Top 10 Tuesday

Inspired my recent read, A Lady in the Smoke, which features a railway doctor, I thought I would give my Top 10 Books on Medicine that I would recommend. These are mostly non-fiction, but include some fiction as well.

  1. The Emperor of All Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee. This one is about cancer, and it’s a truly impressive book from start to finish. I was amazed at the amount of research that went into this. I read it after my dad passed away from cancer, and yet I found it an inspiration to read about all the people who are working so hard to find treatments and one day, even a cure.
  2. In Reckless Hands: Skinner V. Oklahoma and the Near-Triumph of American Eugenics by Victoria F. Nourse. If the last book inspired me, this one enraged me. Eugenics was a big movement for a shockingly long time which culminated in Nazi experiments in the prison camps. But it was big here in the US as well, and could have become law if not for a landmark court case.
  3. The American Plague: The Untold Story of Yellow Fever, the Epidemic that Shaped Our History by Molly Caldwell Crosby. I’ve read a lot of epidemic books, and this is my favorite on yellow fever. I tell you, you’ll be swatting mosquitoes a lot harder after this book!
  4. The Cruelest Miles: The Heroic Story of Dogs and Men in a Race Against an Epidemic by Gay Salisbury. This is another great one to read this summer when you’re sweltering in the heat. Read about the race through blizzards to get a diphtheria antidote to an isolated community in Alaska and you’ll feel so thankful for vaccines and for air conditioning both.
  5. Aspirin: The Remarkable Story of a Wonder Drug by Diarmuid Jeffreys. From its discovery to Bayer’s shameful Nazi connections to modern research, this covers everything.
  6. Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters by Matt Ridley. I really liked the way this book organized, a chapter for every pair of chromosomes, and a gene from every chromosome. It’s not even a little comprehensive, but it was compelling reading.
  7. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. Lacks was a poor Black woman who died of cancer, but her cells live on in research that has saved hundreds of lives. However, that raises questions about the rights of patients in this book that’s now a movie.
  8. The Leper of Saint Giles by Ellis Peters. I love the Brother Cadfael mysteries, but this one is my favorite in the series. Not only is the mystery compelling, but the description of the nursing among the lepers in England, of the disease and its effects is truly moving.
  9. An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears. This one is big. But it’s my favorite look at 17th century medicine. It was a time of great discovery, but also a time of superstition and prejudice. Told from multiple POV, it makes the story more complex.
  10. The Physician by Noah Gordon. An orphan is driven by an urgent need to know how the body works. He makes his way to medieval Palestine so he can study medicine and learn what there is to know.

20 Days to Enter!

20170527_153836Want to win free books? Dumb question, of course you do. My giveaway is dying for lack of interest, so let me remind you. You must like the ORIGINAL POST and follow my blog to win. You can like this post too, if you want, but that doesn’t count as an extra entry.

If you want extra entries, follow me on Twitter, mention the giveaway on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog, and then send me a link that you did so. That’s up to 3 extra entries.

4820And these are all good books, but just in case that’s not enough, I’m going to throw in this. Here’s my review. So that FOUR free books that you could win. And hey, if you don’t pay enough attention to me, I may add more books!!! Heaven knows there’s plenty around here to choose from. 🙂

So please, spread the word. I’d really like to see my blog grow so I can reach more readers. Thanks! You’re all great!

Cool Reads

It’s been really hot here in Utah and I’m not enjoying it much! Summer is just getting started really and it’s already nearing 100. You know what I need? Some nice frozen reads! Here are a few I can recommend.

