Adults

Book Discussion: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

This book is nonfiction. From the book:

Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. She was a poor Southern tobacco farmer who worked the same land as her slave ancestors, yet her cells -- taken without her knowledge -- became one of the most important tools in medicine. The first "immortal" human cells grown in culture, they are still alive today, though she has been dead for more than sixty years. If you could pile all HeLa cells ever grown onto a scale, they'd weigh more than 50 million metric tons -- as much as a hundred Empire State Buildings. HeLa cells were vital for developing the polio vaccine; uncovered secrets of cancer, viruses, and the atom bomb's effects; helped lead to important advances like in vitro fertilization, cloning, and gene mapping; and have been bought and sold by the billions.

Yet Henrietta Lacks remains virtually unknown, buried in an unmarked grave.

Now Rebecca Skloot takes us on an extraordinary journey, from the "colored" ward of Johns Hopkins Hospital in the 1950s to stark white laboratories with freezers full of HeLa cells, from Henrietta's small, dying hometown of Clover, Virginia -- a land of wooden slave quarters, faith healings, and voodoo -- to East Baltimore today, where her children and grandchildren live and struggle with the legacy of her cells.

Henrietta's family did not learn of her "immortality" until more than twenty years after her death, when scientists investigating HeLa began using her husband and children in research without informed consent. And though the cells had launched a multimillion-dollar industry that sells human biological materials, her family never saw any of the profits. As Rebecca Skloot so brilliantly shows, the story of the Lacks family -- past and present -- is inextricably connected to the dark history of experimentation on African Americans, the birth of bioethics, and the legal battles over whether we control the stuff we are made of.

Over the decade it took to uncover this story, Rebecca became enmeshed in the lives of the Lacks family -- especially Henrietta's daughter Deborah, who was devastated to learn about her mother's cells. Deborah was consumed with questions: Had scientists cloned her mother? Had they killed her to harvest her cells? And if her mother was so important to medicine, why couldn't her children afford health insurance?

Intimate in feeling, astonishing in scope, and impossible to put down, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lack captures the beauty and drama of scientific discovery, as well as its human consequences.

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Book Discussion: Bad Things Happen by Harry Dolan

This book is Mystery. From the book:

The man who calls himself David Loogan is leading a quiet, anonymous life in the college town of Ann Arbor, Michigan. He's hoping to escape a violent past he would rather forget. But his solitude is broken when he finds himself drawn into a friendship with Tom Kristoll, publisher of the mystery magazine Gray Street -- and into an affair with Laura, Tom's sleek blond wife. When Tom offers him a job as an editor, Loogan sees no harm in accepting. What he doesn't realize is that the stories in Gray Street tend to follow a simple formula: Plans go wrong. Bad things happen. People die.

Elizabeth Waishkey is a single mother raising a fifteen-year-old daughter. She's also the most talented detective in the Ann Arbor Police Department. But when Tom Kristoll turns up dead, she doesn't quite know what to make of David Loogan. Is he a killer, or an ally who might help her find the truth? Loogan, for his part, would like to trust her, but he has his own agenda. He suspects his friend's death is part of a much larger puzzle, and he's not going to wait for someone else to put the pieces together. As Loogan and Elizabeth navigate their way through the Kristolls' world, they find no shortage of people with motives for murder, from a young graduate student obsessed with Laura Kristoll to a trio of bestselling writers, all of them with secrets they don't want uncovered.

As the deaths start mounting up -- some of them echoing stories published in Gray Streets -- Loogan begins to look more and more like the most promising suspect.

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Book Discussion: America The Beautiful by Ben Carson, M.D.

The book is nonfiction. From the book:

What is America becoming? Or, more importantly, what can she be if we reclaim a vision for the things that made her great in the first place?

In America the Beautiful, Dr. Ben Carson helps us learn from our past in order to chart a better course for our future. 

From his personal ascent form inner-city poverty to international medical and humanitarian acclaim, Carson shares experiential insights that help us understand

  • what is good about America
  • where we have gone astray
  • which fundamental beliefs have guided America from her founding into preeminence among nations.

Written by a man who has experienced America's best and worst firsthand, America the Beautiful is at once alarming, convincing, and inspiring. You'll gain new perspectives on our nation's origins, our Judeo-Christian heritage, our educational system, capitalism versus socialism, our moral fabric, healthcare, and much more.

An incisive manifesto of the values that shaped America's past and must shape her future, America the Beautiful calls us all to user our God-given talents to improve our lives, our communities, our nation, and our world.

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