A delightful and humorous, if disturbing, exploration of genetics for the general public. I'd say it is up there with Bill Bryson's works. It is just the right level of technical for me. (By that, I mean it is technical, but with no prerequisites.) Each chapter is a separate essay, but the collection builds with some strategy towards overall impact, which I appreciated. The author adds a personal context as well, by getting his genome tested, and I enjoyed that. We have overt genetic issues in my family, and the "crap shoot" element of it is a harsh reality that I was glad to see included in this book, to personalize it.
The book is filled with information that is the best of semi-sensational science. For example, we have another creature interwoven into our every cell, that is somewhat creepy! The Y chromosome has peculiar behaviors that keep making it smaller, but it seems somehow never to disappear altogether. I find that provocative. All the other primates have 48 chromosomes, we only have 46. Hmmm. Toxoplasmosis changes behavior - I knew about that in rodents, but it is fascinating to think about how that works with humans. (And, the aforementioned attempts to create a 'humanzee,' quite disturbing.)
The narrator takes great delight in sharing these stories, and I thoroughly enjoyed his performance.
The best of popular science, for me, includes this 'wow' factor. I love being reminded of how interesting our world is, and how many more mysteries there are to solve. I have no doubt it won't be for everybody - but I liked it quite a bit.
I enjoyed every minute of this book, and was sorry when it ended. It's a tale of adventure, certainly - but also a story of bad luck and worse luck; of a series of implausible chance occurrences; and of the human ability to endure. History comes alive here, in this slice of time that encompasses the height of the American whaling industry and the peculiar dynasties of Quaker Nantucket.
This story is clearly in Nathaniel Philbrick's wheelhouse, as his other books are also about the sea and early American history. Philbrick's genius lies in his ability to give rich detail and context for everything, without going too far into the weeds or losing the story. His meticulous research supports his skillful storytelling - every sailor in the boats has a tale, and they vividly come to life. I particularly appreciated Philbrick's attention to the African American sailors. The lives of these men provided scarcer primary data, I am sure, yet the author worked to fill out the details and distinguish their experiences.
The narrator, Scott Brick, is spot on as well. Highly recommended.
I have read a few other books by Ruth Rendell, but this is the best one so far. An expertly developed, fully dysfunctional slice of life in one apartment building, above the landlady's antique store. Widows, beautiful schemers, mentally challenged adults, upper crust gentlemen, and sketchy eastern European ladies - all present and accounted for. Oh, and a serial murderer. The characters are in turn plucky, horrifying, and bittersweet. The structure allows the reader to spend a lot of time in the murderer's mind - wonderfully unpleasant! And the title provides an ironic twist to the story.
I started this book after hearing the co-author, Daniel Coyle, interviewed on Slate magazine's sports podcast. Coyle was so understated, and seemed almost overwhelmed by the information that he learned for this, his second Lance Armstrong related book. (He likened Armstrong to Tony Soprano!) My curiosity was piqued - and I was not disappointed.
"The Secret Race" is essentially Tyler Hamilton's autobiography as a professional cyclist during the volatile late 1990's and 2000's. From the outset, the curtains are peeled back on the world of elite competitive cycling, to reveal the drama of being part of Lance Armstrong's Tour de France era, and the incredibly disturbing details of the doping techniques that are the center of the recent USADA investigation. I had many "aha" moments about how the doping works, why the athletes do it, methods used to avoid getting caught, and what can go wrong (sometimes spectacularly, tragically wrong).
The book is told through Hamilton's folksy language, but is clearly structured and researched by the impeccable Coyle. It was impossible to put down, and incredibly suspenseful, considering that the outcome is already known. Hamilton takes shape as a movingly flawed individual, who had the bad fortune to be paired up with Lance Armstrong as his ultimate "frenemy" in the workplace.
Finally, the book is so detailed, and so well referenced, that you may enjoy keeping your Youtube and Wikipedia handy, to view the races and personas in the story, as I certainly did.
I tried to enjoy this book, but I just couldn't. I am interested in history in the broad sense, China in general, and Beijing in particular, and the book does tell a creepy, detailed story of the murder of a young English woman in 1930's Beijing, among the expatriate community. However, the author so doggedly sticks to the crime in question, and repeats the facts in an almost mercilessly literal way that there is little in the manner of context, or bigger picture. I wanted to stop the author and ask, "why are you telling this story?" That perspective was missing for me.
