A mind-bending read that will expand your perception of self.

THE BODY BUILDERS

INSIDE THE SCIENCE OF THE ENGINEERED HUMAN

An exhilarating look at the cutting edge of bioengineering and how science and medicine are pushing the boundaries of human potential.

At the heart of journalist Piore’s story are the people driving this biomedical revolution—both the scientists and the patients who benefit from their innovative problem-solving. The insight, perseverance, and resilience of both groups drive the field’s rapid progress and reveal something profound about the elasticity of the mind and its relationship with the body. A figure such as the Olympic runner Oscar Pistorius, who lost both legs as an infant yet achieved success as an athlete in ways that would have been impossible even 25 years ago, is just one example of the astounding progress that has been made in compensating for devastating injuries. By merging discerning science reporting with capable storytelling, the author—a former editor and correspondent for Newsweek who has written for Conde Nast Traveler, Mother Jones, and other publications—goes beyond external physical augmentation or repair and investigates how scientists are “hacking into the body itself and rewriting or redirecting the body’s cellular instruction manuals…coercing the body to rebuild or transform itself.” Consequently, ideas typically limited to science fiction are becoming reality: a blind person “seeing” with her ears; extrasensory perception; editing the genome to cure disease; a “memorization pill”; and the potential for deep brain stimulation to correct neurological conditions are just a few of the very real current advances in biomedicine. Even creativity is implicated in the potential to engineer our abilities. Such progress is not without some heady ethical considerations, which Piore handles deftly, but it’s hard to finish the book without feeling excited about the possibilities for new science to profoundly help patients with debilitating conditions lead connected lives.

A mind-bending read that will expand your perception of self.

Pub Date: March 14, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-234714-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 7, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A quirky wonder of a book.

WHY FISH DON'T EXIST

A STORY OF LOSS, LOVE, AND THE HIDDEN ORDER OF LIFE

A Peabody Award–winning NPR science reporter chronicles the life of a turn-of-the-century scientist and how her quest led to significant revelations about the meaning of order, chaos, and her own existence.

Miller began doing research on David Starr Jordan (1851-1931) to understand how he had managed to carry on after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake destroyed his work. A taxonomist who is credited with discovering “a full fifth of fish known to man in his day,” Jordan had amassed an unparalleled collection of ichthyological specimens. Gathering up all the fish he could save, Jordan sewed the nameplates that had been on the destroyed jars directly onto the fish. His perseverance intrigued the author, who also discusses the struggles she underwent after her affair with a woman ended a heterosexual relationship. Born into an upstate New York farm family, Jordan attended Cornell and then became an itinerant scholar and field researcher until he landed at Indiana University, where his first ichthyological collection was destroyed by lightning. In between this catastrophe and others involving family members’ deaths, he reconstructed his collection. Later, he was appointed as the founding president of Stanford, where he evolved into a Machiavellian figure who trampled on colleagues and sang the praises of eugenics. Miller concludes that Jordan displayed the characteristics of someone who relied on “positive illusions” to rebound from disaster and that his stand on eugenics came from a belief in “a divine hierarchy from bacteria to humans that point[ed]…toward better.” Considering recent research that negates biological hierarchies, the author then suggests that Jordan’s beloved taxonomic category—fish—does not exist. Part biography, part science report, and part meditation on how the chaos that caused Miller’s existential misery could also bring self-acceptance and a loving wife, this unique book is an ingenious celebration of diversity and the mysterious order that underlies all existence.

A quirky wonder of a book.

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5011-6027-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

Jahren transcends both memoir and science writing in this literary fusion of both genres.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2016

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • National Book Critics Circle Winner

LAB GIRL

Award-winning scientist Jahren (Geology and Geophysics/Univ. of Hawaii) delivers a personal memoir and a paean to the natural world.

The author’s father was a physics and earth science teacher who encouraged her play in the laboratory, and her mother was a student of English literature who nurtured her love of reading. Both of these early influences engrossingly combine in this adroit story of a dedication to science. Jahren’s journey from struggling student to struggling scientist has the narrative tension of a novel and characters she imbues with real depth. The heroes in this tale are the plants that the author studies, and throughout, she employs her facility with words to engage her readers. We learn much along the way—e.g., how the willow tree clones itself, the courage of a seed’s first root, the symbiotic relationship between trees and fungi, and the airborne signals used by trees in their ongoing war against insects. Trees are of key interest to Jahren, and at times she waxes poetic: “Each beginning is the end of a waiting. We are each given exactly one chance to be. Each of us is both impossible and inevitable. Every replete tree was first a seed that waited.” The author draws many parallels between her subjects and herself. This is her story, after all, and we are engaged beyond expectation as she relates her struggle in building and running laboratory after laboratory at the universities that have employed her. Present throughout is her lab partner, a disaffected genius named Bill, whom she recruited when she was a graduate student at Berkeley and with whom she’s worked ever since. The author’s tenacity, hope, and gratitude are all evident as she and Bill chase the sweetness of discovery in the face of the harsh economic realities of the research scientist.

Jahren transcends both memoir and science writing in this literary fusion of both genres.

Pub Date: April 5, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-101-87493-6

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Jan. 5, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2016

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more