Genius
Author: 
Dommermuth-Costa, Carol
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

A Spark Of Genius is all about Nikola Tesla, and It explains the hardships of his life, along with his accomplishments. This book is non-fiction, but it feels like a action thrilled fiction fantasy, because this man did the impossible for his time. He was extremely passionate about his work, and loved it more than anything. I recommend this to everyone who needs to read a Non-fiction book! It is so good!

Reviewer's Name: 
Lucas L.

Book Review: A Field Guide to Lies: Critical Thinking in the Information Age

A Field Guide to Lies: Critical Thinking in the Information Age
Author: 
Levitin, Daniel J.
Rating: 
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

Book Review: When Breath Becomes Air

When Breath Becomes Air
Author: 
Kalanithi, Paul
Rating: 
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.

Book Review: Navy Seal Dogs

Navy Seal Dogs
Author: 
Ritland, Mike
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

This was a great book. I would strongly recommend it to anyone who is interested in how k9s are used in the military or who is just interested in how special operations forces work in general. The author shares his story of why he joined the military and became a navy seal. He then started his own company that trains dogs for use in the military. You get to read some of his stories from in the military and how amazed he was at what dogs are capable of doing and how many lives they have saved. You will also pick up some dog training tips that you could use to train your own dog. Overall, this was a great book and I really enjoyed it and I think that you will too.
Reviewer Grade: 7

Reviewer's Name: 
Kai K.

Book Review: Skyfaring

Skyfaring
Author: 
Vanhoenacker, Mark
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

This book was one of the best books I have read this year. I
would strongly recommend this book to anyone who would be interested in working in the travel or airline industry. This book really does make you see how it is like to fly a plane through the eyes of a pilot. The author explains it almost poetically and nicely splits the book into nine chapters that all compare flying to the name of the chapter. These chapters are: Lift, Place, Wayfinding, Machine, Air, Water, Encounters, Night, and Return. You will really realize that flying is an almost completely different experience for the pilot than it is for the passenger. For example, he points out that as a passenger, you spend the entire flight looking out a small window in the side of the plane but as the pilots, you get a different experience as you are looking out the front and have a better view of the earth. All in all, I thought that this was one of the best books I have read this year and I am sure you would enjoy it too.
Reviewer Grade: 7

Reviewer's Name: 
Kai K.

Book Review: Grunt

Grunt
Author: 
Roach, Mary
Rating: 
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

Book Review: The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down

The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: a Hmong child, her American doctors, and the collision of two cultures
Author: 
Fadiman, Anne
Rating: 
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: Chew on This: Everything You Don't Want to Know About Fast Food

Chew on This: Everything You Don't Want to Know About Fast Food
Author: 
Schlosser, Eric
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

Everyone knows what McDonald’s or Burger King is, but how many people know how they got here, how are they getting their food, and why do they target kids as a key consumer audience. In Chew on This, Eric Schlosser and Charles Wilson explain who founded the fast food industries, how animals are mistreated in slaughterhouses,
and the horrible effects fast food has on our bodies. I personally loved this book because I am super interested in food and health and it’s shocking to learn that: high school dropouts started the biggest industries in the world, each can of soda contains 10 teaspoons of sugar, and that chicken slaughterhouses feed chickens leftover chickens. The authors profile stories of teens who have taken action to stop the fast food industry such as: A girl launching a campaign to remove soda machines from her school. I recommend this book to those interested in learning about the fast food industry and what they are actually doing. Chew on This is meant to show people, especially kids and teens, they can change the world by changing what they eat.
Reviewer Grade: 10

Reviewer's Name: 
Joe T.

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