Week 4: I like big books

Happy World Book and Copyright Day!

I hope you have all had a great week – today is also World Book Night, a UK organization that hands out free books to kids around the United Kingdom. The organization ran for a few years in the United States but stopped for some reason, which is really too bad.

Books I finished this week

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The Gene by Siddhartha Mukherjee

This book barely squeaks under the 600+ page mark, and the audio-book, which I have been listening to, is almost 20 hours. I loved it. I especially loved listening to it. I don’t think I got every little detail like I might have had I read it, but the narrator, Dennis Boutskaris, did not put me to sleep, and it felt more like a really long and in-depth lecture, which I personally find easier to absorb because I can do other things while I listen and that allows me to focus.

This book might seem daunting, and for people not interested in the subject, I wouldn’t push it. However, if you find the subject interesting, or have a family history of genetic dispositions towards certain diseases, I would highly recommend it. Mukherjee outlines the history of human understanding on inheritance and the process of discovering DNA and genetics. He draws on his own family’s history of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder as well as personal histories of doctors and patients to personalize this subject and make it relevant.

What I found most impressive was the way he balanced the amazing potential of genetic technologies to solve and cure devastating diseases with the moral difficulty of determining what is “normal”, and the general misunderstanding of evolution and genetic determinism. I finished the book conflicted by the potential benefit and horror of genetic therapy, with a new appreciation of the complexity and subtlety of scientific research.

What went well

I have been trying to finish this book for a while, so it was nice to have this blog to motivate me to get through it, and I really enjoyed it. One of the things I have been concerned about is how I can read non-fiction about the things I am interested in and avoid books by white men, especially because natural science writing seems even more dominated by white men then a lot of other genres are. This book helped assure me that I can find books that teach me what I want to know.

I also had a wonderful conversation with a friend about the fact that her son seeks out and appreciated books with female protagonists and was inspired to buy the Alanna series (mentioned in last weeks blog post about female heroines in youth literature) for a young friend of mine.

What didn’t go well

I have been doing this for a month now, and I am realizing that I probably won’t always have a book finished every week. There are times that I am more interested in other hobbies, especially when the weather is nice. This isn’t necessarily bad, but I am a little disappointed that even now, with this much free time, it is hard to read as much as I want to.

Next week

I plan on continuing The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce and Finding Beauty in a Broken World by Terry Tempest Williams. I don’t know how far I will get in either of them, but The Unlikely Pilgrimage seems like a quick read. I also heard about a book called Sofia Khan is Not Obliged: A Heartwarming Romantic Comedy by Ayisha Malik, which she describes as the “Muslim Bridget Jones Diary”, and am excited to check it out!

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