Origin by Dan Brown
Robert Langdon, Harvard professor of symbology, returns in this mystery. Langdon travels to the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain to attend a major announcement by one of his former students, tech billionaire Edmond Kirsch. Kirsch promises the discovery “will change the face of science forever.” But when the event goes terribly wrong, Langdon and the museum’s director, Ambra Vidal, must flee for their lives and rush to make Kirsch’s discovery public before they are caught. Dan Brown’s fifth Robert Langdon novel again deals with the intersection and conflict between science and religion. Having read all of Dan Brown’s previous novels, I can say that this is one of his best. While there is less emphasis on symbology and codes, Origin is entertaining and bold. The simple but compelling prose builds to a provocative climax making the book hard to put down.
The War on Science: Who’s Waging It, Why It Matters, What We Can Do About It by Shawn Otto
Science is knowledge and knowledge is power and power is political. Otto draws a direct line from science to democracy. He deftly argues that they need each other to survive. Democracy requires an informed electorate and science needs an open, free society. But the United States is now deeply embroiled in a war on facts and science. Otto describes the history of how we have transformed from a nation where the founding fathers revered science to a place where many falsely believe that science is subjective and the source of problems rather than a search for truth. This book is well-written and thoroughly researched. Otto provides detailed explanations and examples for his assertions. He also ends the book with an incredibly complete, multi-pronged plan to combat the current war on science. I not only recommend this book but heartily encourage anyone who can vote to read it. The fate of our democracy is at stake. “If knowledge does not have primacy in public decision making, then no truth can be said to be self-evident, and we are left with tyranny of ideology, with shots called by the wealthy and enforced by might.”
The Avery Shaw Experiment by Kelly Oram
Avery Shaw just got her heart broken. She finally told her best friend, Aiden, that she’s in love with him and he responded by asking for space to be with his new girlfriend. Ever the scientist, Avery devises an experiment to see if the five stages of grief—denial/bargaining, guilt, anger, depression, acceptance—can help her overcome a broken heart. Avery enlists the help of Aiden’s older brother, Grayson, to be her impartial observer. She thinks he’s in it just for the extra credit but Grayson has more in mind than just science. The book seems to send the message that a shy, science-geek girl needs to be “fixed” which is another example of societal pressures to be extroverted. Yet, I couldn’t put it down. Once, I put aside my views on introvertedness, the story was so cute and captivating that I read it in one sitting. I particularly liked the main female character, Avery. Sure, she has problems and broke down into tears several times but she was also doing her best to be better and could still hold her own versus Grayson. She gave off both senses of strength and vulnerability which made her more real than some of the other female protagonists that I’ve read lately. And Grayson is just as swoon-worthy as a chick-lit main male character should be. He was genuinely caring and fun. Overall, for me this was a much-needed win in the chick-lit/light romance category.
The Violinist’s Thumb: And Other Lost Tales of Love, War and Genius, as Written by Our Genetic Code by Sam Kean
Total Reading Time: 5.5 hours
Review: The most accessible book about DNA that I’ve ever read. Okay, the only book about DNA I’ve ever read, but still user-friendly. While Mr. Kean does an excellent job of keeping the jargon to a minimum, reading can still be a bit of a slog at some points. However, it’s more of a history of genetics than a science textbook and really fascinating stuff.