A leading geneticist addressing congress began his talk by asking the assembly where they thought their genes were. Their answers seemed to indicate they had no idea. One person guessed in the brain someone else suggested in the gonads. You might remember from your high school biology class that genes are in cells so yes there are genes in your brain and everywhere else in the body. The scary thing is that the people responsible for making decisions about the patent-ability of genes and genomes don't seem to understand the basics about genes or genetics. While not the most entertaining anecdote in the book, it was one that stuck with me in this election year.
Thanks to Sam Kean's book you don't have to be like a member of Congress. You can learn all about genes in this entertaining and informative book. Learn about gene mutation and why inbreeding is a bad idea. Discover how our genetic code indicates that human beings almost went extinct. Be astonished by the amount of virus DNA each human contains and why the whole idea of an Arian master race is not just racist, its unscientific.
Kean's book really is entertaining. The book abounds in both educational facts and useless but entertaining information. Who knew Gregor Mendel was not just a monk but became a cigar smoking abbot who was so fat he had a difficult time working in his garden. After I listened to the book I may not have mastered the science behind genetics, but I do have a better understanding of DNA, RNA and how it makes me the person I grew up to be. It's pretty fascinating stuff.
Before reading Alas, Babylon, I read the non-fiction and now partially discredited book Last Train from Hiroshima. I imagine this has largely effected my reaction to Frank's fictional account of life in Florida after nuclear bombs are dropped on the U.S. The horrors that Charles Pellegrino describes in his factual account of the aftermath of the bombs that fell on Nagasaki and Hiroshima are unforgettable and the suffering inflicted on the survivors, almost unimaginable.
Frank's story is much more removed from that sort of horror, which is fine. That's an artistic choice that makes this book more readable than Pelegrino's factual account. However, Frank ultimately seems to indicate that being forced into a lifestyle that largely resembles something from a different century might not be such an awful thing. The fussy, overly civilized types will all be wiped out as will the infirm and the impractical. The implication that there is an upside of nuclear holocaust was disturbing. Perhaps it is that sort of optimism that makes this book somewhat dated.
The story is actually an engaging one, but the subtext is disturbing if one gives it much thought.
"Last Train from Hiroshima" has been discredited because one of the sources, Joseph Fuoco, turned out not to have witnessed the bomb blast but was an impostor. It is sad because Pellegrinio's book aside from the parts Fuoco describes, is really excellent.
Since the title of the book doesn't give much away, all I knew about this book was that I kept saw it on several critics' lists of books everyone should read. It wasn't until I picked up a paperback copy and read the first few pages that I decided I had to read/listen to it. The first few pages in print swept me into the story of Valentino Achak Deng but the expert narration by Dion Graham made this not quite biographical, not quite fictional book come truly alive.
This is a story about one of the Lost Boys of Sudan. I have met one of the Lost Boys and heard his story as he told it in around forty minutes. This is the story he might have told if he had days to tell about his life and not merely minutes.
It doesn't matter whether the listener knows nothing about the civil war in Sudan or a great deal. It is ultimately a human story, one that needs to be heard. This is also America's story - about how the US appears to people half a world away and the things we can and cannot do for other nations. At times it is a heartbreaking story but it is so much more than that. The book may not be 100% factual; however it is completely true. It is true because it is never afraid to display the world as it is: wonderful, terrifying, unfair, generous, compassionate, horrifying and hopeful.
Ernest Cline does an amazing job linking a possible future with a post disco past. Technically, Ready Player One falls into the sci-fi genre. However since characters are obsessed with the 1980's, this book isn't just for fans of science fiction.
It is a fun book to read. In the book there is a quest and like all good quests, those who embark upon it will discover Truth. The characters spend most of their time in a virtual world escaping reality but their virtual lives have real world consequences and this gives the story a page turning urgency.
Anyone who lived through the eighties; evaded Blinky, Pinky, Inky and Clyde; loved comic books, owned an Atari VCS or watched movies like Wargames and Monty Python and the Holy Grail should read/listen to this book for the fun of it all.
As he wrote East of Eden, Steinbeck declared that he would not rush the telling of the story and he didn't. The story unfolds as It follows two generations of two different families in the Salinas Valley from the time of the Civil War through World War I. The Hamilton family is based on Steinbeck's maternal grandparents and their children. The book deals with the human condition and our ability to choose evil over good or good over evil. The characters are fascinating and the choices they make push the story onward.
East of Eden was published sixty years ago, but it never seems dated. Months after having read it the story still resonates and the characters are still strong in my imagination.
This isn't an uplifting book. In fact this post-apocalyptic novel is probably one of the darkest I've read and yet in the end it is oddly satisfying. McCarthy raises questions about what we as a society value and what we would sacrifice in order to survive. It is visceral and unforgettable.
Campbell's book is beautifully written and almost painfully evocative of the suffering felt by parents coping with a mentally ill child. It is also wonderfully narrated by Pamela D'Pella.
Just when I think Stephen King can't possibly think up new ways to scare his audience, he manages to cover new territory. The story unfolds slowly at the beginning but picks up speed along the way. Great characters, fun to listen too and very creepy. One of King's best in recent years.
A fascinating story about women in China! I knew very little about Chinese culture when I began this book and couldn't believe some of what was said about foot binding. However,when I did some research of my own I found the book was very accurate on that aspect of the story.
I've never read a book where my feelings about the main character changed so completely -- and then changed back. In the end this is a story about the redemptive power of love.
A fascinating listen!
The amazing thing about The Glass Castle is the affection that shines through this account of life in a dysfunctional family. It is a nuanced and disturbing portrait of life with two free spirited anti-establishment parents. It is also captivating and a great listen.
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