Views from Our Shoes: Growing Up with a Brother or Sister with Special Needs, edited by Donald Meyer

Find in CatalogThis book is a collection of short entries from children who have a sibling who has special needs, such as autism, Down syndrome, ADD, PDD, cerebral palsy, and others that I had never heard of before. I picked out this book because I have a sister who has autism. I wish I would have read this when I was younger because I would have learned that other kids my age were going through the same experiences and emotions. I recommend this book to anyone. It is a quick read, and you will learn a lot about how kids live with a sibling who has special needs and what their advice is for siblings, parents, and other people.

Working Stiff: Two Years, 262 Bodies, and the Making of a Medical Examiner, by Judy Melinek

Find in catalogJudy Melinek trained to be a forensic pathologist in the New York City morgue, performing autopsies, attending crime scenes, and counseling grieving families. The author joined the NYC medical examiners two months before the 2001 terrorist attacks and was a part of the team that dealt with the identification of the victims. The book is a fascinating, and sometimes humorous account of the work of a real life medical examiner. It was interesting to compare fictional TV depictions to this first hand account, especially the amount of time that it takes to receive DNA results. Note: the descriptions of the medical procedures are graphic.

Horseshoe Crabs and Velvet Worms by Richard Fortey

Find in catalogMy background is not adequate for this book, so I struggled through most and skipped a couple of chapters. But what I did read is so fine that I give it a highest rating. It has all the information, of course, about the origins of life and the creatures that emerged over time. What kept my interest was Fortey’s delightful descriptions of his travels to find these creatures and those organisms themselves. Who could resist a scientist who explains that stromatolites are built up “layer by layer – a little like those giant stack pancakes an unwary visitor gets offered in New York for breakfast.”

Everyone is African: How Science Explodes the Myth of Race by Daniel Fairbanks

Find in textThis is an excellent, informative, and even exciting book. Unfortunately, even though I think everyone could benefit by reading it, the author seems to have written it for at least the level of his college students. Several times I had to reread a sentence three times to feel I understood it. But please, don’t let that stop you from checking it out. Fairbanks is a respected geneticist who has written and co-written at least 5 books, and is currently a university professor.

He really explodes the myth of genetically separate races, be they 5, 20, or any named number. He explains how thousands of changes (we used to know them as mutations, but he calls them variants) in genes throughout hundreds of thousands of years have created different genetic codes in everyone. This is compounded and multiplied by historic mass movement events of people around the world, whether they moved because of Ice Age or other weather, political or economic needs, slavery and domination of peoples which added to mixing of genes, and now of course, travel and living in far reaches of the earth from where one was born, then possibly having families….all combine to mix, mix, mix…..our genes which never, by the way “age out” or “dissolve”: we (by this the author means the entire human race) still have within our codes genes from the first humans in Africa. Not only that, but some still carry a bit of Neanderthal genetics! This author has over 20 pages of notes and bibliographic references. I am very interested now in having my DNA analyzed!

A Primate’s Memoir by Robert M. Sapolsky

Find in catalogRobert Sapolsky knew that he wanted to be a primatologist when he grew up. He volunteered at the Museum of Natural History, wrote fan letters to Jane Goodall, and badgered his high school principal to let him study Swahili to prepare for travel in Africa. Sapolsky spent 20 years studying a troop of baboons in Kenya and discovered that their behavior and social structure is quite different than previously believed. His stories are both fascinating and hilarious and the reader will learn a lot about both the animals and the people of Africa.

Why Darwin Matters by Michael Shermer

Why Darwin MattersMost of this book actually doesn’t examine why Darwin matters, but rather focuses on how evolution works and, more helpfully, on why the creationist and intelligent design arguments don’t. It might be useful for the “Fence Sitters,” as Shermer calls them, those who aren’t clear as to what the debate is all about. Shermer isn’t against belief in God, just certain versions of him (or her, they, it) and asserts that Christians can accept evolution as one source of moral values. The most interesting part of the book to me is chapter 9, where Shermer discusses what he calls the “real unsolved problems in evolution,” such as where life began, what causes major shifts in evolution, and what is the target of natural selection. Title aside, this is still a short, readable summary and clarified for me just what it is that people object to in evolutionary theory.

Reviewed by Sarav

The Natural History of a Garden by Colin Spedding and Geoffrey Spedding

The Natural History of a GardenAlthough focused more on the U.K., this could be useful as a reference book also in the U.S. for people interested in what goes on in the garden, the organisms, seasons, soil, ecology, and how to make a garden appeal to children. It has lots of charts, tables, boxes, so is best dipped into. The book describes the kinds of things children might notice and be curious about, not the beauties of flowers, but the curious ways of caterpillars, different kinds of bees, small nests, and dozens of kinds of predators, Both Speddings have scientific training, and offer some fascinating details – I was fascinated and saddened to learn that the creatures I vow death to, the slugs, may “carry their eggs in a liquid-filled brood pouch for a month.” Unfortunately, the authors consistently refer to fungi as plants – an annoying error in a book which I imagine is otherwise accurate.

Reviewed by sarav

My Stroke of Insight by Jill Bolte Taylor

This amazing journey by stroke victim and brain scientist, Jill Bolte Taylor, is a  first-hand account of what happened during her stroke and what it took to “recover.”  It is so interesting to learn about the left and right sides of our brains and what it felt like for her to be completely in her right brain (at one with the universe and liquid).  There is also info about how to best help stroke victims rehabilitate.  I am grateful that the author was able to remember her experiences and share them with the world.

Reviewed by Lorie