An intensive, humanistic examination of blood in all its dazzling forms and functions.

NINE PINTS

A JOURNEY THROUGH THE MONEY, MEDICINE, AND MYSTERIES OF BLOOD

Engrossing secrets of the sanguine.

British journalist George (Ninety Percent of Everything: Inside Shipping, the Invisible Industry that Puts Clothes on Your Back, Gas in Your Car, and Food on Your Plate, 2013, etc.) astutely probes the historical uses, misconceptions, taboos, and personal and professional value of human blood, “a medicine, a lifesaver, and a commodity that is dearer than oil.” In a text that is both fascinating and informative, the author explores blood-borne disorders, medical uses, benefits, detriments, and wonders. An intriguing tour of the largest European blood donation facility reveals the cooled, pressurized environment that keeps stored plasma dust and insect-free—though not unbiased, since England’s National Health Service enacted its “male donor preference” in 2003 after the rejection of female blood donations due to their hormone-heavy chemistry. George also profiles the thriving volunteer fleet of “blood bikers” delivering blood (and other essential bodily fluids) to health care centers around the clock. She writes that the worldwide shortage of this precious resource is as real as medical science’s inability to comprehend and successfully replicate it, although the research supporting synthetic blood sounds promising. The author also highlights the importance of exsanguination via hermaphroditic leeches and the pioneering legacy of hematological researcher Janet Vaughan. Particularly gripping are chapters featuring interviews with HIV-positive South African youth and sections thoughtfully detailing the evolution and “intent and cunning” resilience of the HIV virus, which virologists describe with awe and dread simultaneously. George vividly presents sections on the demonization of menstruation and the anomaly of “fake menstruating men” alongside notes on “blood rejuvenation” and a clever interview with India’s “Menstrual Man,” who risked his marriage and reputation to radically revolutionize the sanitary pad industry in his native land and beyond. The author packs her book with the kinds of provocative, witty, and rigorously reported facts and stories sure to make readers view the integral fluid coursing through our veins in a whole new way.

An intensive, humanistic examination of blood in all its dazzling forms and functions.

Pub Date: Oct. 23, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-62779-637-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Metropolitan/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Aug. 13, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2018

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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

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An intriguing meditation on the nature of the universe and our attempts to understand it that should appeal to both...

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SEVEN BRIEF LESSONS ON PHYSICS

Italian theoretical physicist Rovelli (General Relativity: The Most Beautiful of Theories, 2015, etc.) shares his thoughts on the broader scientific and philosophical implications of the great revolution that has taken place over the past century.

These seven lessons, which first appeared as articles in the Sunday supplement of the Italian newspaper Sole 24 Ore, are addressed to readers with little knowledge of physics. In less than 100 pages, the author, who teaches physics in both France and the United States, cogently covers the great accomplishments of the past and the open questions still baffling physicists today. In the first lesson, he focuses on Einstein's theory of general relativity. He describes Einstein's recognition that gravity "is not diffused through space [but] is that space itself" as "a stroke of pure genius." In the second lesson, Rovelli deals with the puzzling features of quantum physics that challenge our picture of reality. In the remaining sections, the author introduces the constant fluctuations of atoms, the granular nature of space, and more. "It is hardly surprising that there are more things in heaven and earth, dear reader, than have been dreamed of in our philosophy—or in our physics,” he writes. Rovelli also discusses the issues raised in loop quantum gravity, a theory that he co-developed. These issues lead to his extraordinary claim that the passage of time is not fundamental but rather derived from the granular nature of space. The author suggests that there have been two separate pathways throughout human history: mythology and the accumulation of knowledge through observation. He believes that scientists today share the same curiosity about nature exhibited by early man.

An intriguing meditation on the nature of the universe and our attempts to understand it that should appeal to both scientists and general readers.

Pub Date: March 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-399-18441-3

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2015

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