Title: The Devil & Sherlock Holmes: Tales of Murder, Madness and Obsession
Author: David Gann
Described as “a collection of spellbinding narrative journalism,” this book contains an amazing assortment of stories. From the opening story about the Sherlock Holmes fan who died in real life mysterious circumstances, to the final profile of a truly nasty criminal, this was a compelling read (or rather, listen, as I got the audiobook from my library. It’s not quite up to his book, The Lost City of Z, but it’s quite good. I think what I missed was something to tie all these stories together. These were pieces that appeared in print previously, so maybe there wasn’t really a thread that tied them together, but I think he could have grouped them differently or something. As it was, it was sort of odd. My favorite story was the one about the sandhogs, construction workers building a giant series of tunnels under NYC. Recommended, but not so strongly that you should add it to the top of your list.
Title: Undeniable: Evolution and the Science of Creation
Author: Bill Nye
Themes: science, religion, space, technology
Engineer and science educator agreed to debate creationist Ken Ham in a well-publicized event in 2016. You can see a Youtube video of the debate here. I have to admit that I’ve never watched the entire video. But I have watched clips. I am myself religious. I’m a LDS and a Christian, and I do believe in a form of Creation. However, my church doesn’t teach that it took X amount of time or anything like that. I don’t have any trouble reconciling my belief in a God who created the world (using whatever scientific rules necessary) and in scientific evolution at the same time.
I listened to this book, so I can’t go back and quote things, but my favorite parts of it was about space. That’s always my favorite part, really, but he had some fascinating stuff about what it would take to colonize Mars or explore Europa and so on.
There was a lot of humor in this book, but he talks about sex like A LOT. That makes sense, because it’s a book about evolution, and a species can’t evolve without sexual reproduction. But because of that, I wouldn’t recommend the book for kids who might enjoy Bill’s show. There are other Bill Nye books that are written especially for younger readers. This one is for adults.
I can’t say I loved it though. He is pretty relentless is making fun of religion and Creationists. I think he could have easily taken it down a notch. Just because he can’t comprehend how a god could operate within such limitations as Bill sets out doesn’t mean that 1/God isn’t more powerful that Bill imagines and 2/Those limitations aren’t just plain wrong.
Anyhow, I would recommend it and I want to read his next book, Unstoppable, on climate change. But I think maybe I’ll go with print format.
Review: Into the Heart of Tasmania: A Search for Human Antiquity
Author: Rebe Taylor
Themes: race, anthropology, class, human evolution, culture
In 1908 it was widely accepted that the last Aboriginal in Tasmania was dead. Enter Englishman Ernest Westlake, who planned to write about Stone Age implements and tools. Instead he wound up in the middle of a controversy he did not appreciate as he found living history all around him.
I have to admit that I really struggled with this book at first. If I hadn’t agreed to read it for Net Galley, I would have given it up. But I stuck with it, and somewhere around 10% I found it getting interesting. Westlake is not a sympathetic character. He struck me as a rather typical stuffy, pigheaded Victorian gentleman of the time. But the author, Rebe Taylor, was much more engaging when she allowed her personality to come through.
I think this could have been a more interesting book, but as it was I found it difficult to follow and rather dull. I’m not sure who the was intended for, but I doubt it was for average readers like myself. Thanks for the chance to read it.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Who likes free books? Dumb question, right? Who doesn’t? My plan is to usher in the new year with a book giveaway. Right now, I have a stack of books waiting for a new home. Here’s the list so far, but it may change.
Something in the Blood: The Untold Story of Bram Stoker by David J. Skal
Some Desperate Glory: The First World War the Poets Knew by Max Egremont
Marie Curie and Her Daughters: The Private Lives of Science’s First Family by Shelley Emling
All these were ARCs that I would like to share with someone else, and they’re all biographies. Plus some grammar-themed children’s books.
Grammaropolis Presents Nelson the Noun
Grammaropolis Presents Vinny the Action Verb & Lucy the Linking Verb
Also a few bookmarks, stickers, maybe a trading card or two, and one steampunk coloring book
It’s a small stack of books so far, but if you’d like to donate some goodies for the giveaway, I’d love to feature budding authors, small publishers, illustrators and so on.
How to enter:
- Follow my blog.
- Follow me on Twitter @cindy_bohn
- Comment below with your favorite book from 2016
Make sure you tell me your user name. You can enter all three ways, but there will only be one winner. The contest runs until January 2 at noon, MST. Good luck to all of you!
The Radium Girls by Kate Moore
Setting: New Jersey and Illinois, early 20th century
A horrifying look at at why we have work place regulations.
In the early 20th century, a girl couldn’t get a much better job than working at a watch factory. The girls got paid by watch and their take home pay was better than anything else in town. The only drawback – and it was a big one – was that the job was killing them. Literally. Sometimes it killed them quickly, with virulent oozing sores and crumbling bones, sometimes slowly, but it always, always killed.
This book was by turns fascinating, horrifying, and disgusting. I was a little overwhelmed by all the names, but it made sense in the end. Thanks for the chance to read this one.
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from Net Galley.