Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris

Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris

 

Let's Explore Diabetes With Owls by David Sedaris, Cover
Source: Goodreads

Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls

David Sedaris

Hardcover, 275 pages
Published April 23rd 2013 by Little, Brown and Company
 
Sedaris's latest essay collection possesses all of the wit, charm, and poignancy his readers have come to expect.

His usual cast of delightful characters returns; including a flashback of his father in his underpants berating a schoolboy or, more recently, hounding David into getting a colonoscopy. Many pieces involve travel, animals, or both: his sister Gretchen totes around an insect "kill jar"; in a Denver airport, David engages with a judgmental fellow passenger; and visiting the Australian bush, he has encounters with a kookaburra and a dead wallaby. Seeking a stuffed owl for a Valentine's Day gift leads him to a taxidermist shop where he is shown gruesome oddities and confronts difficult questions about his curiosity. Another essay explores the evolution of David's 35 years-and-counting of keeping a diary and provides some great insight into his writing process.

In addition to the personal essays, there are six satirical monologues in which he assumes the role of a character with a ridiculous message. One in particular involves a man's ludicrous response to the legalization of gay marriage in New York, believing his own marriage is now "meaningless".

This is a must-read for fans of smart, well-crafted writing with a sense of humor.

Agent: Steven Barclay Agency. (May)  Publishers Weekly via Barnes & Noble

 

..........................................................................................................................................

 

Carol's Rating: ★★

This collection of essays was my introduction to David Sedaris. These essays range from humorous observations of quirky behaviors to downright snarky attitudes to utterly dark, disturbing thoughts and actions. 

What did I like? I liked that I could finish the short essays quickly and start with a fresh one the next time I picked up the book. I liked that some of the lighter essays had me busting out with laughter. And I liked his writing style; It's clear that he is a witty, talented writer.

What didn't I like? The majority of these essays were far too dark for my taste. 

Our reading group was split on this one; some loved it while others felt as did. It's possible that I might like his other works more, but it's unlikely that I'll eagerly seek them out anytime soon.

 

..........................................................................................................................................

Happy Reading!

Novel Gobblers Book Club icon

Down the Garden Path by Beverly Nichols

Down the Garden Path by Beverly Nichols

 

Down the Garden Path by Beverly Nichols
Source: Goodreads.com

Down the Garden Path

Beverly Nichols

Hardcover, 290 pages
Published December 13th 2004 by Timber Press (first published 1931)
 
Down the Garden Path has stood the test of time as one of the world's best-loved and most-quoted gardening books. Ostensibly an account of the creation of a garden in Huntingdonshire in the 1930s, it is really about the underlying emotions and obsessions for which gardening is just a cover story.
 
The secret of this book's success---and its timelessness---is that it does not seek to impress the reader with a wealth of expert knowledge or advice. Beverley Nichols proudly declares his status as a newcomer to gardening: "The best gardening books should be written by those who still have to search their brains for the honeysuckle's languid Latin name..."
 
As unforgettable as the plants in the garden is the cast of visitors and neighbors who invariably turn up at inopportune moments. For every angelic Miss Hazlitt there is an insufferable Miss Wilkins waiting in the wings. For every thought-provoking Professor, there is an intrusive Miss M, whose chief offense may be that she is a 'damnably efficient' gardener. From a disaster building a rock garden, to further adventures with greenhouses, woodland gardens, not to mention cats and treacle, Nichols has left us a true gardening classic.
 
 

..........................................................................................................................................

Carol's Rating: ★★★★

A Gem of a Story and a Book to Treasure

In this entertaining story, the first volume of the Allways Trilogy, Beverly Nichols leads you down the path of his own gardening journey. He doesn't claim to know everything. In fact, he does just the opposite. He flat out tells you he's a gardening novice and to our pleasure, that doesn't hold him back at all. He has the desire and motivation to jump in with both feet and see what happens. You're the lucky one that get's to ride along as he puts plans into action that often leaving you scratching your head in dismay yet always smiling at the outcome.

