Saturday, July 14, 2012

People's Choice 2012: Nonfiction

Here are more book reviews from people participating in Burbank READS Into the Night. These are some nonfiction titles (including audio books):

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,
by Rebecca Skloot

I was first introduced to Henrietta Lacks not in Science class, but on the podcast Radio Lab. 
This book traces the story of the first human cells successfully grown in culture, the woman behind the cells, the history of cell science and the impact on Henrietta's family. There is so much information here; for the first time, I've come to realize how much this woman and the HELA cells have done for our society. Sadly, Henrietta and her family struggled mentally and financially, and never saw any of the benefits of the medical breakthrough. The production of the audio book is unbelievable--I would place it near the top of my list. It is mostly read by Cassandra Campbell, with an occasional second reader. The book also ends with an interview of the artist.
Reviewed by Lucia F.

Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void, by Mary Roach
With humor and in-depth research, Roach takes a close-up look at the science of space travel. For fans of the United States space program, this book will give new insights about our space travelers and their ships. There is more to learn about "the right stuff," and some information was both surprising and new for this reader. I'm not a space fan, but Roach's writing carried me along effortlessly. Particularly of interest was new information about the use of cadavers in space capsules in early learning trials, and the use of chimpanzees before humans took over. Enos and Ham were our first space heroes, unsung as they are. Roach's writing is vivid, with a pleasant expertise in dealing with serious science. An interesting read (for 18 and up).
Reviewed by JoAnn F.
How Doctors Think, by Jerome Groopman, M.D.
An interesting read that provides insight into the physician's thought process and how it is communicated to a patient. It appears the indifference patients perceive from their physicians may be the physicians' means of coping, especially in some specialties (oncology for one) and/or a physician who is unable to handle not being able to help a patient. Unfortunately, the book is a bit verbose and somewhat boring in certain parts.
 Reviewed by Jeanne G.
Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community and War, by Nathaniel Philbrick
This is an extraordinary story of the voyage of the Mayflower and the settlement of the Plymouth Colony. The book covers 50 years of history from 1620 to 1676, ending with the King Philip War. It includes the courage of the Puritans, their willingness to risk all for their religious convictions, and the generosity and sophistication of the Native Americans and their terrible fate. A wonderful story of American history most of us do not know. Recommended.
Reviewed by Donna H.
A Girl from Yamhill, and My Own Two Feet, by Beverly Cleary
Beverly Clearly, the beloved and prolific children's author of such classics as the Henry Huggins and Ramona Quimby series, Fifteen, Sister of the Bride, Jean and Johnny, and The Luckiest Girl, wrote a two-book memoir. The first volume, A Girl from Yamhill, details her childhood in rural Oregon and Portland between the end of World War l and the middle of the Depression. The book is fascinating if you were a reader of her books and want to know what her childhood was like, and also as a window into life in the Pacific Northwest during the Depression. Mrs. Cleary remembers a great deal from early childhood on, and her writing here is as enjoyable as that in her childrens' books. If you have ever read her books, you will even recognize incidents from her childhood and teen years that she recounted in Jean and Johnny and The Luckiest Girl. The second volume details Mrs. Cleary's standing on "her own two feet" after graduating from high school in Portland, Oregon during the Depression. It's a wonderful story: honest, interesting, and moving. She recounts attending college in California, meeting her future husband, her work as a librarian (including for the Army in World War ll), and writing her first book, Henry Huggins. If you read her books as a child, or if your children read them, you will enjoy these books.
Reviewed by Sue J.

Keep checking this space for more interesting and entertaining recommendations from Burbank READS into the Night!

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