Though readers seeking dream interpretation will be disappointed, Walker provides a well-organized, highly accessible,...

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WHY WE SLEEP

UNLOCKING THE POWER OF SLEEP AND DREAMS

Revelations about sleep that illustrate its vital importance to our brains, our bodies, and our lives.

The director of the Sleep and Neuroimaging Lab at the University of California, Walker has spent decades researching sleep and has served as a consultant to sports teams, financial institutions, and TV producers. In other words, he is an expert, but more importantly, he knows how to explain it all clearly to general readers. He begins by showing what sleep is and what it isn’t, how other creatures sleep, and how it changes across a lifetime. In Part 2, he examines the numerous benefits of sleep and how it affects mental and physical health, such as the ability to learn and the fitness of the gut and the cardiovascular and immune systems. So important is sleep to our well-being that Walker counsels that the shorter one’s sleep, the shorter one’s life span. In Part 3, which peers into the brains of people dreaming, Walker provides examples of the sometimes-astonishing creativity and problem-solving power of dreams. This section also tackles the phenomenon of lucid dreams—i.e., dreams controlled by the dreamer. In Part 4, the author takes up sleep disorders and the harmful effects of sleep deprivation, not just to the individual, but to society. Walker counsels against sleeping pills and offers nondrug therapies that he has found to be effective. In the concluding chapter, “A New Vision for Sleep in the 21st Century,” the author outlines his proposals for enhancing sleep quantity and quality: individual use of new technology, sleep education in schools, sleep reform in the workplace, public campaigns to heighten awareness of the hazards of drowsy driving, and, more elusive, societal change in sleep awareness. Readers, he cordially advises, may read the parts in any order they prefer and close their eyes and take a nap if they feel like it.

Though readers seeking dream interpretation will be disappointed, Walker provides a well-organized, highly accessible, up-to-date report on sleep and its crucial role in a healthy life.

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5011-4431-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Aug. 22, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2017

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Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and...

THE IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS

A dense, absorbing investigation into the medical community's exploitation of a dying woman and her family's struggle to salvage truth and dignity decades later.

In a well-paced, vibrant narrative, Popular Science contributor and Culture Dish blogger Skloot (Creative Writing/Univ. of Memphis) demonstrates that for every human cell put under a microscope, a complex life story is inexorably attached, to which doctors, researchers and laboratories have often been woefully insensitive and unaccountable. In 1951, Henrietta Lacks, an African-American mother of five, was diagnosed with what proved to be a fatal form of cervical cancer. At Johns Hopkins, the doctors harvested cells from her cervix without her permission and distributed them to labs around the globe, where they were multiplied and used for a diverse array of treatments. Known as HeLa cells, they became one of the world's most ubiquitous sources for medical research of everything from hormones, steroids and vitamins to gene mapping, in vitro fertilization, even the polio vaccine—all without the knowledge, must less consent, of the Lacks family. Skloot spent a decade interviewing every relative of Lacks she could find, excavating difficult memories and long-simmering outrage that had lay dormant since their loved one's sorrowful demise. Equal parts intimate biography and brutal clinical reportage, Skloot's graceful narrative adeptly navigates the wrenching Lack family recollections and the sobering, overarching realities of poverty and pre–civil-rights racism. The author's style is matched by a methodical scientific rigor and manifest expertise in the field.

Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and Petri dish politics.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4000-5217-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2010

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Ackerman writes with a light but assured touch, her prose rich in fact but economical in delivering it. Fans of birds in all...

THE GENIUS OF BIRDS

Science writer Ackerman (Ah-Choo!: The Uncommon Life of Your Common Cold, 2010, etc.) looks at the new science surrounding avian intelligence.

The takeaway: calling someone a birdbrain is a compliment. And in any event, as Ackerman observes early on, “intelligence is a slippery concept, even in our own species, tricky to define and tricky to measure.” Is a bird that uses a rock to break open a clamshell the mental equivalent of a tool-using primate? Perhaps that’s the wrong question, for birds are so unlike humans that “it’s difficult for us to fully appreciate their mental capabilities,” given that they’re really just small, feathered dinosaurs who inhabit a wholly different world from our once-arboreal and now terrestrial one. Crows and other corvids have gotten all the good publicity related to bird intelligence in recent years, but Ackerman, who does allow that some birds are brighter than others, points favorably to the much-despised pigeon as an animal that “can remember hundreds of different objects for long periods of time, discriminate between different painting styles, and figure out where it’s going, even when displaced from familiar territory by hundreds of miles.” Not bad for a critter best known for bespattering statues in public parks. Ackerman travels far afield to places such as Barbados and New Caledonia to study such matters as memory, communication, and decision-making, the last largely based on visual cues—though, as she notes, birds also draw ably on other senses, including smell, which in turn opens up insight onto “a weird evolutionary paradox that scientists have puzzled over for more than a decade”—a matter of the geometry of, yes, the bird brain.

Ackerman writes with a light but assured touch, her prose rich in fact but economical in delivering it. Fans of birds in all their diversity will want to read this one.

Pub Date: April 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-59420-521-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2016

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