He loves puttering in his gardens and walking the paths, which he insists on traveling start to finish because that is when you discover miracles. His determination in finding tiny, blossoming treasures in the winter snow is a delight as is his dry humor regarding neighbors that range from the nosy to the flirtatious to the gardening nemeses. He's the friend that keeps you in stitches because he's bold enough to say exactly what you're thinking but didn't dare say out loud! 

The book has some wonderful special touches that I loved such as the sketched map of his gardens and the touching illustrations that divide the book into the four seasons. There is also something very curious on every 16th page of this book; Just below the last line of text and along the left margin is a single uppercase letter in small print. They appear in alphabetical order. Any ideas why this was done?

If you don't have an appreciation for gardening or flowers or persnickety personalities now, you will by the time you finish this story. It's easy to understand why this book, first published in 1932, has never been out of print!

..........................................................................................................................................

Happy Reading!

Novel Gobblers Book Club icon

The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

 

War-of-Art Audio Cover Steven Pressfield
Source: Audible.com

The War of Art

Steven Pressfield

Pages: 168 / Audio: 2 Hrs 56 mins
Published July 13th 2011 by Recorded Books (first published 2002)
 
Winning the Creative Battle
 
Internationally best-selling author of Last of the Amazons, Gates of Fire and Tides of War, Steven Pressfield delivers a guide to inspire and support those who struggle to express their creativity. Pressfield believes that “resistance” is the greatest enemy, and he offers many unique and helpful ways to overcome it.
 
 

..........................................................................................................................................

Carol's Rating: ★★★★★

Perfection.

This book was recommended to me by my friend, writer Mo Parisian, whose first novel, What We Know Now, will be released on Amazon November 25, 2017.  Yes, a shameless plug, yet I don't care because I am so excited about it! Back to the War of Art - Mo succinctly described this book as "Perfection".  I completely agree!

It's short and powerful. It's life-changing. No matter who you are, you'll feel the author is speaking directly to YOU. We all have talents and creative abilities and yet we minimize them, deny them, procrastinate, sabotage, and make ourselves miserable -- why??? Steven Pressfield frankly and humorously addresses these issues and exposes all of our excuses. He can. He's waded through the muck and come out clean on the other side.

I listened to the audio book, which was fantastic. I've also ordered the hardcopy so I can reference it often. It's always a good time to read and re-read this one. What are you waiting for?

..........................................................................................................................................

About the Author

steve-pressfield-author
Source: stevenpressfield.com

Steven Pressfield

 

Steven Pressfield is the author of The Legend of Bagger Vance, Gates of Fire, Tides of War, Last of the Amazons, Virtues of War, The Afghan Campaign, Killing Rommel, The Profession, The Lion's Gate, The War of Art, Turning Pro, Do the Work, The Warrior Ethos, The Authentic Swing, An American Jew, Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh*t, and The Knowledge.

His debut novel, The Legend of Bagger Vance, was adapted for screen. A film of the same title was released in 2000, directed by Robert Redford and starring Matt Damon, Will Smith and Charlize Theron.

His father was in the Navy, and he was born in Port of Spain, Trinidad, in 1943. Since graduating from Duke University in 1965, he has been a U.S. Marine, an advertising copywriter, schoolteacher, tractor-trailer driver, bartender, oilfield roustabout, attendant in a mental hospital and screenwriter. 

His struggles to earn a living as a writer (it took seventeen years to get the first paycheck) are detailed in The War of Art, Turning Pro, The Authentic Swing, Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh*t, and The Knowledge.

There's a recurring character in his books, named Telamon, a mercenary of ancient days. Telamon doesn't say much. He rarely gets hurt or wounded. And he never seems to age. His view of the profession of arms is a lot like Pressfield's conception of art and the artist:

"It is one thing to study war, and another to live the warrior's life."

 
Source: Amazon.com
 
Happy Reading!

Novel Gobblers Book Club icon

The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery by Ian Morgan Cron

The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery by Ian Morgan Cron
The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery
Source: Goodreads

The Road Back to You:

An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery

Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile

 
Pages: 238 / Audio: 9 Hrs 17 mins
Published November 17th 2016 by Inter-Varsity Press,US
 
Ignorance is bliss except in self-awareness...

