09 July 2018

Stacked-Up Book Thoughts: Science to Pop Culture

What a crazy couple of weeks! As some of you know, my very active and fun-loving mother turned 90 in late June. My brothers and I planned three full days of activities, including a half day of fishing, a visit to a historic village, shopping, and eating out. We all had a great time.

Of course, I haven’t read much in the last 10 days and I haven’t had much time to visit blogs, since I’ve had to cram full workweeks into just a few days. Can you say tired? The fun isn’t over yet, since I have another short week coming up. Life will return to normal soon, I hope.

Once again, audiobooks have saved me, especially on the long car trips to and from my mom’s house. Here are my thoughts on my recent reads.

Review: She Has Her Mother’s Laugh by Carl Zimmer audiobookShe Has Her Mother’s Laugh by Carl Zimmer (Dutton, May 29, 2018): As a former geneticist, I’m always hesitant to pick up a book that is meant to explain genetics and heredity (separate concepts) to the general population. Thus I was pleasantly surprised and pleased that Zimmer got the science right and presented it in a way that is accessible, personal, and fascinating. If you’ve sent your DNA to an ancestry company, if you’ve wondered why your brother is the only tall person in your family, if you’ve thought about IVF, or if you’ve worried about a possible inherited disorder, this book is for you. Zimmer’s approach is loosely based on his quest to understand the results of his own DNA analysis; along the way he examines the past and present cultural, political, and medical implications of genetic differences between individuals and the many avenues of current genetic research and how it affects our everyday life. The overriding message that all humans are united on the cellular level is particular important these days. I thoroughly enjoyed Joe Ochman performance of the unabridged audiobook (Penguin Audio; 20 hr, 32 min). His no-nonsense delivery and clear and expressive voice kept my attention throughout. (More on the audiobook via AudioFile magazine.)

Review: All Summer Long by Hope LarsonAll Summer Long by Hope Larson (First Second; May 1, 2018): I really liked this graphic novel (comic) about Bina and Austin who have been inseparable friends since they were babies. In the summer between seventh and eighth grade, though, things start to get weird. Austin starts to pull away and barely texts when he’s away at soccer camp. Bina, left on her own most of the summer (everyone seems to be on vacation), practices her electric guitar and hangs out with Austin’s older sister a few times. When Austin comes back home, their friendship is strained until Bina finally confronts him. This is a great story about how true friendships can mature right along with you, about how people can like each other even if they have different interests, and about the importance of following your own passions. The graphic novel is geared to middle grade readers, but the message is, actually, universal. The drawings are fairly simple but very expressive. The colors are black and golds, which didn’t initially attract me, but I quickly got used them. There are diverse characters (different skin tones and facial features), a minor LBGTQ theme, and a strong focus on the women. Recommended. (Review copy provided by the publisher.)

Review: Love and Other Words by Christina Lauren audiobookLove and Other Words by Christina Lauren (Gallery, April 10, 2018): This is a dual time-period story about the relationship between Macy and Elliot. The two meet as young teenagers and bond over their shared nerdiness. Over the years, their relationship becomes much more, until on New Year’s Eve of their 18th year, things happen, and Macy walks away from Elliot and cuts all communication. A decade later, they meet by chance, and the couple is forced to confront the events of that fateful night. There’s much to like about this novel. Macy and Elliot’s friendship had a unique twist in that it was limited to weekends, holidays, and summer, when Macy and her father stayed in their vacation home, which was next door to Elliot’s permanent family home. So, though the pair grew close, much of their time was spent apart. I especially liked Macy’s father, who, as a single parent, did his best to honor his late-wife’s wishes for their daughter. The mystery of why Macy and Elliot split is held until the end, and the plot device kept me invested. Unfortunately, the big reveal wasn’t completely realistic. I mean, what happened was realistic, but the secretiveness of it was hard to buy. Narrator Erin Mallon did a great job reading the unabridged audiobook (Simon & Schuster Audio; 8 hr 21 min). She captured the personalities and emotions of the characters perfectly. (More on the audiobook via AudioFile magazine.)

