Summer is here and its time to put together the best books to consume to the sound of waves. I thought we would miss our beach fix this year because of teen schedules and high prices, but we found a steal of a deal for tickets to Cabo San Lucas.
We’ll be flying Spirit Airlines, so this will be an exercise in austerity packing for our family. My husband, a seasoned traveler, adamantly refuses to pay to check baggage. If you are familiar with Spirit, you know they keep their prices low by charging for everything. Checked baggage, seat selections, and counter check-in all come at a premium.
This means my books will all be Kindle versions. It makes me a little sad, because I love to see evidence of reading by the sea when I flip back through the paper pages. But the idea of traveling extremely light has a certain appeal.
So I will be reading during my holiday, and if you appreciate a good medical story or science-based political shenanigans, I’ve got a few choice selections for your vacation, too.
Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming
by Naomi Orskes and Erik M. Conway
If you’ve ever wondered about those headlines that say “According to Science,” this is the book for you. This book, part history and part journalism, tells the story of how money and science and politics too often mix.
There is a line between dutiful scientific doubt and unwarranted denial. This book explores that boundary with a look at how the scientific process can be hijacked for political and financial gain.
Napoleon's Buttons: How 17 Molecules Changed History
by Penny Le Couteur and Jay Burreson
Napoleon’s Buttons is the story of 17 molecules and how they influenced the path of history.
Engineering, food and drink, medicine, law…there is no field untouched by the science of chemistry. This book tells the story of the impact of these molecules, and examines what would have happened without their discovery.
If you take your science and history together, this is your book.
The Photographer: Into War-torn Afghanistan with Doctors Without Borders
by Emmanuel Guibert
Part graphic novel, part photojournalism, this book delves into the lives of those who rush into the most needy – and dangerous – parts of the world to render medical aid.
In 1986, Afghanistan was at war with the Soviet Union. The doctors and nurses with Médecins sans Frontières (MSF; Doctors Without Borders) undertook a mission to Northern Afghanistan and all the physical deprivation and threats of war it entailed. This book explores that mission and the work done by the selfless MSF team.
In light of recent bombings of MSF hospitals, this is a particularly timely book to read. The world needs these folks, and we need to protect them.
The Gene: An Intimate History
by Siddhartha Mukherjee
The author of The Emperor of All Maladies brings us this engrossing story of the gene.
It’s an interesting story, but not nearly as interesting as contemplating what it looks like when we can start writing our own genetic code. Fortunately, this book imagines the future of the gene’s story, too.
Mukherjee takes this complicated topic and makes it accessible without dumbing it down. The future of genetics is at once sobering and invigorating. This book captures the full range of possibilities as it pulls you into its story.
Snowball in a Blizzard: A Physician's Notes on Uncertainty in Medicine
by Stephen Hatch
Snowball in a Blizzard is the must-read book of the summer for anyone who wants to understand what, exactly, is going on when a medical diagnosis is made. Likening the process of diagnosis to finding a snowball in a blizzard, Hatch delves into the vast amount of uncertainty in the practice of medicine.
You will find an in depth discussion of some of the most controversial medical topics – breast cancer screening, for example. These controversies highlight just how much we don’t know.
It’s not a condemnation of medicine so much as it is a warning to look at the big picture and not rely too heavily on technology and testing.
If you’re looking for more ideas, check out last year’s list. And as usual, Bill Gates offers a compelling list for poolside pleasure.
Enjoy your summer with a great book, and maybe a drink with an umbrella in it.