Things to Read - Summer Reading, Part II - Keith Richards, Henrietta Lacks, and Cholera

Here's what I've been reading this summer, what about you? Any good suggestions?

Love in the Time of Cholera (Vintage International)

I first read Gabriel Garcia Marquez's Love in the Time of Cholera (Vintage International) during college. I remember thinking it incredibly romantic - the book tells the story of two people who fall in love as teenagers and then break up. The girl goes on to marry someone else and spend most of her life with him, while the boy devotes his ENTIRE life to someday winning back her love - but I forgot pretty much everything else about it. When I first read the novel, I loved the idea of magical realism, and Marquez, and love stories, so I'm sure this colored my view. Rereading it as an adult I found myself more introspective as I thought about how my idea of love has changed. This time around I found the boy's devotion a little creepy and weird, plus his disregard for the feelings of a certain young lover in his life made me not like him much (actually he kind of repulsed me). Instead, I found myself more enchanted by the married couple and the ins and outs of their relationship, a great portrait of how difficult marriage can be, how complicated yet magical at times. I still found the novel beautifully told and a joy to read but this time around I didn't believe in it as a love story, which I think, ultimately, was Marquez's real point. What about everyone else?


I'm not a die-hard Rolling Stones fan, which isn't to say that I don't like them. In high school I couldn't stop listening to Exile on Main Street, if only because I wanted to understand the inspiration behind Liz Phair's Exile in Guyville (I never did figure out the connection between the two albums). Anyways, I probably would have skipped reading Keith Richards' autobiography, but when The New Yorker summarized the book as "an entertaining, rambling monologue, a slurry romp through the life of a man who knew every pleasure, denied himself nothing, and never paid the price" I decided to check it out. And, for a few days, I sort of felt like I was shooting heroin while dancing on a chandelier. I also discovered the secret to playing blues guitar and dealt with bullies at school. I don't quite know why, but the book really makes you feel like you're THERE, touring with the Stones, which was quite fun, drug addiction and all.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

Henrietta Lacks died of cancer in the 1950s. Her fame resides in the fact that her cells (otherwise known as Hela cells), taken without her consent, have revolutionized medicine due to their ability to survive and multiply in culture. This book integrates Lacks' story and the story of her offspring, with the history of cell culture. As boring as that sounds, the book's author, Rebecca Skloot, does a brilliant job of interweaving all the science and narratives and making them all come alive. In particular, through a series of interviews and interactions with Lacks' descendents, Skloot paints a depressing account of race in America and modern day life for the poor. And, regarding the science part, the book asks the reader to question whether we should have rights to our own tissue. As of now, anytime you have a culture done (like a pap smear or a biopsy) those cells are considered garbage and doctors can use them how they wish without your consent. So a doctor can get rich off your waste. Is this okay? I'm still not sure. And I guess the answer depends on whether you view the goal of "science" as helping people or making money. The book made me realize that the answer is trickier than I once thought.

Book Suggestions from Around the Web:

*For more summer reading suggestions from me, check out my previous post post here.

*New York magazine has a great fall preview of soon-to-be released books (I'm very excited for 1Q84).

1 comment:

  1. I thought the 'Henrietta Lacks' book was outstanding. So much to think about.

    Enjoy your weekend! xo



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