What you don't know about yourself can hurt you and your relationships―and even keep you in the shallows with God. Do you want help figuring out who you are and why you're stuck in the same ruts? The Enneagram is an ancient personality typing system with an uncanny accuracy in describing how human beings are wired, both positively and negatively.

In The Road Back to You Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile forge a unique approach―a practical, comprehensive way of accessing Enneagram wisdom and exploring its connections with Christian spirituality for a deeper knowledge of ourselves, compassion for others, and love for God. Witty and filled with stories, this book allows you to peek inside each of the nine Enneagram types, keeping you turning the pages long after you have read the chapter about your own number. Not only will you learn more about yourself, but you will also start to see the world through other people's eyes, understanding how and why people think, feel, and act the way they do. Beginning with changes you can start making today, the wisdom of the Enneagram can help take you further along into who you really are―leading you into places of spiritual discovery you would never have found on your own, and paving the way to the wiser, more compassionate person you want to become.

..........................................................................................................................................

Carol's Rating: ★★★★★

"There are others [personality typing systems] that describe and encourage you to embrace who you are, which isn't very helpful if who you are is a jerk." 

This is wonderful introduction to the Enneagram Personality Typing System. The authors break down a complicated subject into a clear, concise, and entertaining guide to self-discovery. The authors tell it like it is and provide relatable and often humorous examples.

As I read through the different personality types searching for myself, it seemed at first that all of them held pieces of me. But then I came to the chapter that powerfully resonated with me.

How did it make me feel? 
Relieved. Understood and accepted. Liberated. Empowered. 

It explained why I see the world the way I do, why I do what I do, that I am not alone, and provided manageable tips to save me from my self-defeating self and move toward my wiser more compassionate self.

What I like best about this typing system is that it removes judgement from the equation and focuses on the motivation behind the behavior. But it doesn't stop there. Accountability is addressed, too. "...once you know your Enneagram number it takes away any excuse you might have for not changing."

When we learn to recognize behaviors and understand the root of them, doors will open to healthier communication and relationships. This book leads you to the glorious, attainable path of becoming your best self.

 

About the Authors

The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery
Source: theroadbacktoyou.com

Ian Morgan Cron

Ian Morgan Cron is a bestselling author, Enneagram teacher, nationally recognized speaker, psychotherapist, and Episcopal priest. His books include the novel Chasing Francis and spiritual memoir Jesus, My Father, the CIA, and Me. Ian draws on an array of disciplines—from psychology to the arts, Christian spirituality to theology—to help people enter more deeply into conversation with God and the mystery of their own lives. He and his wife, Anne, live in Nashville, Tennessee.

Source: Goodreads

Suzanne Stabile

Suzanne Stabile is a highly sought after speaker and teacher, known for her engaging laugh, personal vulnerability and creative approach to Enneagram instruction. Suzanne received her B.S. in Social Sciences from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas where she also completed additional graduate work in the Schools of Sociology and Theology. She has served as a high school professor, the first women’s basketball coach at SMU after Title IX, and as the founding Director of Shared Housing, a social service agency in Dallas.
When she is not on the road teaching and lecturing, Suzanne is at home in Dallas, Texas with her husband Rev. Joseph Stabile, a United Methodist pastor with whom she co-founded Life in the Trinity Ministry and the Micah Center. She is the mother of four children and grandmother of six.

Source: nacr.org

Book Trailer, Podcasts, & Other Cool Stuff

If there's anything that makes learning about ourselves fun, it's having a sense of humor and Ian Morgan Cron definitely has one! His wit and humility makes delving into self-awareness an entertaining and enlightening experience. Here is a great article that includes a short except from the book - just to give you a taste of what you're in for when you read this book.  🙂

It's Called the 'Enneagram': How This Thing Could Save Your Life

Neuroscientists have determined the brain’s dorsolateral prefrontal cortex is associated with decision making and cost-benefit assessments. If MRI brain scans had been performed on my friends and me one summer’s night when we were fifteen, they would have revealed a dark spot indicating a complete absence of activity in this region of our brains.

