Recommended reads

One of the things about finishing work for the school year is that people ask you what you’re reading and looking forward to reading over the summer – so here are a few recent reads I recommend (and a couple I’m looking forward to…)

Recent reads that made me think:

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
This is about the life, death, and lasting influence of Henrietta Lacks, who died of cancer in Baltimore in the 1950s. Her cells were used to create the HeLa cell culture, which has gone on to be amazingly prolific and of huge scientific benefit (among other things, it was the cell culture used to grow the polio vaccine for distribution). However, Henrietta herself – and her family – didn’t understand what was being done, and this book is both a provoking and sensitive look at the issues of medical ethics, historical legacies, and issues of race, class, and education and their intersection with ‘informed consent’. It’s also very readable, and has some truly great moments of beauty and compassion.

(read more at Rebecca’s site over here , and there’s a great brief story from the magazine Popular Science about Five Reasons Henrietta Lacks Is The Most Important Woman In History).

A Conspiracy of Kings : Megan Whalen Turner
This would be a series where I keep going “Why did I not discover this sooner?” Set in a pseduo-Ancient-Greece, this is a fantastic four book series dealing with the relationships between the powers of neighboring realms, who are at the same time very human and able to fail at doing the best thing all the time. It’s hard to talk about the books beyond that without giving spoilers (and if you go browse the earlier editions, even the cover blurbs and information give spoilers), but I highly recommend these for a thoughtful but fast read.

(Megan’s site is over here.)

Soulless by Gail Carriger
Ok, this one is a little less recent – I read it this spring – but delightful. It’s a Victorian-era steampunk vampires and werewolves romance novel. If you enjoy dramatic moments, wonderful culture and clothing descriptions, and one of the best on-screen Queen Victoria moments I’ve ever seen in a work of fiction, you’ll probably like this. (And this did make me think about the assumptions we have in interacting with others, among other things.)

(Check out Gail’s website and play with the dress-up doll and videos of the cover design.)

Books I’m looking forward to reading:

(These are, of course, only some, but they’re ones I anticipate getting to in the next couple of weeks…)

I’m currently reading The Stepsister Scheme by Jim C. Hines, which I picked up in part because I was impressed by a range of blog posts he’s made over the last couple of months. (I’m enjoying it so far, and expect to finish it in the next day or two, when I’ve got the sequel waiting.)

  • The Perfect Summer: England 1911, Just Before the Storm by Juliet Nicholson
  • Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard by Chip Heath and Dan Heath
  • Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay
  • Candor by Pam Bachorz

Hi, I’m Jen

Librarian, infovore, and general geek, likely to write comments about books, link collections, and other thoughts related to how we find, use, and take joy in information.

I'm the Research Librarian at the Perkins School for the Blind

More about my job and a day in the life

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