Arctic Blasts for Summer Fun

  1. The Worst Journey in the World by Apsley Cherry-Gerard. Our hero with the amazing name went along to the Antarctic where he hung out with penguins. LOTS of penguins.
  2. The Man Who Ate His Boots: The Tragic History of the Search for the Northwest Passage by Anthony Brandt. OK, it’s kind of a downer in spots, but I guarantee that you will feel happy to be nice and warm and scurvy-free when you read it. (At least, I hope you’re scurvy-free. Eat an orange, just to be safe.)
  3. The Endurance: Shackleton’s Legendary Antarctic Expedition by Caroline Alexander. There are a lot of books about Shackleton, but this one has some of the best photographs from the actual expedition. No matter how hot it is, it will make you shiver.
  4. Tisha: A Wonderful True Love Story of a Young Teacher in the Alaska Wilderness by Robert Specht. I really liked this one.
  5. Daniel Plainway: The Holiday Haunting of the Moosepath League by Van Reid. Hilarious Christmas story.
  6. Washington’s Crossing by David Hackett Fischer. His account of Valley Forge is amazing and miserable.
  7. HMS Ulysses by Alistair Maclean. This is an account of submarine warfare during World War II.

This list ought to keep you cool for a bit. I’m going to check the air conditioning now!

 

 

Review: Band of Brothers

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Title: Band of Brothers: E Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne

Author: Stephen E Ambrose

This non-fiction book is the basis for the TV miniseries of the same name. It focuses on an American paratrooper company, the first of its kind, and takes them right through World War II. It highlights some of the soldiers and officers and gives an account of them through every action. Their first battle was on D-Day and they stayed in the center of things in Europe right through V-E Day and beyond.

Some things the book did well. For the first time, I really understood why so much looting occurs after a battle. It also gave a really good picture of how this company became so close and why that is important for survival during a battle.

However, the names and places sort of all blurred together in my mind. Major Winters was one exception, but for the most part, I had a hard time telling the soldiers apart. I liked the ‘Where Are They Now’ section in the back, but what would have really helped would have been more pictures. Same with the places. I am not strong on geography, and some of these places were pretty small. I don’t know why they didn’t include a single map, but it was a major oversight.

The story got me interested enough to do a little research on my own. I found that this book is a little controversial – not everyone involved felt it was an unbiased account, and some felt that Ambrose’s scholarship was a little sloppy. However, it was a good story and now I’d like to read more from some other writers about their own experiences. Recommended, but it could have been a better book.

Spoiler Alert: You’re Gonna Die

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Title: Spoiler Alert: You’re Gonna Die

Authors: Kourttany Finn & Jacquie Purcell

Genre: non-fiction fluff

Not to ruin your day or anything, but you’re going to die. Probably not today, but eventually, at some point, chances are really high that you’ll die. This book goes over a few of the ways that could happen, and then what happens to your body after you’re dead.

Ever wondered what a coroner does, exactly what happens in a post-mortem, how embalming works? This book covers all of that and more. It’s in a breezy conversational style, but it’s not disrespectful exactly. Just trying to take the mystique out of death. It doesn’t try to answer any of the philosophical questions about death or dying, just the practical stuff. It was a surprisingly fun read too.

Not very deep, but it was a quick informative read. Free with Kindle Unlimited.

Review: Dead Wake

Title: Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania

Author: Erik Larson

Setting: NYC and Atlantic Ocean, May 1915

Story: The RMS Lusitania was one of the top luxury liners of the day, filled with the bright and beautiful (and a bunch of 2nd & 3rd class passengers too.) Millionaires, actors, writers, debutantes and spies all crowded aboard this ship. Besides the passengers, the ship was carrying beautiful paintings by Van Gogh and other masters, editions signed by Dickens and Thackeray, gold bullion, and lots of ammunition. So when it went down, the news traveled fast, and eventually resulted in the United States entering World War I.

Review: I knew a little bit about the Lusitania, but I’d never heard the whole story. I’ve read other books by this author, so when I found this one on audio at the library, I couldn’t wait to check it out.

The numbers are pretty sobering. Out of 1962 passengers and crew, only 764 survived. But what makes it more interesting than the statistics is the way Larson tells the story. By using journals and letters that survived the voyage, he lets you get inside the ship and travel right along with them on their final voyage. I had my favorite people and I was trying not to skip ahead, but I admit that I couldn’t stand it and had to look up who survived and who died.