Review: Pop Culture: New York City by Bob EganPop Culture: New York City by Bob Egan (maps by Jim Egan) (Applause Theatre & Cinema; June 26, 2018): This is not your usual tourist guide to New York City. The book consists of lists and maps of all kinds of pop culture things to see in the city (mostly Manhattan but also the other boroughs). For example, with this book you'll be able to find the exact spots where album cover photos where taken, where superheroes fought their battles, where sports stars grew up, and where iconic hotels are located. If you like music, books, sports, the performing arts, television and the movies, and more, you’ll discover hundreds of sites to explore next time you’re in New York. Besides identifying film locations of your favorite television shows, you'll also find lists of bookstores and music stores, nightclubs and restaurants. Egan covers a vast range of people, places, and themes, so no matter your age and interests (classic movies, punk rock, public art, reading), you’ll find plenty of places you’ll want to visit. Check out PopSpotsNYC.com to see the author’s popular website and to get an idea of how he tracks down each location. (Review copy provided by the publisher.)


rhapsodyinbooks 7/9/18, 10:06 AM  

That guide to NYC sounds so fun! I love guides with off-the-beaten-track themes!

Laurel-Rain Snow 7/9/18, 10:52 AM  

I'm curious about Love and Other Words. Enjoy your week, and thanks for sharing. Here are MY WEEKLY UPDATES

bermudaonion 7/9/18, 11:08 AM  

I've only taken basic genetics but I found it fascinating so the Zimmer book really appeals to me. All Summer Long looks good too.

sherry fundin 7/9/18, 12:05 PM  

I love travel books and getting off the beaten path. The New York booksounds like a good one.
sherry @ fundinmental

Kathy Martin 7/9/18, 12:08 PM  

I am an under-appreciator of graphic novels. I think it is because I'm not really a very visual person. This one does sound good though. I like the variety of books you read even when it sounds like you are insanely busy. Come see my week here. Happy reading!

(Diane) bookchickdi 7/9/18, 1:38 PM  

The NYC guide looks like fun, I’m always looking for unique places to take visitors when they come.

JoAnn 7/9/18, 2:50 PM  

The Zimmer book sounds fascinating and I'm sure I'll go the audio route when I get to it. Will look for your full review in AudioFile, but glad to know it was a hit.

Sue Jackson 7/9/18, 7:12 PM  

All of these books sound great! Not bad for 2 very busy weeks :)

I didn't know you were a geneticist! I bet that was fascinating. I've learned a tiny bit about genetics, to help with our chronic illnesses, but it's all so incredibly complex - maybe I should read the book! I used to be a chemical engineer - funny that we both ended up writing!

I am missing out on First Second books - for some reason, I didn't get their catalogs this year, despite many years of reviewing their books, and I can't seem to get a response generally or from Gina - is she still the contact? I need my graphic novel fix! This one looks great.

Hope you enjoy your week & things start to slow down a bit (though it sounds like you had a great time with your family).


2018 Big Book Summer Challenge

pussreboots 7/9/18, 9:13 PM  

I have a copy of All Summer Long to read soon. I'm on the road this week so I might be slow in approving comments. I hope you stop by to see my weekly updates.

Greg 7/10/18, 12:27 AM  

Congrats to your mother! How awesome, and sounds like you celebrated in style. :)

All summer Long looks like a graphic novel worth checking out.

Yvonne 7/10/18, 11:08 AM  

Ooohhh...that NYC guide would have come in handy during my recent trip there. Hope you have a good week!

Claudia 7/12/18, 1:48 PM  

I've reserved the Zimmer book, it sounds very interesting. Did a beginning genetics course in college, but fruit flies aren't all that absorbing.

Daryl 7/18/18, 8:28 AM  

some good choices here, thanks

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