Semester Reading List, Reprise

At the end of last semester I did a post listing the books I had read throughout the term and giving a brief synopsis.  It turned out that I enjoyed that exercise quite a bit (despite the fact that in elementary school I thought book reports were dumb–Why do I have to tell the teacher about what I read?  Can’t s/he just read it for him/herself?), so I’m going to subject you to it again, whether you like it or not.

Also, if you were wondering how I remember what I have read, I do keep an active reading list where I cross off/date items as I read them, but for the sake of these posts, I’ve been using our wonderful university library catalog which conveniently (perhaps also a bit creepily?) lets you opt to store your checkout history.

  • Bonk: The Coupling of Science and Sex (Mary Roach): I read Packing for Mars by Roach a few years ago and liked it, so I put the rest of her popular science books on hold at the beginning of the semester and used them as light reading in between heavier books.  These books tend to be casual in style and not necessarily the most in-depth works of research, but I enjoy them as a way to let my brain cells off the hook for a bit while still feeling like I’m learning something.  Titles are pretty self-explanatory.
  • Myths About Suicide (Thomas Joiner): I try to alternate between brain rot books and “real” books.  One of my side-interests that most people don’t know about is mental health.  This book presented a simple, but nuanced, thesis about how/why suicide occurs, and, as the title implies, why it doesn’t.  I appreciated the openness with which Joiner approached a topic that is, unfortunately, often culturally taboo.
  • Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers (Mary Roach): This book is not as morbid as it seems, I promise, and I actually learned a lot about different ways cadavers can be used (there is so much beyond burial/cremation, organ donation, and medical school labs…so much more).
  • Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death In a Storm-Ravaged Hospital (Sheri Fink): After Hurricane Katrina, a lot of life/death decisions were made by a lot of people of varying levels of qualification.  As a result, a lot of lawsuits were filed.  One particular hospital was the center of a great deal of national media attention: this book explores the decisions, minute by minute, that were made by the doctors and staff at this hospital.  I found her discussion to be much more honest than the majority of what was promulgated through the media at the time, but in fairness, her bias is probably towards the health care professionals, since she herself is an MD/PhD.
  • The Coming Plague: Newly Emerging Diseases In a World Out of Balance (Laurie Garrett): This book goes through the discoveries of various epidemics/pandemics mostly in the past 100 years.  The first 60-70% was the most interesting to me: she narrates the stories of first outbreaks of Lassa fever, Ebola, Marburg, etc. and the people who helped untangle them.  The last part of the book had to do with public health and how policy affects epidemics–also interesting (to me), but perhaps a bit more dry.
  • My Story (Elizabeth Smart): This is the first book I’ve read cover-to-cover in one sitting in as long as I can remember.  (Granted, it took until 3 am, and I regretted my decision sitting in class the next day.)  Smart narrates the story of her kidnapping and imprisonment as a child.  I remember watching the coverage of her disappearance and subsequent rescue when I was a child not much younger than she.  Of all the horrors she experienced, what struck me most was her faith–though different than mine, no less real.
  • Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal (Mary Roach): Yeah, I read a book about the digestive tract.  Deal with it.
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One thought on “Semester Reading List, Reprise

  1. Pingback: Summer Reading List | Mind of a Science Nerd

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