On the plus side - the book incidentally sheds some light on the Japanese invasion of China, which prompted me to look for books on that subject.
I loved Kitchen Confidential, in part because it was the story of a punk rock underdog from Manhattan, a demographic close to my heart and history. Occasionally over the years I have wondered how success and maturity have affected Bourdain, and this book answered most of my questions. Bourdain narrates, which is all important. The chapters on the dissolution of his marriage and his grappling with fame were moving, and quite sad. I found it laudable that he has the ability to admit that he's a jerk and has been wrong about a lot of things. And the section on the fish expert at Le Bernardin is just amazingly good journalism. Yes, he can be a strident, opinionated blowhard, but I think that's part of his charm. His devotion to cooking (and cooks) is infectious.
I have told many people about this fabulous book, and the response is always raised eyebrows, and a surprised grimace. "Rabies? Really?!" Yes, really! (You may also have grown up hearing about "a series of painful shots in the stomach," which was my parents' way of getting me to stop adopting neighborhood squirrels.)
This is among the best of books of its genre - it takes one purported focus, and spirals out to create an interdisciplinary gem. It begins in prehistory, goes from India to Europe to the US to Bali, and synthesizes cultural, historical, and scientific information. The case histories are painstakingly researched (scouring source material to find detailed 400 year-old anecdotes of children getting bitten by various animals, for example). The effect is a kind of sub-plot into cultural views on animals, wild and tame, pets and livestock more generally, and the domesticated dog in particular.
I was intrigued by the authors' research into literature, artwork, and cultural tropes like werewolves and vampires, ancient Egyptian sculpture, and Hollywood movies. The authors do not shy away from ideas and therapies that are still unsettled (like the "Milwaukee protocol," which is induced coma treatment). Rather, they thoroughly present several perspectives, so I felt I was brought up to date but not propagandized.
So much more than a single-subject book. Very capable narrator, as well.
Louise Penny has written a tale with all my favorite things - fascinating historical context, complex, emotional characters, and a good story. The cloistered monastery setting is wonderfully detailed, and each monk has a clear, vivid character (even the minor ones). The twists of the story, whether humorous little details or fast-paced dramatic actions, prevented me from putting it down. The murder mystery was a wonderful tale, with an interesting resolution and a strangely hopeful twist at the end.
The parallell story, among the regular characters, will be interesting to new readers, and almost overwhelming for those of us who follow the series. I noticed in her previous book, "Bury Your Dead," that Penny has a gift for imagining the most heart-breaking thing that could happen to Inspector Gamache, and making it so - drawing it out over the course of hundreds of pages, awful yet irresistible. This book is no different. She definitely has a gift for creating characters whose emotions are so engaging, so vivid, that I am invested in their well being.
I loved this book, but I do feel like I need a support group now.
What a marvelous treasure. I have seen Pepys quoted in history books over the years, and finally decided to read the original. I couldn't be more pleased. Pepys (pronounced, delightfully, "peeps"), a noteworthy figure in English history for a variety of accomplishments, had an eye for detail that brings the era alive. The plague, the war with the Dutch, the nature of domestic and professional life, the fire of 1666 - his descriptions are riveting, and without equal as primary historical material.
The beauty of Pepys' diary is that he was writing for his own purposes, so it is utterly unedited for public consumption. He was a neurotic skirt chaser, but very compassionate towards his wife. The account of his wife and father burying the gold in the back garden is hilarious. Bravo to the narrator for bringing a vivid personality to this thoroughly enjoyable book.
I heard about this book on a science podcast, so I expected a good science read but I was pleasantly surprised by the engaging stories. The author frames the material by entwining biography, history, and science together in a wonderfully efficient, illuminating, and entertaining way. The author has identified a historical moment during which a perfect storm of influences came together, which is what I look for in a history book.
It is not for the squeamish, but the author has a way of delighting in the details of how poisons work in the body, while remaining sympathetic to the victims. There is an enthusiasm for both biological science and history here that is delightful and rare.
The narrator gives an eccentric performance, but she grew on me and became part of the quirky charm of the book.
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