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January Book Picks!

Happy New Year!

Thanks to everyone who voted and left feedback about which books to read this month.

With 86% of the vote, the fiction pick is A Mercy by Toni Morrisson

a mercy

With 57% of the vote, the nonfiction pick is Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin.

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We start reading January 15th 🙂

Happy Reading!!!

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9 Days Left – Don’t forget to vote for the January 2013 books!

In case you missed the posts providing descriptions of the books, along with the polls – read about the fiction books here and the nonfiction books here.

So far the results are:

A Mercy by Toni Morrison – 83% or On Beauty by Zadie Smith 17%

Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin 57% or The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot 43%

PS – you can vote multiple times 🙂

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Vote for What to Read in January 2013 – Non Fiction

The time has finally come … time to pick the first two books we (or I) will read exclusively for the blog.

Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin vs The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

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John Howard Griffin’s groundbreaking and controversial novel about his experiences as a white man who transforms himself with the aid of medication and dye in order to experience firsthand the life of a black man living in the Deep South in the late 1950s is a mesmerizing tale of the ultimate sociological experiment. Ray Childs’ narration is both straightforward and deeply satisfying. A skilled reader, he incorporates different dialects to help listeners distinguish among the various characters. His ability to convey a full spectrum of emotions, including exhilaration, bone deep sadness, and gut wrenching fear is riveting. Equally fascinating is Childs’ description of how Griffin’s unheard of approach to studying racial discrimination changed his personal life and ignited a storm of argument and discussion around the nation.
from Amazon

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Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. She was a poor Southern tobacco farmer who worked the same land as her slave ancestors, yet her cells—taken without her knowledge—became one of the most important tools in medicine. The first “immortal” human cells grown in culture, they are still alive today, though she has been dead for more than sixty years. If you could pile all HeLa cells ever grown onto a scale, they’d weigh more than 50 million metric tons—as much as a hundred Empire State Buildings. HeLa cells were vital for developing the polio vaccine; uncovered secrets of cancer, viruses, and the atom bomb’s effects; helped lead to important advances like in vitro fertilization, cloning, and gene mapping; and have been bought and sold by the billions.

Yet Henrietta Lacks remains virtually unknown, buried in an unmarked grave.

Now Rebecca Skloot takes us on an extraordinary journey, from the “colored” ward of Johns Hopkins Hospital in the 1950s to stark white laboratories with freezers full of HeLa cells; from Henrietta’s small, dying hometown of Clover, Virginia—a land of wooden slave quarters, faith healings, and voodoo—to East Baltimore today, where her children and grandchildren live and struggle with the legacy of her cells.

Henrietta’s family did not learn of her “immortality” until more than twenty years after her death, when scientists investigating HeLa began using her husband and children in research without informed consent. And though the cells had launched a multimillion-dollar industry that sells human biological materials, her family never saw any of the profits. As Rebecca Skloot so brilliantly shows, the story of the Lacks family—past and present—is inextricably connected to the dark history of experimentation on African Americans, the birth of bioethics, and the legal battles over whether we control the stuff we are made of.

Over the decade it took to uncover this story, Rebecca became enmeshed in the lives of the Lacks family—especially Henrietta’s daughter Deborah, who was devastated to learn about her mother’s cells. She was consumed with questions: Had scientists cloned her mother? Did it hurt her when researchers infected her cells with viruses and shot them into space? What happened to her sister, Elsie, who died in a mental institution at the age of fifteen? And if her mother was so important to medicine, why couldn’t her children afford health insurance?

Intimate in feeling, astonishing in scope, and impossible to put down, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks captures the beauty and drama of scientific discovery, as well as its human consequences.
from Amazon

PS – I’ve read The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks … it is an amazing and informative read. Truth is much more stranger than fiction.

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