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Best non-fiction book I've read in a while

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Old 04-02-11, 08:23 PM
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Thumbs up Best non-fiction book I've read in a while

Seriously, read The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. I'm not that into books about science, but this one combines the story of the person and generations of her family with the story of the cancer cells that killed her but continue to live and allow scientists to learn incredible things about DNA and disease cures. It's compelling, interesting and emotional, a masterpiece.

Below is a detailed review.

Amazon Exclusive: Jad Abumrad Reviews The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

Jad Abumrad is host and creator of the public radio hit Radiolab, now in its seventh season and reaching over a million people monthly. Radiolab combines cutting-edge production with a philosophical approach to big ideas in science and beyond, and an inventive method of storytelling. Abumrad has won numerous awards, including a National Headliner Award in Radio and an American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Science Journalism Award. Read his exclusive Amazon guest review of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks:


Honestly, I can't imagine a better tale.

A detective story that's at once mythically large and painfully intimate.

Just the simple facts are hard to believe: that in 1951, a poor black woman named Henrietta Lacks dies of cervical cancer, but pieces of the tumor that killed her--taken without her knowledge or consent--live on, first in one lab, then in hundreds, then thousands, then in giant factories churning out polio vaccines, then aboard rocket ships launched into space. The cells from this one tumor would spawn a multi-billion dollar industry and become a foundation of modern science--leading to breakthroughs in gene mapping, cloning and fertility and helping to discover how viruses work and how cancer develops (among a million other things). All of which is to say: the science end of this story is enough to blow one's mind right out of one's face.

But what's truly remarkable about Rebecca Skloot's book is that we also get the rest of the story, the part that could have easily remained hidden had she not spent ten years unearthing it: Who was Henrietta Lacks? How did she live? How she did die? Did her family know that she'd become, in some sense, immortal, and how did that affect them? These are crucial questions, because science should never forget the people who gave it life. And so, what unfolds is not only a reporting tour de force but also a very entertaining account of Henrietta, her ancestors, her cells and the scientists who grew them.

The book ultimately channels its journey of discovery though Henrietta's youngest daughter, Deborah, who never knew her mother, and who dreamt of one day being a scientist.

As Deborah Lacks and Skloot search for answers, we're bounced effortlessly from the tiny tobacco-farming Virginia hamlet of Henrietta's childhood to modern-day Baltimore, where Henrietta's family remains. Along the way, a series of unforgettable juxtapositions: cell culturing bumps into faith healings, cutting edge medicine collides with the dark truth that Henrietta's family can't afford the health insurance to care for diseases their mother's cells have helped to cure.

Rebecca Skloot tells the story with great sensitivity, urgency and, in the end, damn fine writing. I highly recommend this book. --Jad Abumrad
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Old 04-03-11, 08:51 PM
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Wow- I may have to pick that one up!
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Old 04-03-11, 11:01 PM
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Sounds amazing!
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Old 04-05-11, 12:04 PM
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I just got it. I will hopefully get to start it today...
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Old 04-05-11, 01:42 PM
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Thanks for the recommendation!

Off topic Rudi - but my book club is getting back together and chose Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. I remember you saying it is a little rough going in the begining. I am about 100 pages in and, while not hating it, I am not all that into it. I love mysteries but the foreign places and names have got me all confused who is who and following the storyline so far. Please tell me to hang in there and it gets better and is worth it!
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