Feb 23 2010

Henrietta Lacks, Immortal

Tag: books,History,non-fiction,Science, Medicine, etc.Donna B. @ 5:18 pm

It is the vitality of Henrietta Lacks and her descendants that captured my imagination while reading The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.

It’s just a darned good story and it pushes all my “I want to read that” buttons – lively characters, science, mystery, public policy and politics, genealogy, plus a few I’ve probably not yet identified.

When you finish a book with a feeling you know some of the characters, and wishing you could visit further with them, you know it’s been worth your time. I can’t recommend this book highly enough. It’s just that good.

Jun 29 2009

Two Blogs That Have Cost Me Money

Tag: non-fictionDonna B. @ 9:15 pm

First is Gene Expression. Second is Assistant Village Idiot. And… I do not want my audience, however limited it may be, to think I disparage either for my monetary expenditure. I don’t call it a monetary loss because it isn’t. Sure, my pocketbook suffers, but my knowledge grows beyond that cost. Result = gain.

Currently I am reading The Horse, the Wheel, and Language: How Bronze-Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World, because it was recommended on Gene Expression. This follows several books I was introduced to by the Assistant Village Idiot by Nassim Nicholas Taleb.

Though I am susceptible to suggestions by those two bloggers, I cannot remember who/where I came across suggestions to From Dawn to Decadence: 500 Years of Western Cultural Life 1500 to the Present
or Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America (America: a Cultural History)
– both books that I refer to often.

Do you find it odd that I do not buy books from Instapundit’s or Althouse’s link? Why do you think that is so? Personally, I think it’s because they often recommend books they have not themselves read.

Jun 10 2009

A Non-Pollyanna Post. (Don’t read if you’re happy).

Tag: History,non-fictionDonna B. @ 9:06 pm

I’m currently reading The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust of World War II and it is one of the most difficult books I’ve ever read.

Oh, it’s not overly footnoted or heavy on scientific terms. It’s just that I have about a 40 minute tolerance of the sheer human depravity depicted. It is perhaps more depraved than the holocaust, even though the numbers do not compare. Why is this so? It is because the depravity of the Rape of Nanking was much more personal.

It is the difference between industrial killing and experiencing first hand the spurt of blood and dying moan from each victim. The Nazis, though killing many more people, were not, for the most part, individually involved in the killing of individuals.

I do not mean to imply that assembly line killing is a lesser evil. It is, I think, the greater evil. What I am saying is that is does not involve as many killers and it is spared the grotesque experience of massive blood and guts. The resemblance lies in the requirement of the agreement of many people to acquiesce. The difference lies in the actions of those who acquiesce.

Is it less moral to herd prisoners onto a rail car not knowing for sure (though cognizant of the possibility) that are on their way to die or is it less moral to personally rape, tortue, disembowel, and kill a prisoner? Is there, in fact, a moral difference?

Does the fact that the more personal killing is based on the fact that the prisoners could not be fed therefore they must die (a painful and humiliating death) a more moral position than one that says the prisoners are inferior human beings and therefore must die to preserve a perceived genetic preference?

Why were the Germans prosecuted with the utmost zeal and the Japanese were prosecuted with negligible fervor after WWII?

Which do we rally against? Why has it been so much easier for most of humanity to rally against the industrial style? Is that because our governments are getting bigger and bigger and more controlling?

Or is it because it is simply easier to protest government actions than it is individual actions — even when those individual actions are at the behest of a government?

The bottom line to me seems that individual action is likely to kill fewer people but do so more gruesomely. State actions are much more efficient and bloodless thus more people are killed.

Which is better? Individual violence or government violence? That is one question. There are many others.

Apr 24 2009

The Genesis Secret

The book is due out in the U.S. in a few days. I was fortunate to have been given a paperback of the UK release by my sister on her recent visit to the U.S. When she gave it to me, she warned “it’s gory and graphic, but I think you’ll like it.”

Gory it is. I’d give it a 10 on the gore scale as it is a book that contains chapters you might not want to read while eating. The methods of torture (not necessarily used to gain information, but used to prolong the suffering of death) aren’t new. They are likely accurate descriptions, which is more chilling than if they were made up.

What is distinctly NOT made up is the archaeology in the book. Gobekli Tepe definitely exists and the linkages between it’s location and biblical events are fairly well documented, extremely interesting, and intriguing.

Christian fundamentalists and young earth creationists are going to hate this book. While the link between Gobekli Tepe and the Yezedis is somewhat tenuous as presented, the idea of the evolution of ancient religions and myths is not. If Gobekli Tepe is “the Garden of Eden” of old, it’s certainly been upgraded many times.

It’s been well over a month since I read this book and I still find myself wondering about ideas and simple facts brought up in it. Whether you love it or hate it, this book will likely stay with you. 

May 24 2008

Dear Family: Where Are My Books?

Tag: my family,non-fiction,wordsDonna B. @ 2:30 pm

So far, I’ve broken down and bought my second copy of From Dawn to Decadence. Dearest brother, I believe my first copy is buried somewhere in your pile of books or you left it in the patio “cabinet” that Dad took, contents and all, and burned like he’d been threatening to for years. Who to blame? You or Dad? hmm… it’s not like I would have loaned the book to Dad is it?

Again, dear brother, did the same thing happen with The True Believer?

The last I remember seeing of The Scotch-Irish: A Social History and How the Scots Invented the Modern World is when a daughter or two and a son-in-law or two were looking them over. I’ve since searched both daughter’s bookcases and not found my books. I’m at a loss here. I can’t help but wonder if they left them in their uncle’s care.

How is it that Born Fighting, a book I’m not as likely to re-read is still safely on my shelf?

Now I’m not really complaining too much here. My daughters and my brother have provided me with lots of reading material. It’s just that I can’t understand why books I refer to often disappear. Maybe there’s a bookmouse in my house.