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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Book Club with Frisco Kids

I've been trying to do a lot of summer reading, and thought I'd share what I read with you. Think of this as the first edition of the Frisco Kids' book club. Please post what you've been reading in the comments section!

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot - this book is the fascinating true tale of Henrietta Lacks and her life-saving HeLa cells. Back in the day, there was no such thing as continued cell reproduction in cell culture, and there were no medical ethics rules about using someone's body tissues for research without asking. Lacks, a poor, black woman in Baltimore, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. During her hospitalization, biopsied cells were taken for medical experimentation - and researchers successfully grew them in cell cultlure - a first. The cells are still used worldwide, 60 years later, and were instrumental in advancing IVF, developing the polio vaccine, developing drugs to treat leukemia, Parkinson's and hemophilia and more. The book looks not only at Lacks' life (and the complicated saga of her family after Henrietta died), but the science and medical ethics issues that arose after. A fascinating and highly recommended read.

The One that I Want by Allison Winn Scotch - If you could see the future, would you want to? After reading The One that I Want, I certainly wouldn't. Follow Tilly Farmer in her quest to learn more about her marriage and what she wants out of life. While her husband (formerly her high school boyfriend) thinks about moving on to live out his boyhood dream, Tilly is left wondering why things are changing and what she can do about it. The bittersweet novel makes you take a good look at your own life and the decisions you make, and appreciate what others go through in their marriages.

Secrets of the Moneylab by Kay-Yut Chen and Marina Krakovsky - this book comes out in September, by Bay Area HP Labs researcher Chen, and journalist Krakovsky. It looks at behavioral economics, and how consumer and business research can save a company money. While aimed at businesses, this is still an insightful book for consumers. The experiments it describes are relevant to every day life. In the chapter on  reputation, you learn concretely how much more you can earn on your eBay sales depending on your reputation there. You'll learn how a company's product guarantees affect what you buy, and how charities get you to give more through the power of reciprocity. And for gamblers - learn how the casino odds are stacked against you (you think you know how, but you don't).

Diary of a Wimpy Kid the Last Straw and Diary of a Wimpy Kid Dog Days by Jeff Kinney - I took these books from my daughter to read - they are laugh-out-loud hilarious. No big take-home message from them, other than your kids are normal and you were a dork too, when you were in middle school. Plus you see from the kids' point of view what an idiotic parent you are.

For all the Tea in China by Sarah Rose - did you know that the British stole tea from China? It turns out China was the only country producing the plant, and the British East India Company decided to steal the plants after losing its trade monopoly in the 1800s. The book combines history, economics and a cultural insights, along with a traveler's tale of the aptly named Robert Fortune, the botonist hired to steal the plants. Even non-tea lovers will find the book intriguing.

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