Yup, it’s that time of year again. It’s a little shorter in quantity than most of my previous fall lists since I spent most/all of Christmas break studying for the MCAT rather than reading 200 pages a day. I did, however, read a lot of essays, long-form blog posts, and scientific papers. Some of these may be behind paywalls, so consider yourself warned, but in particular (though in no particular order), I’d recommend:
- “The Zero-Armed Bandit” by Alan Bellows of Damn Interesting (on David Brooks’ 2015 Sidney Awards list)
- “C.S. Lewis’ Greatest Fiction: Convincing American Kids That They Would Like Turkish Delight” by Jess Zimmerman of Atlas Obscura (I’ll just leave you with this fun tidbit: “What a tool, I bet he likes marzipan too.”)
- “Anatomy of an Unsafe Abortion” by Dr. Jen Gunter, the one and only Wielder of the Lasso of Truth (more political than I’d usually recommend here: if you’re on the more conservative side, try to approach it from the perspective of a physician who has to deal with the life-threatening repercussions of restrictive abortion policies)
- “Erroneous analyses of interactions in neuroscience: a problem of significance” by Nieuwenhuis et al. in Nature Neuroscience (as someone with a degree in the basic sciences as well as mathematics, I see these problems far too often)
- “How Do You Forgive a Murder?” by David von Drehle of Time Magazine (Time’s cover story following the shooting at Mother Emmanuel AME)
- “Student Appearance and Academic Performance” by Rey Hernández-Julián out of Metropolitan State University of Denver (the conclusions confirm what we already knew/assumed, but the authors utilize a very thoughtful, clever study design)
- And these three fun articles from spoof holiday issues from the BMJ and the CMAJ, in order of my personal enjoyment (most to least): “Limitations” (Roger Collier, CMAJ), “Acquired growth hormone deficiency and hypogonadotropic hypogonadism in a subject with repeated head trauma, or Tintin goes to the neurologist” (Cyr et al., CMAJ), and “Zombie infections: epidemiology, treatment, and prevention” (Tara Smith, BMJ, paywall warning)
And now, back to the books (links go to other people’s reviews–I should emphasize that I don’t necessarily agree with them, but they generally have interesting/thoughtful perspectives):
- Under the Same Sky: From Starvation in North Korea to Salvation in America (Joseph Kim): Autobiography of a young man who escaped from North Korea through China and then to the United States. I noticed two things in particular. The first was that when he first arrived in the U.S., the first foster home in which he was placed did not have enough food for him. This was hugely problematic for someone who just escaped from North Korea, and he was fortunately moved to a different home. What was interesting to me was that the family was willing, despite their own poverty, to take in a complete stranger. Obviously there were issues, but I think I could learn from that type of generosity. The second was that when he was fleeing North Korea, people told him to find a church in China and that they would help him. The people who told him this were somewhat unsure what exactly a church was, but they knew it could help: even in the (literally) darkest of nations, Christ’s light shines.
- Go Set a Watchman (Harper Lee): I guess this was my mandatory fiction for the semester. Somehow, it was lacking…plot structure. I kept waiting for something to happen, except then it was the last page and nothing had really happened.
- If You Feel Too Much: Thoughts on Things Found and Lost and Hoped For (Jamie Tworkowski): Pretty stream of consciousness/blog style. Not dissimilar to Blue Like Jazz, which I guess makes sense, since Donald Miller wrote the foreword.
- Understanding Sexual Identity: A Resource for Youth Ministry (Mark Yarhouse): Okay. I’ve heard good things about Yarhouse. The book seemed a little cookie cutter, but it was intended as a guide for youth ministry, as the title suggests, in-depth analysis.
- Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget (Sarah Hepola): Wins the best book of the semester award. It’s clear that Hepola is actually a professional writer, not just some person writing about her life. But even if it were just some person writing about her life, that would be okay too, because her story is an important one to tell. (Similar in style, writing quality, and perhaps even intent to Brain on Fire by Susannah Cahalan. Liked it more than Drink by Ann Dowsett Johnston, which was more topically similar.) As someone on a university campus where there are a lot of “you’re not alcoholic until after college” jokes (and, admittedly, as someone who has made such “jokes” in the past), there’s a lot of insight to be found.
- Uncle Tungsten: Memories of a Chemical Boyhood (Oliver Sacks): Brilliant Sacks, as usual. Perfect balance of the cool science-y stuff and the story of his childhood (much of which would be forbidden for safety concerns now).
- Sisters in Law: How Sandra Day O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg Went to the Supreme Court and Changed the World (Linda Hirshman): Great exposition of the histories and stories of O’Connor and Ginsburg. Definitely has staunch feminist perspective, but what would you expect from a book about the two justices who revolutionized the legal standing of women?
- When Doctors Don’t Listen: How to Avoid Misdiagnoses and Unnecessary Tests (Leana Wen and Joshua Kosowsky): Did not like this book. Leana Wen is one of my favorite public health figures (if one can have “favorites” in that category?) but the entire book came across as condescending and patronizing–to both patients and doctors. I have no idea how they pulled that off, although Kosowsky’s sections seemed a bit worse in this regard.
- Crossroads of Twilight (Robert Jordan)
- Knife of Dreams (Robert Jordan)
- The Gathering Storm (Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson)
- Towers of Midnight (Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson)
- A Memory of Light (Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson): Finally finished the series! There was a definite shift of…atmosphere…in the last three books, but I’m not sure how much of it is due to the fact that they were completed after Jordan’s death and how much is due to the stage of the plot. I was never a huge fan of Rand al’Thor’s scenes in general (this is coming from the person who finds hobbits annoying and thus skims through large sections of The Return of the King and has only read The Hobbit twice compared to the trilogy four or five times), so the last couple books also weren’t my favorite for that reason, but it was still definitely worth completing.
- New Spring: The Novel (Robert Jordan): I liked the prequel a lot; considering that my favorite characters in the entire series were probably Moiraine and Siuan, an entire (short) book of them was delightful.