Thursday, January 19, 2012

Reviews: two excellent books

The last two books I've read have both been excellent. I almost wish I had spread them out a little bit with some mediocre books in between, so I could have appreciated them even more.

This week, I finished The Magician's Assistant, by Ann Patchett. Like Her Fearful Symmetry, a main character dies in the first sentence. By page 2, I missed him. I found the book to be captivating, well-written, and entertaining. There were vivid descriptions, so much so that I had the odd moment where I looked up from the book and was startled to find myself in my bedroom or at my desk at work, rather than in a farmhouse in Nebraska. My only complaint is that the cover image of the edition I had from the library (not the one on Patchett's site) had a very misleading farmhouse picture. Oh, well.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot, has had a huge amount of press over the last year or so. Justifiably. It's the best non-fiction book I've read in a long time. I started it while standing at the leisure center, waiting for James to finish a climbing-wall morning, and was completely captivated. I ended up going to sit in the car so I could have quiet while I was reading.

Skloot tells a very-well researched tale of Henrietta Lacks, the woman whose cancerous cervical cells have made huge leaps in scientific research possible. Skloot also sheds light on the story of the rest of Henrietta's family and the effect the cells have had on them. I was astounded by some of the writing from various poor Southern adults, which is reproduced verbatim in the book. Whatever America's doing to educate poor people in the South, it's not working.

I'd recommend them both, enthusiastically!

(Random picture of flowers follows)

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