I have a couple of criticisms about the book though. The first is that he spends all this time talking about President Woodrow Wilson’s courtship of Edith Bolling. Wilson’s state of mind and his love life weren’t really relevant to the story. His reluctance to enter the war was relevant and didn’t get enough discussion.

Also, I was left wondering about the passengers who survived. What percentage of them were first class? Did it matter where their cabins were? How many were women and children? Maybe he answered these questions, but since it was on audio, I could have missed that part.

It did definitely get me interested in the story. It was all so sad and so pointless. Why wasn’t the ship more protected? Why hadn’t Wilson done more to help with the war already? I was totally involved in this story. I’m giving it 4.2 stars out of 5.

 

Book Riot Challenge – Read Harder

rhc_cover_pinterestIt’s been a while since I updated my Book Riot Challenge, so I decided it was time to let you all know how I’m doing. It looks like I’m about on schedule for the year, since we’re in May and I’ve completed 15/24 so far.

*1. Read a book about sports. Done! Psmith in the City, cricket. by P G Wodehouse.

*2. Read a debut novel. Done! Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson

*3. Read a book about books. Done! End of Chapter, mystery about publishing company.

4. Read a book set in Central or South America, written by a Central or South American author. – still looking!

5. Read a book by an immigrant or with a central immigration narrative. A Hope More Powerful than the Sea

6. Read an all-ages comic. American Born Chinese

*7. Read a book published between 1900 and 1950. Done! Cakes and Ale, published 1930

8. Read a travel memoir. Three Single to Adventure, currently reading

*9. Read a book you’ve read before. Done! Murder Over Easy, read first in 2007

10. Read a book that is set within 100 miles of your location. – Desert Solitaire, Utah

*11. Read a book that is set more than 5000 miles from your location. Done! The Woman Who Breathed Two Worlds, Malaysia/China

*12. Read a fantasy novel. Done! The Spirit Thief by Rachel Bach

13. Read a nonfiction book about technology. Unstoppable by Bill Nye

*14. Read a book about war. Done! Valiant Ambition, about American Revolution

*15. Read a YA or middle grade novel by an author who identifies as LGBTQ+. Done! Last Seen Leaving, by Caleb Roehrig

*16. Read a book that has been banned or frequently challenged in your country.  Done! Animal Farm, by George Orwell

17. Read a classic by an author of color. – Devil in a Blue Dress by Walter Mosley or Native Son by Richard Wright

18. Read a superhero comic with a female lead. – either Spider Woman or Daughters of the Dragon

*19. Read a book in which a character of color goes on a spiritual journey (From Daniel José Older)

*20. Read an LGBTQ+ romance novel (From Sarah MacLean) Done! Also Last Seen Leaving

*21. Read a book published by a micropress. (From Roxane Gay) Done! Future Worlds, A Science Fiction Anthology, published by Future World Publishing

*22. Read a collection of stories by a woman. (From Celeste Ng)  Done! Miss Marple by Agatha Christie

23. Read a collection of poetry in translation on a theme other than love. (From Ausma Zehanat Khan) Beowulf

*24. Read a book wherein all point-of-view characters are people of color. (From Jacqueline Koyanagi) Done! Black Panther, Number 1 by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Review: Mayflower

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Title: Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War

Author: Nathaniel Philbrick

Published: 2006

Themes: immigration, race, war, religion, geography

Format: physical book

Source: favorite author

I remember doing the little Thanksgiving sketch in grade school, the one with Pilgrims and Indians all sharing a nice dinner of turkey and cranberries and shaking hands to be friends. Turns out that wasn’t particularly accurate. For one thing, they probably didn’t have cranberries. For another, that wasn’t the start of a peaceful new era with everyone living Happily Ever After. War was looming over them.

In Philbrick’s book, he talks about how the Pilgrim Fathers and the Native Americans, mainly Massosoit’s tribe, got off to a bit of a rocky start. But they were each committed to peace and were able to work things out. If the story ended there, America would look very different today. But it didn’t. Fifty years later, their children and grandchildren had forgotten what they each owed the other and focused only on what they wanted. What happened next was tragic.

