BOOK REVIEW: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

This review is going to focus on The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks written by Rebecca Skloot. This book was published in 2010–which means it’s out there for you to read folks! I had heard many good things about this book and bought it several years ago. Then I went back to graduate school and reading for fun wasn’t at the top of my priority list so this book lived on my TBR shelf for quite a while.

This book is a non-fiction biography that tells the story of Henrietta Lacks and her legacy through science and her family’s story. If you’re into science you may have heard of HeLa cells–they came from Henrietta.

Henrietta was a tobacco farmer. She lived and worked on the same land that her ancestors did. Then she got sick. She went to Johns Hopkins for some tests and found out that she had cervical cancer. The cells that were taken for biopsy were also used to try and grow more cells for research, without her consent. These cells were the beginning of HeLa, and they are still alive today.

Although Henrietta succumbed to her disease, her cells were responsible for virus and cancer research, studying the aftermath of an atom bomb, and helping to develop the polio vaccine, in vitro ferilization and gene mapping to name a few uses.

Not only did Rebecca Skloot bring to light the scientific importance of the cells, but she highlights the wrong doing that the scientific community performed by taking human cells without permission, and also by not financially helping the Lacks family.

Henrietta’s daughter, Deborah is a large part of the research that Rebecca did to uncover the story behind HeLa. Deborah and her siblings did not handle learning about the cells well. Deborah didn’t understand how cells work, and had many health problems of her own.

This book was very interesting in that it talked in both science and emotion. I finished reading this book in just a couple days and would love to learn more about what HeLa has helped develop around the world. However, it is also an important work highlighting injustices against African Americans in this country and an example of how they were taken advantage of and experimented on.

Happy reading πŸ™‚

BOOK REVIEW: This is Me by Chrissy Metz

This is Me by Chrissy Metz, of the TV show This is Us, is a heartfelt memoir that chronicles Chrissy’s life from the time she was a small child through to her major success as an actress on This is Us.

This book was quite the page turner! I picked it up and finished it in two days. To those of you who don’t know me, that’s really quick. Only fluffy fiction stories get finished that quickly usually. But this meaty, deep story hit home for me in many ways.

I found it beyond easy to connect with Chrissy, as someone who was bullied through school. I envied her courage to move across the country to follow her dreams. I also was beyond happy to see someone famous showing readers/followers that it isn’t easy to enter Hollywood. Although many actors didn’t have it easy, we don’t often hear such gut wrenching stories about the “before they were famous”. This is Me truly does this with vivid detail.

This is a super short review because I actually read this quite some time ago, but it was a beautiful book, and I hope that you pick it up to read this enlightening read.

Happy Reading πŸ™‚

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry

Alright, let’s take a break from the Tracers series by Laura Griffin and post about some non-fiction. I recently read Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson.

Before this, I didn’t know much of anything about astrophysics, or even just plain physics at that. I skipped taking physics in high school and focused on the liberal arts during my undergraduate days.

I didn’t really have an interest in reading this book when I heard it was coming out, but I work in a library. This book was insanely popular when it came out. There were so many hold requests that I felt I needed to know what everyone was so interested in.

I felt the book was somewhat hit or miss depending on the chapter I was reading. Some chapters bored me, while others inspired me to be in awe of our galaxy and universe, and even just the fact that life exists at all.

Tyson explained the subject well, which I would hope he would with his knowledge of the subject! I was surprised at the level the topic was covered at. I expected it to be a bit more for the layperson, and as someone who never took any physics classes I felt that I was missing some knowledge that I needed to fully understand some of the subject matter.

With all that said, I did find the book enjoyable, and I’m happy I read it. I’m not sure that it inspired me to go read more on the subject though. Have any of you read it? What were your thoughts?

Happy reading πŸ™‚

Bored and Brilliant

I really enjoy reading books that will help me better myself in some way. For that reason I was really excited to hear about the book, “Bored and Brilliant: How Spacing Out Can Unlock Your Most Productive and Creative Self,” by Manoush Zomorodi. Zomorodi is the host of WNYC’s podcast Note to Self, the podcast the launched the Bored and Brilliant experiment.

The experiment that was launched via the podcast was a series of challenges that listeners would follow in order to allow themselves to be bored. Many, if not most/all of the challenges included strategies that help you put down your devices and let your mind wander. However, Zomorodi is clear that she is not anti-tech and even shares a few apps that can help you make conscious decisions about your tech usage. One of these will tell you how many hours and minutes that you are using your phone. If you use certain settings it will break down how long you spend in each app through the week, which I have found very helpful to demonstrate where my weak points are so that I can avoid spending so much time on those apps the following week.

Some of the challenges are easier than others, and some aren’t new ideas either. I’ve heard from many places to delete ‘that’ app. ‘That’ app that causes you the most time suck to your day. Are you constantly scrolling through Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram with no end to the perma-scroll? Then that is going to be ‘that’ app for you. Always mindlessly playing Candy Crush, Sims Freeplay, or Home/Gardenscapes? There’s your app to delete. I’ll be honest, I have yet to delete ‘that’ app on my phone/tablet. But I have been more mindful of my time on those apps and find myself closing them down after shorter time periods than before.

