Kidding. I don’t have a book club. But I do read a library load of a books every month. In fact, if work and school were not a thing I would probably never stop reading. I’ve never really been into fiction that much, though. I would much rather have a book that is going to teach me something or make me think (although good fiction does that, too).
I often hear friends express that they aren’t sure how to pick books without a recommendation. I admit that most of the time it’s a gamble. You never really know if you’re gonna pick up a bad apple. The good news, though, is that if you support your local library then it’s not like you wasted any time if you truly don’t enjoy the book. Just take it back and get another one. My favorite way to find new best friends is to read the backs of books that I have liked in the past. Usually there are reviews back there from other authors and they will list the authors’ names and the books they have written. You can kinda scan through and see if there might be other titles that catch your eye since it’s common for authors in similar genres to review similar books.
There’s always a fun little bread crumb trail you can follow to your next awesome book. In fact, a couple of weeks ago I was reading This is Your Brain on Birth Control by Sarah E. Hill, PhD (which I highly recommend – even for men) and in it she mentioned in a footnote about HeLa cells. If you’re like me and you went through two semesters of high school biology AND two semesters of college honors biology and you STILL don’t know about how HeLa cells have changed the way we do medicine then know you are not alone. Although I am still ashamed that I made it to 28 without this knowledge…
My my my… I just love a book that tells me something I don’t know and makes me rethink things I thought I did know. HeLa will make you reconsider a lot of things and make you feel all sorts of feelings about doctors, and scientists, and society in general.
In short, HeLa cells were taken from a black woman named Henrietta Lacks (hence the name HeLa) without consent by a doctor at Johns Hopkins in the early 1950’s. The cells were a rare form of cancer cells which caused a cervical tumor which killed Henrietta a short time after the biopsy was taken. These cells are unlike any other and they are still alive today. They replicate easily and heartily and have an uncanny way of contaminating other things with cancer cells. These cells have made it possible for science to create countless advancements in healthcare, but her family never knew. Her family never knew any of what happened. Not the biopsy, not the testing, not the immortality of her cells, not the millions being made off of them.
The story is insane. A detailed account of it has been documented in a book called The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. I really want you all to read it so I don’t want to give any more details, but the phrase “There’s no such thing as a free lunch” kept coming to mind. Honestly, the book is infuriating. The more I read about the history of medicine (or just history in general) the more I realize that humans have had blatant disregard for other humans since… forever probably. Medicine has some serious skeletons in its closet.
Did you know that anytime anything gets cut off or out of your body it ceases to be your property even if that body piece subsequently makes some company millions? Makes me wonder if all those mole biopsies I have had are sitting in a lab somewhere out there being used for some sort of testing.
The Lacks family was exceedingly, painfully poor. Have you ever looked through your purchases and your budget to consider what amount of money you truly needed in order to survive? Think life or death here. How much money would you need to stay fed, clothed, and sheltered? It’s honestly not that much and yet I have all this “extra” money. So as I look at my four dollar lint roller which has the sole purpose of picking up tiny hairs and lint and the 20ish buck Squatty Potty which has the sole purpose of making my BMs more magical… I’m thinking of what it must truly be like to be lacking and how blessed I am to have what I have in my day to day life.
The other day when I received an email that was an offer of full time employment I literally said out loud – “I have it all”. I somehow have a job, a nice, safe place to live, food in my fridge, and money for out of state tuition each semester. By all accounts it doesn’t make sense and after going without income for several months and being in various levels of quarantine you realize how much you have already. And I don’t just mean in relation to stuff stuff – I mean all the things that make up life.
It’s reminding me to complain less.