Thursday, July 26, 2012

Something to consider before you choose your next book

If you've read this blog, well, once, you probably know I'm in love with reading. 

I'm always looking for new books, and there is one highly acclaimed book that I've seen on the shelves over and over again for the past two years - The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot - and I've always passed it by. Why? Because I thought it was mostly about science.

I was wrong. 

I'm a huge fan of science of course, but it isn't on my top 100 list of what I love to read about in my free time. However, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is no ordinary book about science - it reads as exciting as a fiction book, with drama, depth, and grit, and by page 60 I knew it was going to be one of my favorite books of all time. And I just had to tell you about it.   

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks features the story Skloot uncovered after ten years of research into the life of the woman who died in 1951, whose cancer cells are still alive and used in research today - something Henrietta never knew. Skloot's depiction of Henrietta and her family illuminates issues of ethics, race relations, and the pain and long-term effects endured by those who live in poverty.

If, like me, the thought of reading a book with a plot that revolves around a scientific discovery terrifies you, don't worry. The plot is really anchored on the woman herself, Henrietta, and her family's crises to make sense of it all. The scientific information that is weaved in the story is related to cancer research and other medical break through's you will recognize - the behind-the-scenes knowledge will grip you. Skloot brings science to life

(And if you do love science that is just icing on the cake.)

Skloot's quiet dedication to unearth the story behind the famous HeLa cells featured in almost every biology textbook is moving, as is the charming chaos and insight gleamed from the Lacks family's plight. I left some crinkled teardrop stains on the pages for sure (sorry Seminole County Library). 

Some of the underlying themes that shone throughout the book were the privilege of knowledge, the power of learning, and the necessity to help others understand. 

I cannot fully do this book justice. All I can say is: don't pass it by like I did. It's one of those books that makes you feel like the world is bigger, smaller, darker, and more precious. It's one of those books that you close and wish you could open again for the first time. It's one of those books that add a forever color to your lens.

And remember me and my love for this book next time you're browsing the shelves of your favorite library or bookstore. Choose a book you may not normally choose. It will expand you into new shapes, and make you better. 

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