For the upcoming spring break, we asked two of our librarians to give some recommendations for thought-provoking and engaging books, all of which are available at one or more branch of the Touro College Libraries. Here’s what they had to say.
Reviews by Natasha Hollander, Librarian, Lander College for Women
Lord of the Rings Tolkien, J. R. R. Lord of the Rings. Ballantine, 1965.
About: A fictional story of adventure about the Fellowship of the Ring and its members: men, dwarves, and elves, the major races of Middle Earth. Together, they help protect a young hobbit, the Ring-bearer Frodo Baggins. He is an unlikely hero who must journey to the center of Mount Doom in Mordor in order to destroy the Ring in the fires where it was created by the evil Sauron, or all of Middle Earth will fall to shadow and good will be abolished forever.
Why I liked it: These books (they can be read as three separate books or one single volume) were very fast-moving and full of adventure, sure to keep their reader engaged. The trilogy has something for all readers: magic, friendship, evil kings, gallant heroes, ruthless villains, vain sorcerers, beautiful princesses, scary creatures, romance, fighting, and unexpected surprises.
Cutting for Stone Verghese, Abraham. Cutting for Stone: A Novel. Vintage, 2010.
About: The fictional saga of twin brothers, Marion and Shiva, who are orphaned by their mother and abandoned by their father. The boys are adopted by two loving physicians, who encourage their interest in the medical field, as Marion becomes a doctor in the USA, and Shiva works alongside his mother who operates on pregnant women in Ethiopia.
Why I liked it: I thought this is a great story on what it means to be a caring doctor as well as a caring sibling. Thought Marian is the medical doctor, he can’t help but be in awe of his twin, whose goal is to save the lives of women at all costs.
The House of Gucci Forden, Sara Gay. The House of Gucci. Harper, 2001.
About: The story of the prominent Gucci family who built the renowned fashion empire up from nothing into the worldwide name brand. Includes the story of its former CEO’s murder, seemingly at the hands of his own ex-wife.
Why I liked it: It was fascinating to learn the history behind such a well-known and popular fashion label. Also, I can’t give up on a good mystery…
Reviews by Heather Hilton, Librarian, Bay Shore Campus
Bold Women of Medicine
Latta, Susan M. Bold Women of Medicine: 21 Stories of Astounding Discoveries, Daring Surgeries, and Healing Breakthroughs. Chicago Review Press, 2017.
Bold History from Bold Women
About: The history of women in medicine is a fascinating one spanning many time periods. Susan M. Latta’s Bold Women of Medicine: 21 Stories of Astounding Discoveries, Daring Surgeries, and Healing Breakthroughs is a breezy read through some of the top women in the field from the past and the present. The book covers women from Elizabeth Blackwell and Florence Nightingale to modern day women such as Kathy Magliato, a heart surgeon.
Why I liked it: It might not seem a quick read at 200 pages, but it flows easily and time passes quickly. Each person is given a basic summary of their life and accomplishments. Latta’s book emphasizes that success can come after failure and to keep trying. Her stories also highlight that being a woman is not a detriment in the medical field.
Leavitt, Judith Walzer. Typhoid Mary: Captive to the Public’s Health. Beacon Press, 1996.
The Truth Behind The Myths of Typhoid Mary
About: “Typhoid Mary” is the title given to Mary Mallon, an Irish cook working in New York in the late 1800’s/early 1900’s, who was one of many carriers of the typhoid fever that managed to infect others without having the illness herself. She was one of the first known healthy carriers of a disease. Her life is chronicled in Judith Walzer Leavitt’s Typhoid Mary: Captive to the Public’s Health and offers different viewpoints of the case. Ms. Walzer Leavitt visits the history of Mary Mallon’s life and times out and in isolation from society, as well as the social stigmas of the time. She eventually winds up bringing the narrative to AIDS and other epidemics that were prevalent when the book was written in 1996.
Why I liked it: Though the more recent events section of the book seems a bit dated due to being twenty-two years old, she does visit some thought-provoking questions based upon how the public health services treated Mary Mallon and patient zero for the AIDS epidemic. Her questions are still applicable today when we are faced with a health epidemic or crisis. It is a great read for those interested in the history of medicine.
Both our reviewer librarians liked this next book so much, they wrote about it without knowing the other was also including it!
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
Skloot, Rebecca. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. Crown Publishers, 2010.
Review by Heather Hilton:
Engaging, Captivating, Spellbinding Writing and Subject Matter.
About: Rebecca Skloot became absorbed with finding the woman behind the immortal HeLa cells that have led to many miraculous medical breakthroughs including helping with the polio vaccine. In her non-fiction novel, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks she goes on an investigative journey to uncover the history of the HeLa cells and the life of the woman behind them.
Why I liked it: Following the captivating journey the HeLa cells go through and the Lacks’ family history, this book is an engaging read that holds you from page one and spans decades of scientific history. It has not only won numerous awards but was made into a motion picture. A must-read for those pursuing the medical field.
Review by Natasha Hollander:
About: A true story behind a black woman named Henrietta Lacks, who goes for a medical treatment in 1951 due to cervical cancer. Unknowingly, she becomes the mother of the infamous HeLa cell, which subsequently becomes the key to almost every scientific, and medical discovery. This is the story of her life and her family who were intentionally kept in the dark about the cells that revolutionized the medical field as we know it.
Why I liked it: This book got me thinking about medical issues in a way that I never had before. It posed the problem and then the political background, and encouraged its reader to ponder about medical ethics, medical ownership, a moral code, and obligations to a patient and society at large.
We hope you liked reading these reviews. Enjoy your break, and get some good reading in!