Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Gulp - Mary Roach

Sub-title: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal

I'd previously read Mary's book, "Stiff" about cadavers.  This book covers the digestive system, from nose/mouth all through to the other end.  She has a light-hearted style, interspersing asides with the medical facts and history of this vitally important body function.  I enjoyed learning about the evolution of medical treatment and diseases affecting the digestive trac.  Quirky read.

Published: 2013  Read: May 2017  Genre: Non-fiction, medical

Thursday, May 25, 2017

The Lost City of Z - David Grann

The last of the Victorian explorers, Percy Harrison Fawcett, disappeared into the Amazon jungle with his son and the son's friend, seeking evidence of a lost ancient civilization he had labeled "Z".  The author illuminates the power of an obsession to draw a man to feats of enormous perseverance.

The book is based on the life of Fawcett and the author had access to previously unavailable private papers and diaries.  The author found himself obsessed with the research and writing of the book.

This is a spell-binding read, highly recommended.

Published:  2005 (paperback ed. 2010) Read May 2017  Genre Historical fiction, biography

The Illusion of Separtness - Simon Van Booy

Lovely prose, some wonderful images but overall this book is almost like reading poetry, somewhat disjointed though the story is as well.

The lives of a young couple before WWII intertwines with that of a lonely film director, a blind museum curator and a janitor at an old folks home.  I was not quite sure who was who in the end.

He had been reborn into the nightmare of truth.
Martin likes to think that even the smallest gesture is grand.
Desire is met with the memory of satisfaction.
Lives are staged from within.
The scent of flowers lingers for days as though waiting for an answer.

Published: 2014 (paperback) 2012 (hardcover) Read: May 2017  Genre: fiction

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Last Days of Night - Graham Moore

What a good read!  This is the story of the lawsuit by Einstein against Westinghouse for encroaching on his patent for the light bulb.  Westinghouse hires Tesla to "build a better light bulb" and enlists a young recently graduated lawyer to defend him.  Told utilizing actual transcripts, letters and news reports of the case, it's a fascinating imagination of these famous scientist and businessmen battling to take control of the future.  Highly recommended.

Published: 2016  Read: May 2017  Genre: Historical Fiction

The Foundling - Paul Joseph Fronczak

Subtitle: The True Story of a Kidnapping, a Family Secret, and My Search for the Real Me

This is the true story of a child that was kidnapped from his mother in the maternity ward and later identified as an almost two year old abandoned outside a building in another state.  Paul discovers the story of his youth when he's only 10 years old and begins to wonder if he is really the biological child of the people who raised him.  A DNA test proves he is not and the search for his real parents and the story behind him being a foundling is an engrossing mystery.  

I loved it for the explanation of the analysis of his DNA and its use in building a family tree from nothing.  If you're interested in understanding the use of DNA in adoption cases, this is the book to read.

Published: 2017  Read: May 2017  Genre: Biography

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Dust Bowl Girls - Lydia Reeder

Sub-title: The inspiring story of the team that barnstormed its way to basketball glory

The author of this book is the great-niece of Sam Babbs, the coach of the women's basketball team from Oklahoma Presbyterian College.  During the 1930's depression, he offered college scholarships to high school graduates who would play basketball.  He led the team to national and international victories and changed the lives of these poor farm girls.

The writing is disjointed and there is a lot of "then this happened" recounting of events.  What I really enjoyed was learning about the attitudes in the 1930's toward women in sports.  President Hoover's wife was behind a nationwide effort to block women from playing sports as unladylike and would damage their health.  These women proved them wrong.

An entertaining reading.

Published: 2017  Read: April 2017  Genre: Biography

Monday, May 8, 2017

Hellhound on his Trail - Hampton Sides

Sub-title: The stalking of Martin Luther King Jr and the international hunt for his assassin

I'm hitting a string of good reads lately.  This book is the story of the assassin of Martin Luther King. James Earl Ray plotted and pursued King and set off a massive manhunt afterwords.  The book had me experiencing King's murder as an adult, as I had only bits and pieces of memory from childhood. The turmoil of the time as activists marched and protested for civil rights brought into sharp relief the challenge of making change in society.

The lack of sophisticated crime investigation technology made me realize how far we've come and how tried and true methods were still effective.  There's a hint that the FBI at that time had many more technical and communication resources then I'd thought were available in the 60's.

Hampton Sides is a favorite author and this book did not disappoint.

Published: 2010  Read: April 2017  Genre: Biography