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.


Anonymous bellcurves said...

This sounds like a book I'd enjoy reading, myself! Ahh...the world of research and the humanness it brings out in people (for good and bad). Did you know that I still always get really happy when Google Reader tells me there are new posts here? They inspire me b/c so many of your recent books have made their way onto the ever-expanding non-academic reading list that I keep handy for breaks from school. I suspect some of these pleasure-reading books will help keep me sane when I need to escape from the comprehensive exams that loom large on my summer horizon!

April 30, 2009 at 7:17 PM  

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