That particular Saturday night a group of us got the brilliant idea that streaking a golf banquet at an exclusive country club in my hometown of Greenwich, Connecticut, was a wise decision.

Other than certain arrest for indecent exposure, there was only one problem: Greenwich isn’t a big town, and it was likely someone we knew would recognize us.

And that would have been the end of it if it weren’t for my mother.“What did you and the guys do last night?” she asked the next morning. “Not much. We hung out at Mike’s, then crashed around midnight.”

I instantly had an uneasy feeling. “What did you and Dad do last night?” I said brightly. “We went as guests of the Dorfmanns to their club’s golf banquet,” she replied in a tone that was one part sugar, one part steel.... [Read More]

Self-awareness is an obligation I have in the world to truly love other people." - Ian Morgan Cron

 
Podcasts

For some interesting background into the history of the Enneagram and how the authors learned about it and ultimately began teaching it, take a listen to these two podcast episodes with guest host Luke Norsworthy, host of the popular podcast Newsworthy with Norsworthy.  The authors also host their own podcast on iTunes entitled Looking at Life Through the Lens of the Enneagram.

Discover Your Enneagram Type

Source: exploreyourtype.com

"What most of these tests conveniently forget to mention is that the accuracy of personality tests depends heavily on the test takers’ level of self-awareness, and the degree to which they're willing to answer truthfully. But wait— didn’t we take the test in part because we know we need to be more self-aware and honest with ourselves?
 
You get my point.
 
All to say, Enneagram tests can be helpful first steps so long as you don’t rely on them to always be 100% accurate. You alone are the only person who can determine your Enneagram number, and that involves more than taking a test. Take advantage of our resources to help you on your journey toward becoming your best, and truest self. See you on the road!"

Take the Assessment

I thought this assessment was fun and I was especially pleased that the results matched what I had ascertained from reading the book - I'm a five! I asked many of my friends to take it as well.  I will tell you though, in order to take the quiz you have to submit your email address. If this doesn't bother you, great! Have some fun with it. You can always unsubscribe. But if you do decide to unsubscribe, be sure you're thorough about it; there are several layers to the thing that require unsubscribing from.

Discussion Questions

 

1. What did you already know about this book’s subject before you read this book?

2.  Was your "type" quickly evident to you as you read the book?

3.  What is your Enneagram number?

4.  Did you try "typing" others as you read the book?

5.  Did anything surprise you?

6.  What insight or introspection did this book bring about for you?

7.  What questions do you still have?

8.  How did reading this book make you feel?

9.  Did the content prompt any great discussion with your friends any family?

10.  What else have you read on this topic?

11.  Did you recommend this book to anyone? Who was the first person?

 

Happy Reading!

Get Well Soon by Jennifer Wright

Get Well Soon by Jennifer Wright

Get Well Soon

Jennifer Wright

Club Selection for May 2017

Pages: 336 / Audio: 7 Hrs 43 mins
Published February 7th 2017 by Henry Holt and Co.
 
A witty, irreverent tour of history's worst plagues—from the Antonine Plague, to leprosy, to polio—and a celebration of the heroes who fought them.
In 1518, in a small town in Alsace, Frau Troffea began dancing and didn’t stop. She danced until she was carried away six days later, and soon thirty-four more villagers joined her. Then more. In a month more than 400 people had been stricken by the mysterious dancing plague. In late-seventeenth-century England an eccentric gentleman founded the No Nose Club in his gracious townhome—a social club for those who had lost their noses, and other body parts, to the plague of syphilis for which there was then no cure. And in turn-of-the-century New York, an Irish cook caused two lethal outbreaks of typhoid fever, a case that transformed her into the notorious Typhoid Mary.

Throughout time, humans have been terrified and fascinated by the diseases history and circumstance have dropped on them. Some of their responses to those outbreaks are almost too strange to believe in hindsight. Get Well Soon delivers the gruesome, morbid details of some of the worst plagues we’ve suffered as a species, as well as stories of the heroic figures who selflessly fought to ease the suffering of their fellow man. With her signature mix of in-depth research and storytelling, and not a little dark humor, Jennifer Wright explores history’s most gripping and deadly outbreaks, and ultimately looks at the surprising ways they’ve shaped history and humanity for almost as long as anyone can remember.

