The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot: This one has taken me a long time to get through. I have been listening to it in bits and piece for months but finally finished it this month. Skloot does an amazing job in telling the story of Mrs. Lacks and the cell line created from her cervical cancer cells, marrying the personal tragedies and triumphs of the Lacks family with the tragedies and triumphs of the scientific research that resulted from Mrs. Lacks’ cells. Skloot also perfectly walks the tightrope of raising important questions regarding research involving human cells without attempting to provide all the answers.

Lone Survivor by Marcus Luttrell: While not a great literary work, this book kept me up nights, desperate to know how Luttrell managed to survive an ambush by Taliban forces during which his fellow SEAL teammates were all killed. More than the story of his survival, I was fascinated with an inside look at SEAL training and the almost superhuman resolve, strength and character it takes to make it through. Saying that this book has deepened by gratitude and admiration for those who defend our freedoms seems like the ultimate understatement, but words are inadequate so that will have to do. (Heads up: This book is rather heavy on foul language, as one might expect.)

Decision Points by George W. Bush: Jim may wish he never gave this book to me for Christmas because George and I are sneaking off and staying up late discussing topics ranging from his decision to quit drinking to his rise to the presidency. Okay, not really George himself but one certainly feels as though one is having a one on one conversation with him while reading the book. Why, oh why, could he and his administration not be this articulate while in office?!? If you like W, you will love the book. If you think you hate W, you might be surprised.

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout: Given the political views expressed in this book, Ms. Strout would probably be outraged to see her book being reviewed just below President Bush’s, but such is life. This book was a strange mixed bag for me. I thought, aside from the jarring political commentary, the characters were well-developed and interesting people. The title character was at times a bit contrived to fit the story. Like many books I don’t particularly enjoy, it made for great discussion at book club.

The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling: I realize that you would have to have been living under a rock not to have heard of these books. But having recently read through the series again, but this time with Bailey (our son, age 11) who is reading them for the first time, I have to give them a plug. Well written, funny and touching; all the things a good book should be. Now I just have to get over the bitterness I am harboring towards his classmates who told him the ending before he even started Book 7.

2 Responses to “Book Notes”

  1. Dreaming Beneath the Spires


    I’ve really enjoyed reading the Harry Potters to my children from 2002, until 7 appeared, and now watching the movies with them. I think they are gripping; she creates likeable characters you really care about.
    Thanks much,

  2. nick


    I was surprised how lucid Decision Points read, especially since I listened to it in audiobook form where Bush read the memoir himself. I think the only other time I heard his voice that strong and confident was after the Sept. 11 attacks in his address to the nation. Either he had a great editor for the book (likely), or he’s just not as dumb as most of America thought he was (even likelier).

    I think the most interesting part of the book, though, was the assessment of his personal faith and how that shaped his life. Because the modern election process requires legislators to pander to religious folk in some form or another, I’m always a bit wary when politicians talk about faith. Bush, however, seemed genuine and had a firm conception of personal faith, as opposed to using vague religious-speak.

    I read this and then moved on to Churchill’s The Second World War (obscenely longer and much more convoluted), and I was reminded afterwards that memoirs, while about history, aren’t precisely historically objective. I still have some doubts about Bush’s push into Iraq, but his defense was plausible, and, ultimately, probably beneficial.


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