Science/Mathematics

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.

Book Review: The Omnivore's Dilemma: The Secrets Behind What You Eat

The Omnivore's Dilemma: The Secrets Behind What You Eat
Author: 
Pollan, Michael
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

Do you ever wonder where your food comes from? How the potatoes in your french fries were grown? Or even what's in your burger. This book answers those questions and many more and it also lets you in on the food industry’s biggest secrets. It’s super interesting and educational. I mean did you know that corn is in about
everything from batteries to fireworks and that in cattle feed people put in M&M’s, hooves, corn, and cardboard?! I recommend this book to people interested in food and health since it teaches you the brutal truths behind industrial food production. It taught me what “real” food is and why I should stay away from processed foods. I loved this book because it actually taught me a lot about food that isn’t taught in school and I would recommend it to basically everyone because this is stuff you really need to know before you go grocery shopping.
Reviewer Grade: 10

Reviewer's Name: 
Joe T.

Book Review: Being Mortal

Book Review: Being Mortal
Author: 
Gawande, Atul
Rating: 
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

Book Review: Next of Kin

Next of Kin
Author: 
Fouts, Roger
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

This is one of the best books I have ever read. In an account of Fouts’ experiences teaching chimpanzees to communicate through sign language, he exposes many heartbreaking injustices of animal research that escapes public attention. Even more importantly, to me, he reveals the striking intelligence and “humanity” of great apes and their tremendous capacity to feel emotions and think critically. It is important to note that the book is written through the bias of a man who has befriended chimpanzees for life; however, much of what he describes is backed up by convincing evidence, leading me to truly believe this book. The accounts of chimpanzees, their ability to withstand horrifying situations, and to remember with gratitude those who once helped them, is truly touching. I also enjoyed the scientific discussions interspersed within the narrative elements of the book. For anyone looking to reaffirm their convictions of animals’ feelings or for anyone looking to challenge their current opinion, I would highly recommend this book.

Reviewer Grade: 12

Reviewer's Name: 
Selena Z.

Book Review: Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking

Author: 
Cain, Susan
Rating: 
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

Book Review: Your Brain: The Missing Manual

Author: 
MacDonald, Matthew
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

Your Brain: The Missing Manual is the book for "the rest of us" who don't want to or can't take in all the medical jargon that usually infests books about how the "little grey cells" work.

Matthew MacDonald takes the information about how the brain functions and breaks it down into usable chunks. He gives a brief but thorough explanation of several functions the brain performs in simple English, then explains how the brain's owner can make the best use of how the brain works. An analogy would be that instead of someone trying to explain what's under the hood of that great car, he shows you the control panel and HOW TO USE the car. Chances are, you don't need to know how many cylinders there are, what kind of oil it uses etc. because all you plan to do is USE the car and maybe do a bit of maintenance. Matthew MacDonald's approach is that of someone explaining just enough of how the brain functions so that it can be used more efficiently and to the owner's benefit. I heartily recommend the book, especially to staff and teens who could use the problem solving techniques the author includes in the book for learning, school problem solving, etc.

Reviewer's Name: 
Pauline

Book Review: Man's Search for Meaning

Author: 
Frankl, Viktor
Rating: 
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

Book Review: Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why

Author: 
Gonzales, Laurence
Rating: 
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

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