Life on the Edge (2015)

I am working my way through Life on the Edge: The Coming of Age of Quantum Biology, and although I’m not quite done yet, I just have to pause and talk about it with you.


What is life? And, maybe more importantly, why and how exactly is life? This is the huge question that McFadden and Al-Khalili aim to start answering in this book about quantum biology, which is the key to unlocking why and how life exists. They start with the example of the robin – as featured on the cover – that is able to use magnetoreception to navigate our vast planet, and take us on a journey through science history, from classical physics (Newton and his apple) to the birth of the field of quantum physics to the present day.

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Women in Science (2016)

I am a woman.
I am in science.


But you don’t have to be either to appreciate the women who have contributed to our collective body of scientific knowledge! And in fact, it’s important to take time to appreciate them because their work has frequently been trivialized or overshadowed by their male colleagues. I am grateful that we are finally able to give at least some women the recognition for their work.


For example, I’m really thrilled about the new trailer for Hidden Figures (definitely watch this!), which focuses on the black women whose work allowed an American astronaut to complete an orbit around the Earth. Women in Science has a feature on Katherine Johnson (who will be portrayed by Academy nominee Taraji P. Henson) if you’re interested in her story in advance of seeing the film!


I also liked how informative the book was about science as a whole field. Not only does the author and illustrator talk about each woman and her role in shaping our knowledge of science, but she talks about science itself. You can look at a timeline of events…Read More »

Street of Eternal Happiness (2016)

What do you think about when you think of China? One of the oldest civilizations, China today is full of contradictions. It’s a world power that is still ruled by the Communist Party while seeing incredible wealth and even more incredible poverty. You hear about Chinese tourists bringing shame to a nation of one billion people, remember the incredible displays of sheer manpower during the Olympics, and raise an eyebrow regarding most news stories that come out of the Middle Kingdom.

I have a lot of feelings when I think about China, because it does seem to be in a huge transition, and has been since the Communist Party took over. What I feel even weirder about is the fact that much of what I have learned about China’s modern history has been not from my family who lived through it but from white outsiders like reporters and historians, or through my (white) teachers at school. I didn’t know about the  Cultural Revolution until high school, and it occurred to me that my grandparents were probably reeducated. (They were.) It’s not something that would just come up in casual conversation with my family. Can you imagine a conversation going:

Hey Dad, was grandpa reeducated in the countryside because he was a judge?
Yes, and most of the friends he made died of starvation, along with millions of other Chinese.
Oh. And did you really kill sparrows during the Great Famine?
Yes, all of us children would pile the bodies of the birds. It wasn’t until later that we learned that eliminating sparrows was allowing worse vermin to destroy crops and worsen the famine.

Not really a conversation that just comes up. But I always wondered about how China became what it is today. What’s the context for all of the growth and suffering that occurs in China today? What is the context for everything I see when I go back to visit my family?

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The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (2011)

In college, I taught a colloquium course to incoming freshmen to let them know about the resources and opportunities available to them on- and off-campus. We also encouraged freshmen to read a book that was selected every year to be the freshman book of the year, where we often invited the author and other people affiliated with the book to campus in a series of events.

One of the years that I taught this colloquium, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks was our book. I was really keen on reading it, as a pre-med student who had just started developing an interest in social issues. (I was becoming, as the kids may say, woke.)Alas, while I worked hard to secure copies of the book for all of my students, and encouraged them to see author Rebecca Skloot and relatives of Henrietta Lacks when they were on campus, I never managed to read the book myself. (I gave my copy to a student.) So, I was really glad to have the opportunity to read a book that everyone loved that year and in the years that followed…

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The Little Paris Bookshop (2016)

As someone who took French for 6 years in grade school, I cannot resist the draw of a book set in Paris. And the premise of The Little Paris Bookshop really drew me in: a man, who is so intimately familiar with both books and the human condition that he is able to “prescribe” literary medicine to soothe people’s souls, sets out to try to mend his own broken heart. Some of the positive reviews that were already out for the book said it was great for book lovers. Hey, I’m a book lover! And I love France, let’s do this!

Book cover

I am very sad to report that I really had a difficult time finishing this book and I would not recommend it. I have several reasons as to why I disliked this book (with a few spoilers in the elaborations):Read More »