Friday, November 3, 2017

A Different Kind of Book: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

Faced with the choice of deciding between a non-fiction science book and a novel, most probably would rather choose the science because besides exploring imagination I am always keen to discover facts about the immediate reality. One might say that imagination is also part of the reality, but as science plays an important part of my background, I love to have on my reading list a considerable amount of non-fiction books, including about mathematics, physics or medicine.
What matters, after all, is to read a good book, and many forget that the rules of good writing are applying for all genres. Whatever the rules of the narrative, you still have to tell a story, either you are writing about a big unhappy love or an episode from the history of science. This week, I was finally able to read two beautiful science books that I had on my TBR for years: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot and The Emperor of All Maladies, by Siddhartha Mukherjee. 
Both do have in common a serious writing based on years of scientific research and investigation, and both succeded to present very complicated medical-related issues in a very readable fascinated format. Especially when you are approaching such a humanly difficult topic as cancer, but Mukherjee offers emotional human stories wrapped in the wise knowledgeable words of the practising doctor and the scientist.
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is a complex story about science, race, medical ethics and destiny in 20th century America. An anonymous actor of the world medicine, Henrietta Lacks was given her name to cancerous cells removed without her consent when in her final stage of cancer. Those cells were further used for various medical aims, among others for creating the polio vaccine. Rebecca Skloot investigates stubborny this complicated story, giving voice and face for the first time to Lacks and her family an experience that challenged and changed her too: 'The Lackses challenged everything I thoughts about faith, science, journalism and race'. The story is well structured and told so beautifully that I was hardly able to go to sleep before finishing it. After all, maybe there are hopes that investigative journalism is still alive. And that good books are belonging to any genre.

Rating: 5 stars

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