The Laboratory Bookshelf
As part of a continuing feature for those chemists who want to read something that may be outside of their core area - but not entirely removed from science - here is a collection they should find interesting. I have said it before in my previous posts, but this is truly a golden age of scientific writing, especially in terms of books that are popularizing concepts for the layperson. I have previously spotlighted Siddhartha Mukherjee’s The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer and The Gene: An Intimate History.
This time, we offer three titles (two which are brand new) and all have garnered strong reviews:
o Patient H.M.: A Story of Memory, Madness and Family Secrets, by Luke Dittrich (Random House, 2016) looks at the pseudonymous subject. The patient in question and his “famous” brain, incapable of forming new memories after an operation on it in 1953. Over the next half century, he was the most studied patient in all of brain science.
Here is an excerpt of the book: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/07/magazine/the-brain-that-couldnt-remember.html
This is a previous article on Patient H.M. from 2009: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/03/health/research/03brain.html
o The review of I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life, by Ed Yong (Ecco/HarperCollins, 2016) had me at the headline (Human Cells Make Up Only Half Our Bodies. A New Book Explains Why.) Additionally, any science book’s title that comes from a line of a Walt Whitman poem has an immediate “in” with me as well. The investigation and story of microbes and their symbiotic relationship to our bodies is thought provoking. This book is all that and entertaining as well.
o The #1 bestseller The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Smoot (Broadway Books (paperback), 2011) is the fascinating and disturbing intersection of science, race, and ethics. As the author states on her website: “Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. She was a poor Southern tobacco farmer who worked the same land as her slave ancestors, yet her cells—taken without her knowledge—became one of the most important tools in medicine. The first “immortal” human cells grown in culture, they are still alive today, though she has been dead for more than sixty years. If you could pile all HeLa cells ever grown onto a scale, they’d weigh more than 50 million metric tons—as much as a hundred Empire State Buildings. HeLa cells were vital for developing the polio vaccine; uncovered secrets of cancer, viruses, and the atom bomb’s effects; helped lead to important advances like in vitro fertilization, cloning, and gene mapping; and have been bought and sold by the billions. “
Here are some relevant links:
Book Review - 'The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,' by Rebecca Skloot
The Immortal Life « Rebecca Skloot
That’s all for now – Happy reading!