However, one of the more interesting things I took out of this book were all the sections of research on boredom and how being bored can lead to being more productive/creative. I did not really expect to learn as much as I did. I expected more of a general overview, similar to the many other self-help/happiness books out there. As a librarian, one of the most intriguing tidbits I read in the book was about how our attention spans have decreased from reading on the Internet so much, leading to fewer literacy skills. Zomorodi interviewed a scholar that had to reteach herself how to read her own favorite (lengthy) novel by increasing the amount of time spent reading print books. I found that absolutely fascinating! In beginning this blog I have definitely been picking up my reading of print and I have noticed a pick up in my “reading endurance” of print materials.

I found this book very enlightening and think it could be a good tool for those looking for a way to put down those devices and to start daydreaming more.

Happy Reading πŸ™‚

TFD–The Financial Diet

I’ve been on a kick of reading nonfiction books, mostly along the lines of self-help and learning about yourselves. Think books like The Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin and You Are a Badass by Jen Sincero. This review focuses on The Financial Diet, written by Chelsea Fagan. It’s by far the most recently published book that I’ve reviewed so far.

Fagan is the creator of the popular blog The Financial Diet, which the book is based on. It aims to help millennials (especially women) with their finances. A coworker recommended the book to me before it was even released, and I got really excited. And, although there are some nuggets of wisdom sprinkled throughout the book, I was fairly underwhelmed by the book as a whole.

Fagan got on my annoyed side before I even finished the introduction. She tanked her credit score as an irresponsible teenager. Yet, she tries to appeal to her millennial readers by talking about the many thousands of dollars of debt in student loans that many, if not most, millennials have. One is a personal choice to ignore debt and the other is an unfortunate side effect of trying to better educate yourself. I don’t want to get into the debate of whether or not everyone should go to college, and whether or not it’s a waste of money, but as one of those millennials that has quite a bit of student loan debt, I don’t appreciate being preached to from someone that doesn’t have it. I have yet to read one of these financial based books aimed at millennials that isn’t written by someone that was privileged in some way.

In this book I think I got more out of the guest interviews than from the bits written by Fagan. I didn’t really learn anything new–make a budget, don’t spend beyond your means, buy cheap foods that go further and can be frozen. How about you actually say how to make a budget? I wish one of the books would go deeper into the specifics of how to do the things necessary to get out of debt. And that one of these books would be written by someone that overcame their debt by doing something realistic, that isn’t a once in a million chance.

One guest interview in the book that I enjoyed specifically mentioned not even thinking that studying abroad was an option because she had to work while in college. That was a breath of fresh air to read in a book, and see that that person has worked hard all her life and gotten into relative financial success. That is motivational.

I hope that eventually I find a book that doesn’t preach and goes deeper into financial education.

Happy Reading!

You’re A Badass Pt. 2

My last review centered around Jen Sincero’s “You are a Badass” book, which discusses strategies to increase your self esteem in a “you can do it!” fashion. Today’s review looks at her next book which is a follow up to that book and is called, “You are a Badass at Making Money.”

I initially wanted to read this book even more than Sincero’s book “You are a Badass”, because I am in serious need of learning more about creating a stable financial lifestyle. While reading the first Badass book the money section was one of my favorites and I was thrilled to see she decided to write a book solely focusing on the topic. This book was well balanced between the “You are a Badass” way of living of doing whatever you put your mind to, and providing ideas of how to succeed at being as wealthy as you want. Sincero is clear that it is up to you to get over your mental hurdles, and that you need to do some leg work to figure out what you want. It’s more about figuring out your financial goals and then figuring out your own path to get there. So you want to pay off your debt faster? Can you sell stuff you have? Can you start a second — or third — side hustle to give you the extra cash? Why can’t you do these things, and if you “can’t,” then how bad did you really want to reach the goal you set for yourself if you aren’t willing to do extra to get it?

I absolutely love (in case you couldn’t tell) the mentality of this book. However, there were sections I didn’t find as helpful, or as easy to digest. By easy to digest, I mean more along the lines of the topic needed to be sold better instead of it being difficult to understand. Sincero wrote this book from her perspective and life experiences. She’s a life coach, and wrote heavily about her path to become a coach and coming up withΒ  A LOT of money to pay her first coach in order to learn. I liked the message that if there is something you want bad enough you’ll find a way to make the money to get that thing. But, I found her examples weren’t the right ones for me.

I often have a difficult time going full steam ahead on something and try to figure out the pitfalls, when it might be a better option to be wholeheartedly optimistic and just go for it. A large part of the methodology of Sincero’s books, as well as other books in this genre, is that you need to let it all go and just believe. I often begin the book, and maybe even begin doing some of the things the book in question suggests, but then start to flounder, and it goes by the wayside. One of my 2018 goals is to get over some of these mental hurdles I have and do the things!

Happy reading πŸ™‚