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Books For The “Serious Reader” On Your Holiday List

For the more serious readers on your holiday list, I thought I would toss out some ideas today from my own “Must Read” list. Of course, that list gets set aside when I am busy, but I am working my way down!


6493208The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks


Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. She was a poor black tobacco farmer whose cells—taken without her knowledge in 1951—became one of the most important tools in medicine, vital for developing the polio vaccine, cloning, gene mapping, and more. Henrietta’s cells have been bought and sold by the billions, yet she remains virtually unknown, and her family can’t afford health insurance. This phenomenal New York Times bestseller tells a riveting story of the collision between ethics, race, and medicine; of scientific discovery and faith healing; and of a daughter consumed with questions about the mother she never knew.


Cutting for Stone

3591262Marion and Shiva Stone are twin brothers born of a secret union between a beautiful Indian nun and a brash British surgeon. Orphaned by their mother’s death and their father’s disappearance, bound together by a preternatural connection and a shared fascination with medicine, the twins come of age as Ethiopia hovers on the brink of revolution.

Moving from Addis Ababa to New York City and back again, Cutting for Stone is an unforgettable story of love and betrayal, medicine and ordinary miracles—and two brothers whose fates are forever intertwined.


16213#1 New York Times Bestseller

The Hot Zone: The Terrifying True Story of the Origins of the Ebola Virus

The bestselling landmark account of the first emergence of the Ebola virus. A highly infectious, deadly virus from the central African rain forest suddenly appears in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. There is no cure. In a few days 90 percent of its victims are dead. A secret military SWAT team of soldiers and scientists is mobilized to stop the outbreak of this exotic “hot” virus. The Hot Zone tells this dramatic story, giving a hair-raising account of the appearance of rare and lethal viruses and their “crashes” into the human race. Shocking, frightening, and impossible to ignore, The Hot Zone proves that truth really is scarier than fiction.



Virus Hunter: Thirty Years of Battling Hot Viruses Around the World

by C.J. Peters, Mark Olshaker

A New York Times Notable Book249716

The man who led the battle against Ebola in The Hot Zone teams up with the bestselling co-author of Mind Hunter to chronicle his extraordinary thirty-year career fighting deadly viruses.

For three decades, Dr. C. J. Peters was on the front lines of our biological battle against “hot” viruses around the world. In the course of that career, he learned countless lessons about our interspecies turf wars with infectious agents. Called in to contain an outbreak of deadly hemorrhagic fever in Bolivia, he confronted the despair of trying to save a colleague who accidentally infected himself with an errant scalpel. Working in Level 4 labs on the Machupo and Ebola viruses, he saw time and again why expensive high-tech biohazard containment equipment is only as safe as the people who use it.

Because of new, emerging viruses, and the return of old, “vanquished” ones for which vaccines do not exist, there remains a very real danger of a new epidemic that could, without proper surveillance and early intervention, spread worldwide virtually overnight. And the possibility of foreign countries or terrorist groups using deadly airborne viruses—the poor man’s nuclear arsenal—looms larger than ever.

High-octane science writing at its best and most revealing, Virus Hunter is a thrilling first-person account of what it is like to be a warrior in the Hot Zone.


Third World America: How Our Politicians Are Abandoning the Middle Class and Betraying the American Dream

by Arianna Huffington (Goodreads Author), Coleen Marlo (Goodreads Author)

It’s not an exaggeration to say that middle-class Americans are an endangered species and that the American Dream of a secure, comfortable standard of living has become as outdated as an Edsel with an eight-track player—that the United States of America is in danger of becoming a third world nation.

The evidence is all around us: Our industrial base is vanishing, taking with it the kind of jobs that have formed the backbone of our economy for more than a century; our education system is in shambles, making it harder for tomorrow’s workforce to acquire the information and training it needs to land good twenty-first-century jobs; our infrastructure—our roads, our bridges, our sewage and water, our transportation and electrical systems—is crumbling; our economic system has been reduced to recurring episodes of Corporations Gone Wild; our political system is broken, in thrall to a small financial elite using the power of the checkbook to control both parties.

And America’s middle class, the driver of so much of our economic success and political stability, is rapidly disappearing, forcing us to confront the fear that we are slipping as a nation—that our children and grandchildren will enjoy fewer opportunities and face a lower standard of living than we did. It’s the dark flipside of the American Dream—an American Nightmare of our own making.

Arianna Huffington, who, with the must-read Huffington Post, has her finger on the pulse of America, unflinchingly tracks the gradual demise of America as an industrial, political, and economic leader. In the vein of her fiery bestseller Pigs at the Trough, Third World America points fingers, names names, and details who is killing the American Dream. Finally, calling on the can-do attitude that is part of America’s DNA, Huffington shows precisely what we need to do to stop our freefall and keep America from turning into a third world nation.

Third World America is a must-listen for anyone disturbed by our country’s steady descent from twentieth-century superpower to backwater banana republic.


Review: Let Me Get This Off My Chest: A Breast Cancer Survivor Over-Shares


Click to get a copy. This book is SO worth reading!
Click to get a copy. This book is SO worth reading!

