2012 Book 14: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot (1/27/2012)
Wow, this was an awesome book! It discusses the life of Henrietta Lacks, the donor of the tumor that was used to develop the immortalized cell line HeLa. The narrative alternates between the story of Henrietta’s family and a scientific discussion of the HeLa’s huge contribution to modern medicine. This is by far the most human story of science/medicine I’ve ever read. Everyone should read it! Additionally, the audiobook won the Audie Award because of its excellent performance. 5/5 stars.
2012 Book 8: The Help, by Kathryn Stockett (1/14/2012)
The Help was a well-written novel with an engaging (and endearing) story. Skeeter, a young Southern belle just returned home from college decides to cross racial boundaries and write a controversial book about how difficult it is being an African American maid in a white household in Mississippi. She doesn’t realize when she starts just how dangerous such a book could be. I think this book has an excellent theme (anti-racism and the pettiness of Southern White women in the 1960’s). However, it is very difficult to write a book about racism without making the defining feature of every character his or her race. This problem leads to excessive racial stereotyping—which is a pretty serious issue in this book. (The racial stereotyping applies to both whites and African Americans in this situation). Despite this problem, however, I think the book is worth reading for the sake of the story. 4/5 stars
2012 Book 3: The Last Lecture, by Randy Pausch (1/4/2012)
When Randy Pausch found out that he had terminal cancer and only a few months to live, he decided to give a “last lecture” providing insightful life advice about achieving goals and remaining optimistic. Everyone I have spoken to about this book absolutely loved it. Indeed, I found it very inspirational. He seems to have achieved all of his childhood dreams and managed to remain optimistic when he only had a few months left to live. However, it fell a bit short for me because his goals were so very different than my own. He was a self-proclaimed workaholic—ALL of his achieved goals were career driven. Apparently despite the wishes of his wife, he decided to spend a lot of time during his final months preparing this final high-impact lecture. The lecture was indeed a success. Good for him—clearly it was something he needed to do. But I hope I am never so focused on my career that I would spend the final months of my life working instead of spending time with my family and loved ones. Perhaps I am just pessimistic, but I seem to be the only one who found his story outwardly inspiring, but for the wrong reasons. I gave this book 3.5/5 stars.