I really liked this book, but it took me a while to read it because I knew how it all ended – with a war. And not a war like the American Revolution, which Philbrick has also written about, one that ended with a new nation and us sending King George’s soldiers packing and rejoicing all around. But one that ended with a virtual genocide.

Parts of this book were really hard to read. There were atrocities on both sides. The amount of racial hatred – on both sides, but especially among the English – was pretty disgusting. But it did help me understand the American character and the military traditions that eventually emerged from this conflict. If you are a history fan, I would recommend this one. It was a solid, if sobering read. Be sure to read it in a physical format at the maps are essential to understanding the story.

 

Book Review: Princesses Behaving Badly

Title: Princesses Behaving Badly

Author: Linda Rodriguez McRobbie

Setting: worldwide, across history, across time

If you’re thinking Disney has the scoop on princesses, you are so far wrong. Real princesses are fierce, ruthless, vain, spendthrift, ambitious, violent, mystical, proud, and occasionally, mentally ill. Not really all at once, but as a whole, they are about as far from the sweet virginal doll as it’s possible to get.

This is a book club read and it’s going to be  a fun discussion next month. McRobbie sorts the women out by type – heroes, warriors, madwomen, etc. Some of these stories were totally shocking. And some were already familiar to me. I knew quite a bit about Hatshepsut, who started as a princess right enough but wound up as a pharaoh in her own right.

But others were entirely new to me. Princess Olga of Kiev was absolutely dedicated to the cause of revenge. When her husband was murdered, she embarked on a terrific campaign of getting her own back against the country responsible. When she was through, hundreds of men were dead and she was a national hero.

This was an extra treat since the author picked such a wide range of princesses. Instead of the usual choice of white Europeans, she went world wide – African, Asian, all over. She also makes an effort to tell the whole story, not the traditionally accepted Eurocentric story. The book is organized generally by the accepted story first, then the real story after. Some of the stories are quite short, but others are really long.

As far as the “mad” princesses go, it was enlightening to see the way women with mental illness were treated throughout history. Some of them clearly  needed restraint or something, but it was sad to think that so many of them could have been helped with modern treatment. One princess with an eating disorder and a distorted body image seemed especially sad to me.

Some of the stories were a little racy, many were violent, and some were seriously messed up, so I wouldn’t recommend this one for kids, but teens would get a kick out of it. Nothing deep, but a good introduction to the real stories behind this figures. There are also suggestions for further reading.

Book Review: City of Scoundrels

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Title: City of Scoundrels: The 12 Days of Disaster that Gave Birth to Modern Chicago

Author: Gary Krist

Setting: Chicago, Illinois, July 1919

Themes: Race, Politics, Labor Relations, Crime

My parents moved to Chicago after I graduated, but I would visit them during my summer break from college. It was a great place to be single. The food, the energy, the shopping, the cultural events, and most of all, the people – I loved it. It’s still one of my favorite cities in the world.

So this book really caught my eye. I have read about New York’s history, and about New Orleans, but I didn’t know much about Chicago. This was an eye opener. So many historic Chicago figures are in here. And like the title promises, the events in this brief period really did affect the shape of the city for years to come. The roots of racial tension, of political corruption, of the rise of Al Capone – it’s all here.

The action starts with the first documented air disaster when a hydrogen-filled dirigible crashes into a bank. Yeah, who saw that one coming? But that’s only the beginning. Mayor “Big Bill” Thompson soon has to deal with broiling racial tensions, a looming transit strike, and the widely publicized disappearance of a little girl. By themselves, none of these incidents would have been that difficult to resolve. But with them all occurring in a two week period, the problems just built on one another until there were riots in the streets and hundreds left dead. The press didn’t make matters better, by whitewashing the whole the thing and inflaming the crowds.

I would definitely recommend it if you love Chicago, or if you are interested in politics or 20th century racial tensions. I liked the pictures that were included, as well as the map. They really helped set the scene. Toward the end of the book, I felt a little overwhelmed by so many names to keep track of, but it was worth my time.