I only have one problem with this book. It wasn’t published soon enough. I have, you see, gone through Breast Cancer myself. Not like Margaret’s – hers was Stage IA, a very mild form of Breast Cancer, while mine was Stage IIIB, the last stage before becoming metastatic (spreading to other parts of the body, such as the liver, lungs, etc.).

This is not to say that I in any way am belittling Margaret’s mild cancer. Rather, I applaud her for her strength. Other than a very few friends, I had no family. She, on the other hand, has a loving husband and, at the time of her first bout with cancer, a two-year old son. She had a lot more to lose than I. And that is what matters in all cases, isn’t it? Our loss as it affects our families.

 It felt as if I were walking to the gas chamber or gallows.

 In December of 1999, when her son was two, Margaret had her first bout with breast cancer. The terror must have been horrific, even if she bore it well and doesn’t make a big deal of it in her book. She had a lumpectomy and radiation, and then lived a normal life, enjoying her husband and child and life itself, until 2012, when a ‘possible’ lump showed up again in the same breast that had given her trouble before. Now, things were different. Now, some serious issues would have to be addressed, and things would be different. It was time for the breasts to vacate the premises. And so begins her story of her diagnosis, treatment, and reconstruction.

Sometimes the only way to deal with horrific things in life is through a dark sense of humor. – Margaret Cho

The thing I truly admire about Margaret’s story is how she lays it out in a humourous manner. Oh, believe me, this story is not a funny one. The fear, pain and nausea, the surgeries and drains and pain, (oh, and did I mention pain?) is terrifying. At times, it is horrifying, and at others simply humiliating. I am right there with her on the nurse who looks at you like you are a bug to be squished on the floor for asking for a bedpan when you are too drugged and too agonized to make it to the bathroom. I was fortunate – I had the services of some of the best doctors and nurses in the world, at Littleton Adventist Hospital in Littleton Colorado, for my chemo treatments and multiple hospital visits (nothing like internal bleeding and constant vomiting and fainting to land you into a bed with multiple wires and tubes sticking out). I never had a single nurse or doctor treat me with anything less than compassion and respect (well, except for one doctor, and I think he was just a jerk, no matter what. Well, he was the one sticking the tubes up my bum and down my throat to find the bleeds. I suppose if I worked with people’s bums all day, I would be bad tempered too…)

Sometimes I say the medication is even tougher than the illness. – Sanya Richards-Ross

While some parts of cancer treatments can be different, interesting and ‘cocktail party worthy’ (take baldness, now I found that funny in and of itself, and never wore a wig. Hey, might as well laugh at yourself, right?) what isn’t funny or fun or anything even remotely pleasant is the chemotherapy. Sitting in a lounger for hours at a time while poison was being pumped into my veins was sure to send me into a full-blown panic attack, even at my weakest. Bring out the knock-out drugs! I told you, I had the Best. Chemo. Nurse. EVER.) Chemo is not fun. It leaves you weak, sick, tired, unable to eat or drink without having it come right back up again. Margaret covers the issue with her usual kindness and panache, pointing out the problems, but refusing to let it drive her down into the dark lands of her psyche. I admire that. I mostly just slept. For days and days. . .And that whole “you are going to go into menopause at the speed of the Shinkansen (the Japanese High-Speed Train System)” complete with hot flashes and weight fluctuations? So not fun. Margaret didn’t say how much weight she lost – I lost 60 lbs. Now, if I could have kept off about 30 of those! LOL

One of her nipples was lying on the bathroom tile.

 The part that Margaret went through, that I didn’t, was the reconstruction. I was 53 at the time, and hadn’t had a lover for over 20 years – why did I care? (We could get all up in the childhood and later sexual abuse, etc. but that doesn’t fit here.) The point is, I have to admit – the double mastectomy, in my case, was much easier than her reconstruction! I still had the pain, and the drains, but she went five months getting doses of saline injected to ‘stretch out’ her tissue, building new breasts. Nah, I will take my ‘barely there’ scar, the occasional odd look, and some ongoing tenderness across the chest. Hey, I can at least sleep on my stomach these days! When I was a D-cup, that was so not happening….. Her story of the reconstruction was sort of creepily fascinating to me, as I didn’t have it done. And of course, hearing the story of her friend who had reconstruction, and then one of her nipples fell off when she was toweling after a shower? (You have to read the book just for that part of the story.)

Overall, if you have the slightest interest in what your friend, family member, coworker, etc. is going through, you have to read this book. If you have the possibility of Breast Cancer yourself, are going through treatment, or have had cancer previously, you have to read this book. It is by turns scary and funny, but always compassionate.

Highly recommended.  To learn about the stages of Breast Cancer The main site, this is the be-all and know-all site for Breast Cancer information  The home site for the National Cancer Institute, a part of the National Institutes of Health. There is Breast Cancer information here, but also research and information regarding a large number of different types of cancer.  Another segment of the NCI website, you can find information about different chemotherapy medications. Margaret was on Tamoxifen. I, on the other hand, had ATC therapy.  A combination of Doxorubicin (Adriamycin), Taxol (paclitaxel) and Cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan). You can find additional information on any of these drugs at: A great site for more info on cancer and cancer treatments



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