 

..........................................................................................................................................

Carol's Rating: ★★★

"The purpose of this book is not to scare you. Instead, like all good books, it is intended to distract you from the screaming baby one aisle over from the airplane where you are currently trapped for the next five hours."

It took me a bit to get into this book but once I did, I liked it. It's one of those books that you find yourself pondering long after you've finished reading it. I was aware of many of the diseases discussed in the book but was surprised to discover that I had no idea how gruesome they really were. This is important stuff to know. It's easy to pass them off as though they could never happen again but that is simply a false sense of security. It's critical that we act responsibly in order educate and protect ourselves and our communities from the spreading of disease.

It was interesting to me that things that are common sense today, such as cleanliness, was the culprit of many of the epidemics in early history. (Really? You think it's a good idea to throw your sewage into your basement?) I also find it fascinating that when fear kicks in, people will grasp for anything to help, even nonsensical and usually quite disgusting practices in hopes to cure what ails them - this even happens in the world today.

I wasn't sure what to expect regarding the humor but soon discovered the sarcasm to be pretty entertaining at times. Her references to the X-men, Mumps Matilda, Meningitis Mathew, etc had me giggling. In the end, I learned a lot from this book and I agree with the author's overall message that sick people are not villains to be shunned and isolated. They are simply unwell. We need to be smart and more compassionate. We need to separate the disease from the diseased and "give a damn about our fellow man".

 

..........................................................................................................................................

About the Author

 

Jennifer Wright Author

Jennifer Wright

Jennifer Wright is a columnist for the New York Observer and the New York Post, covering sex and dating. She was one of the founding editors of TheGloss.com, and her writing regularly appears in such publications as Cosmopolitan, Glamour, and Maxim. Her breakup cure is gin, reruns of 30 Rock, and historical biographies. She lives and loves in New York City.

Source: us.macmillan.com

Interviews & Other Cool Stuff

 

Jennifer Wright author "Get Well Soon" on "BookTalk" Radio

Published on Feb 9, 2017

Doug Miles talks with Jennifer Wright ("It Ended Badly: 13 of the Worst Breakups in History") about her new book "Get Well Soon: History's Worst Plagues and the Heroes Who Fought Them" on "Talk Across America" (www.dougmilesmedia.com)

 

 

There are many heroes and a few villains mentioned in this book. Here's a just a handful of the most memorable ones.

 

Father Damien with lepers
Father Damien with lepers quarantined on the island of Molokai. "Father Damien is reminder that you don't have to be genius or a brilliant scientist or a doctor to help in the war against disease; you just have to be someone who gives a damn about your fellow man."
Typhoid Mary Mallon
Asymptomatic Typhoid carrier Mary Mallon, dubbed Typhoid Mary in 1909 by reporters, was forcibly taken by the government to a small island in New York's East River, where she remained isolated and confined for most of her life.

Walter Freemand II

 

Walter Freeman II, a consummate showman, traveled the country in his Lobotomobile and performed lobotomies to treat everything from "excessive eating" to drug addiction to alcoholism. And to make it even more unbelievable, people were lined up to get one!

...lobotomies, the scariest procedure that you never want performed. This is a plague induced by human stupidity, not disease..."

 

 

 

images of Jonas Salk and Albert Sabin admitting vaccines to children.
Jonas Salk (left) and Albert Sabin (right) administering their polio vaccines to children. Salk developed the killed virus vaccine while Sabin developed the live one. The two became bitter rivals, with Sabin referring to Salk as merely "a kitchen chemist." Fortunately for all of us, both vaccines worked.

 

Here’s what to do when the next big plague hits humanity

New York Post |February 11, 2017

Runny nose? Sore throat? Wheezing? Painful joints? No — you are not going to die. It is just a winter flu. Probably. Bolstered by antibiotics, brandishing an inhaler and slurping chicken soup, you will likely live to fight another day.

Not so in the past. Then a sore throat could mean death by dinner time. Nearly every generation has had to deal with a widespread infectious disease that swiftly strikes down otherwise healthy individuals. Plagues kill a whole bunch of people. And they can take society and the economy down with them.

