Abraham, by Bruce Feiler

2012 Book 105: Abraham: A Journey to the Heart of Three Faiths, by Bruce Feiler (7/11/2012)

Reason for Reading: It fit into Reading Globally’s Middle Eastern literature theme. 

My Review 3.5 stars
In this short work, Feiler reviews the Biblical story of Abraham and then describes how the myth of Abraham has changed over time and between the Abrahamic religions. It is well-written and interesting, and its length is well-suited for the amount of information Feiler wishes to convey. (There were no lengthy speculations in order to add bulk!) I enjoyed it and learned a little bit, too!

Cleopatra: A Life, by Stacy Schiff

2012 Book 99: Cleopatra: A Life, by Stacy Schiff (7/4/2012)

Reason for Reading: I needed to buff up my “Memoir and Biography” category in 12 in 12 group, and this book fit into the Reading Globally theme read for Middle Eastern literature since it took place in Egypt.

My Review: 3.5/5 stars
Cleopatra: A Life is a light biography which is appropriate for the popular reader…not so much for historians or people who have already read a lot on the subject. There is a lot of speculation (Schiff admits as much) because there is not a contemporary information on the topic. Schiff’s thesis is that Cleopatra is not the conniving seductress that historians have suggested. The first third of the book covers her early life and relationship with Julius Ceasar, but this part not well organized. Schiff’s narrative jumps from subject to subject and does not do a very good job of explaining the political background. In fact, this section focuses mainly on how rich Cleopatra was and dwells in great detail on opulence. The last two thirds of the book come together in a tighter, more interesting narrative, however. This is where Schiff discusses Cleopatra’s relationship with Antony and its political ramifications. This is a good book to read for the “popular” reader who does’t have a specific interest in the subject. However, I ‘m guessing there may be biographies that better describe her relationship with Ceasar and the political ongoings at that time.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot

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.

The Professor and the Madman, by Simon Winchester

2012 Book 11: The Professor and the Madman, by Simon Winchester (1/24/2012).

The Professor and the Madman is about the making of the Oxford English Dictionary, and the “dangerous lunatic” that was a major contributor of entries to the dictionary. It was a fascinating narrative—well told with an interesting and educational topic. I think there were parts where Winchester waxed a bit dramatic or put in theories based upon conjecture rather than fact…but that is what journalists do, after all. 🙂 Quite worth the read. 4.5/5 stars.