The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks - Rebecca Skloot
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks – Rebecca Skloot

My good friend Jill got this book for me, and I finished reading it during the holiday season. Henrietta Lacks was an African-American woman who died of cancer. During her treatments, doctors and researchers harvested her cancer cells without her consent. These cells were the first human cells that successfully survived and continued to multiply in a laboratory setting. The HeLa cells, named after her initials, became one of the essential human cells in medical research such as the development of polio vaccines, a variety of cancer treatments, and research on the effects of radiation on human cells. Researchers in the space program sent HeLa cells to zero gravity and eventually to the moon.

All sounds wonderful, but not exactly! While Henrietta Lacks’ cells were being cultured, distributed, and even sold in large volumes to medical research facilities around the world, her family has been kept uninformed about the fate of their deceased mother, wife, daughter, and cousin. They were under the impression that Henrietta’s body was somehow still alive and subjected to various medical experiments.

This book is a first-hand investigation about the story of Henrietta Lacks, her family, and the medical ethics of the time. The author, Rebecca Skloot, goes to great length to document her interviews and observations with the Lacks’ family and the researchers who worked on the HeLa cells.

After finishing this book, now I can’t imagine having gone through life and not knowing about Henrietta’s story.

Brief Answers To The Big Questions by Stephen Hawking

Brief Answers To The Big Questions by Stephen Hawking

Those of you who’ve read the books A Brief History Of Time and The Grand Design by Stephen Hawking, you know that he had an incredible ability to explain complex scientific topics in a simple language so the public could comprehend them. Brief Answers To the Big Questions contains frequently asked questions from him and some personal notes. The short answers are about ten pages long each, and for some, you may need at least first-year college-level knowledge of math and physics.

There is a chapter about whether there is a God or not. He doesn’t explicitly say that there is no God, but he explains why the presence of a deity and creator is redundant for a universe to come into existence.

Hawking’s books sound like philosophy to some; that’s because he strips them from his mathematical proofs and formulas. If you were ever wondering about the mathematical proofs, you could try reading his published papers instead. The rest of us with feeble scientific minds may just read his books.

Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harari

If you have finished reading Sapiens and experiencing withdrawals, fear no more! Homo Deus is the continuation of Sapiens, except that it is focusing on the future of humanity. The first half of the book covers historical topics about theology to humanism and science. Then it goes to discussing Data Religion, Artificial Intelligence, and genetically enhancing humans towards their next evolutionary stage. This book is rich and engaging. I think if I mention any more here, it will spoil it for you. Enjoy this read.

Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari

Sapiens A brief history of humankind

It’s been a while since I’ve read a book that was hard to put down. I enjoyed every page of this book and was longing for more once I finished it. Harari is an Oxford historian and globally known intellectual who does a good job of connecting the dots. In this book, he talks about how Sapiens managed to accomplish a lot and do a lot of damage at the same time.

Sapiens covers the history of money, religion, corporations, war, technological revolution, and different ideologies. I particularly liked how he studies homo sapiens as an alien anthropologist would. Considering the current political atmosphere in the world, Sapiens answered a lot of my questions and brought clarity about how we managed to get here.

This book is an easy and engaging read. I’ve heard that Yuval has gained quite a following in Silicon Valley, especially for his next book after this called Homo Deus, which is a meditation on the future of humanity.

An Unquiet Mind – A memoir of moods and madness

This is an autobiography of Kay Redfield Jamison, a well accomplished clinical psychologist who has done plenty of research on bipolar disorder and manic depression as well as her own challenges of dealing with this type of mental illness. I have loved ones who suffer from bipolar disorder so this book was a bit emotionally intense to read for me. In the meantime, it is the best description I’ve read about the day-to-day experiences of someone suffering from BP. She also has a great sense of humor and her writing is engaging.