Book Thirteen: Intuition

Intuition, Allegra Goodman

What a beautiful book. Essentially, it takes the world of science, which I (and perhaps most people) assume is iron-clad in its reliability and objectivity, and sets that against a sea of characters who are not at all reliable or objective. I love the set up: a postdoc at a struggling Cambridge lab working on cancer research suddenly happens upon amazing results, which conveniently occur just when he is being recognized for his failures. His girlfriend and fellow postdoc, who may be jealous of his new-found success, starts to suspect that his results may be fraudulent. The two directors of the lab get caught up in the accusations and things snowball from there, more or less.

What I love are the many characters that come in and out, including the other postdocs, lab techs and employees of the lab, family members of the lab directors, and other scientists. The book constantly changes perspective, so we're getting glimpses of each character and small insights into their motivations and feelings, all of which are heartbreakingly human. It was hard for me not to overlay this book and these characters onto my own life, both professional and personal, and not alternately side with one character or identify with another. I won't say which characters made me cry out inside, "That's me! That's me!" for fear of revealing too much about myself, but let's just say I fully recognized both the good and bad things about myself in these people. While this is an amazing book about science and the politics of the scientific world, I think it's more about people and how people are only, at their best, merely human.

Book Twelve: The Jungle Book

The Jungle Book, Rudyard Kipling

Another Puffin Classic, another lovely little book meant for kids, perhaps, but perfectly enjoyable by adults. Little known fact: The Jungle Book was the first play I was ever in as a kid. I was a monkey. It's quite difficult to read this book and not hear the Disney music playing in your head. And because I am tired and uninspired, that's all I have to say about it at the moment.

Book Eleven: My Custom Van

My Custom Van: And 50 Other Mind-Blowing Essays that Will Blow Your Mind All Over Your Face, Michael Ian Black

Super funny, stupid silliness. Or maybe silly stupidness. Just the kind of book I needed to read right now. You might know Michael Ian Black from his stand-up comedy, "Stella", "The State", Wet Hot American Summer or, one of my favorite movies, The Baxter. Standout essays included "What I Would Be Thinking If I Were Billy Joel Driving to a Holiday Party Where I Knew There Was Going to Be a Piano," "Hey, David Sedaris--Why Don't You Just Go Ahead and Suck It?" "Vampires--Good for the Economy?" "Using the Socratic Method to Determine What It Would Take for Me to Voluntarily Eat Dog Shit for the Rest of My Life," "A Series of Letters to the First Girl I Ever Fingered," "Testing the Infinite Monkey Probability Theorem," and "Lewis Black Hates Candy Corn: A Rebuttal."


Book Ten: The Pilgrim Hawk

The Pilgrim Hawk: A Love Story, Glenway Wescott

There's an interesting phenomenon with prose. The shorter the prose, the more precious the words. Example, a 1,000-page biography of Mao: I don't really care what words you use, just tell me the damn story. On the other end of the spectrum is poetry: super precious, especially when reading aloud, you must. Punctuate. Each. Word. With. Emphasis. Haikus: ultimate in preciousness, you must meditate on each word for several days and even then maybe you don't get all the meanings.

And that is why it felt like I read this little novella two or three times, just by going back and rereading sections, paragraphs, lines. Mr. Glenway Wescott must be telling me something important in here, right? I mean, look at the title. If it was just The Pilgrim Hawk that would be one thing. But followed by A Love Story? Once you read the book, you will know exactly how loaded those three words really are. Love? Between Mrs. Cullen and her husband? Between Mrs. Cullen and her falcon? Between the narrator and Alex? Between the reader and narrator? And the falcon? All of the above? Reading this book felt like being in a kind of trance. There's nothing terribly fascinating or weird about the telling of the story, but it pulls you into this strange little world of characters and it's hard to pull yourself out.

I loved it.