As I was heading into work on Thursday, I was pondering what to do with the stretch of three-day weekend about to roll out in front of me. On my way out the door I passed my bookcases, full of yet to be read books and wondered if I could read a book a day. I’ve done marathon, read a book in a day sessions before, but could I swing three?
Well, I was willing to try.
End tally of the weekend? Finished a knit sweater for a friend’s baby shower, went to see an acquaintance talk about getting his knitting book published, visited some friends up in Salem….oh…and read three books:
- The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot: For those unfamiliar with this bestseller:
Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. She was a poor black tobacco farmer whose cells—taken without her knowledge in 1951—became one of the most important tools in medicine, vital for developing the polio vaccine, cloning, gene mapping, in vitro fertilization, and more. Henrietta’s cells have been bought and sold by the billions, yet she remains virtually unknown, and her family can’t afford health insurance.
This is what good science writing should be. Engaging. Informative. Human. Science is such a quintessentially human endeavor, that science writing without the human element falls flat. Skloot’s writing (admittedly, aided by the topic) makes this a very human story. And she lays bare the ethical implications of some of our greatest medical advances and future hurdles in an engaging read that I couldn’t put down.
- Making Toast by Roger Rosenblatt: This is the very personal tale of the death of Rosenblatt’s daughter and the new family unit that was carved out as he and his wife moved in to help their son-in-law care for their grandkids in the aftermath. I, quite literally, spent the entire book on the edge of (and sometimes over the edge into) tears. Perhaps it’s because I actually know Rosenblatt (he was my professor for a semester in undergrad), but I really think it’s just the quiet, but universal exploration of grief and the beauties and sorrows that life throws at us.
- Nerd Do Well by Simon Pegg: So after the ethical horrors of the first book and the tears and grief of the second I needed some light-hearted fluff. Enter Simon Pegg. It’s not the most well-written treatise ever (perhaps starkly more so given the two I’d read immediately before) and he spends the whole book a little too awkwardly cognizant that he’s writing his autobiography (though possibly fitting for a nerd?). Still it was a fun read and just the mood lightening I needed to wrap up my weekend.