Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. A copy of Frackopoly was provided for review by the publisher.Lab Girl by Hope Jahren
on April 5, 2016
Genres: Nonfiction, Memoir
Length: 11 hr. 45 min. (Audiobook)
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Lab Girl is a book about work, love, and the mountains that can be moved when those two things come together. It is told through Jahren’s remarkable stories: about her childhood in rural Minnesota with an uncompromising mother and a father who encouraged hours of play in his classroom’s labs; about how she found a sanctuary in science, and learned to perform lab work done “with both the heart and the hands”; and about the inevitable disappointments, but also the triumphs and exhilarating discoveries, of scientific work.
Yet at the core of this book is the story of a relationship Jahren forged with a brilliant, wounded man named Bill, who becomes her lab partner and best friend. Their sometimes rogue adventures in science take them from the Midwest across the United States and back again, over the Atlantic to the ever-light skies of the North Pole and to tropical Hawaii, where she and her lab currently make their home.
Lab Girl is the best memoir I’ve read so far this year. It’s an eloquent, heartfelt, and powerful celebration of the natural world and women in the science. More than that though, it’s the story of the remarkable decades long friendship between the Jahren and her lab partner, Bill.
I listened to the audiobook and I’m so glad the author narrated it herself. I usually prefer professional narrators, but Lab Girl is a deeply personal book and no one but the author could have read it with such authentic and uninhibited emotion.
There’s not much else to say about Lab Girl except that you definitely need to read it! There’s a reason it was on so many best books lists for the first half of 2016!
Infectious Madness: The Surprising Science of How We "Catch" Mental Illness by Harriet A. Washington
Published by Little on October 6, 2015
Genres: Nonfiction, Medical
Pages: 304 (Hardcover)
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Is it possible to catch autism or OCD the same way we catch the flu? Can a child's contact with cat litter lead to schizophrenia? In her eye-opening new book, National Book Critics Circle Award-winning author Harriet Washington reveals that we can in fact "catch" mental illness. In INFECTIOUS MADNESS, Washington presents the new germ theory, which posits not only that many instances of Alzheimer's, OCD, and schizophrenia are caused by viruses, prions, and bacteria, but also that with antibiotics, vaccinations, and other strategies, these cases can be easily prevented or treated. Packed with cutting-edge research and tantalizing mysteries, INFECTIOUS MADNESS is rich in science, characters, and practical advice on how to protect yourself and your children from exposure to infectious threats that could sabotage your mental and physical health.
For decades, the evidence has piled up that a significant percentage of mental illnesses may be caused by latent infections. In Infectious Madness, intrepid medical journalist Harriet Washington does what much of the medical community refuses to do–impartially examine the evidence and advocate for intelligent, commonsense solutions to the infectious madness plaguing the modern world.
Washington takes readers along as she hunts for puzzle pieces in doctors’ offices, research labs, and patients’ homes. Then she puts those pieces together and offers readers exciting insights into the inner workings of the human immune system and its relationship with the microbes that both hinder and help us. Finally, she succinctly outlines a way forward in a time when antibiotics are growing increasingly defenseless against the bacterial onslaught and globalization puts us at greater risk for pandemics.
I’m knocking off a half a star because I vehemently disagree with Washington’s assertion that the flu vaccine should be mandatory–with exceptions–to lower the incidence of schizophrenia. (This fascinating link is explored in-depth in the book.) As much good as vaccines may do, I am an individualist at heart. I believe in education over legislation and absolute bodily autonomy over the common good. This minor qualm aside, Infectious Madness is one of the finest pieces of medical journalism I have ever read.
[bctt tweet=”3 Book Reviews: #LabGirl, Infectious Madness, + #Frackopoly | @parchmentgirl37″ via=”no”]
Frackopoly: The Battle for the Future of Energy and the Environment by Wenonah Hauter
Published by The New Press on June 7, 2017
Pages: 384 (Hardcover)
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Over the past decade a new and controversial energy extraction method known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, has rocketed to the forefront of U.S. energy production. With fracking, millions of gallons of water, dangerous chemicals, and sand are injected under high pressure deep into the earth, fracturing hard rock to release oil and gas.
Wenonah Hauter, one of the nation’s leading public interest advocates, argues that the rush to fracking is dangerous to the environment and treacherous to human health. FRACKOPOLY describes how the fracking industry began; the technologies that make it possible; and the destruction and poisoning of clean water sources and the release of harmful radiation from deep inside shale deposits, creating what the author calls “sacrifice zones” across the American landscape.
Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock the last few years, you’ve probably heard a lot of about the current fracking debate. Fracking (technically known as hydraulic fracturing) is a method used to extract oil and natural gas from deep within the earth. It’s also horribly destructive to the environment and a huge threat to human health and safety.
In Frackopoly, environmental activist and sustainable farmer Wenonah Hauter chronicles the rise of the oil and gas industry since the age of Standard Oil and scrubs the whitewashing off the lies that have been used to sell the public the idea that natural gas is an eco-friendly fuel. Here is a small sampling of the disturbing facts provided in this book:
- Fracking uses an enormous amount of fresh water. If allowed to continue unchecked, this will inevitably cause a water shortage crisis well before global warming starts drowning costal cities.
- Disposal of fracking wastewater involves injecting it into wells deep underground. This has been incontrovertibly linked to earthquake swarms.
- Natural gas doesn’t emit as much carbon as oil-based fuels, but it emits methane, which actually traps more heat than carbon. There is absolutely nothing eco-friendly about it. Unfortunately even many environmental organizations have drunk the cool-aid of the natural gas industry and support it as a compromise between oil and zero emission power sources like wind and fuel cell technology.
- Fracking can and does make people sick. It pollutes drinking water and emits noxious fumes into the air around drilling sites. People whose health is affected by fracking wells near their homes have little recourse against he power and monetary resources of the oil and gas industry.
- Oil and gas drilling runs on a boom/bust cycle. The economic benefits to communities are short-lived. Drilled communities also have higher crime because the oil companies usually import itinerant workers instead of hiring locals.
If you have a friend or neighbor who believes the rightwing claptrap about fracking being safe and good for the economy, give this book to them. Hauter meticulously cites her sources. She criticizes conservative and so-called progressive politicians alike for aiding and abetting the oil and gas industry. This is a clarion call to put an end to fracking once and for all.
The only reason I’m giving Frackopoly four stars instead of five is because it’s a bit dry. It reads like a very long newspaper article and I think it could have been punched up a bit without sacrificing any of its credibility. Nevertheless, I highly recommend it. Frackopoly may not be much of a page-turner, but it’s one of the most important books I’ve read so far this year.
P.S. Donate to Food and Water Watch, Hauter’s organization, and keep fracking out of your state!