The notion that in this interconnected world we’re not likely to experience a massive epidemic is too good to be true. Maybe not this year. Maybe not in your lifetime. But it’s not a question of whether humanity will face another plague. We will. And then we will be faced with how to handle that plague when it comes. Will we respond with science, stoicism and compassion? Or will we just burn our neighbors as witches?

The answers to these questions likely come from the past. Here are some of the most gruesome plagues from my new book “Get Well Soon: History’s Worst Plagues and the Heroes Who Fought Them” and what we can learn from them.

[Read full article]

 

 

How Would Donald Trump Handle A Plague Outbreak?
‘Get Well Soon’ author Jennifer Wright has the answer
NYLON | February 07, 2017
 
There’s a common enough sentiment right now that we’re confronting apocalyptic times. It’s hard not to think that. After all, here in America, we currently have a commander in chief who is basically taunting other world leaders with threats of invasion, to say nothing of his ongoing insistence that climate change is a myth and that vaccines are something about which we should all be skeptical. What a time to be alive, right?

Well, if you’re looking for something to read that will simultaneously stoke and soothe your fears, look no further than Jennifer Wright’s excellent new book, Get Well Soon: History’s Worst Plagues and the Heroes Who Fought Them. In it, Wright recounts civilization’s many epic biological disasters. From leprosy to the bubonic plague and the Spanish flu to cholera, Get Well Soon acquaints readers with some of the most deadly periods in human history. And while this might sound like it makes for some pretty depressing reading, Wright manages to make the most dire of topics not only incredibly compelling but also, often, hilariously funny. ....

...We recently spoke with Wright about her new book, why it’s important to laugh during even the most tragic times, and how she thinks our new president would handle an outbreak of the plague. Read on! And try not to get too scared.

[Read full article]

 

Book Club Mojo

Kelly hosted the meeting and provided a fun, relaxing evening full of great discussion, great food, and great drink! We had a thought provoking discussion about the things that fascinated and surprised us most about the plagues. The epilogue topic of AIDS was also discussed and really had us thinking about the possibilities of future plagues, how our leaders would manage (or deny) the situation, and what we believed would be the best course(s) of action. 

 

image of the gang
Novel Gobblers (left to right) Donna, Dawn, Carol Ann, and Kelly. We sure enjoy these opportunities to catch up with each other and chat about books (and pretty much everything else!). We all come away from the meetings having gained new perspectives and sometimes a few extra pounds!
Just look at all this deliciousness! Treat your friends and family to Kelly's Taco Salad, Bacon-Wrapped Pepper Poppers, and Keto Cheesecake Tarts. They'll love you for it. Pass the guacamole, please!

 

Discussion Questions

Source: Kelly

1.  What was your initial recation to the book? Did it hook you immediately, or did it take some time to get into it?

2.  How do you think would Donald Trump handle a plague outbreak?

3.  What did you think about the humorous aspect of the book?

4.  What surprised you the most when you were reading this book?

5.  Which of the plagues did you find most intriguing and why?

 

List of Chapters

Antonine Plague                         Cholera

Bubonic Plague                           Leprosy

Dancing Plague                           Typhoid

Smallpox                                       Spanish Flu

Syphilis                                         Encephalitis Lethargica

Tuberculosis                                Lobotomies  

Polio


Source: Nylon article (above) entitled "How Would Donald Trump Handle a Plague Outbreak?" by Kristin Iversen

 

1.  This book is centered around some of the deadliest, most devastating plagues to wreak havoc upon civilization. Why would Jennifer Wright choose a topic so dark?

2.  How did the author manage to keep things witty when covering such dark periods in history?

3.  Which were the author's favorite plagues? Why?

4.  In times of epic disaster, what separates the heroes from everybody else?

5.  Which of the historic figures mentioned in this book do you most admire?

6. Who are history’s straight-up villains when it comes to dealing with plagues?

7.  How do you think Trump would be equipped to handle a disaster of that magnitude?

Happy Reading!

Lab Girl by Hope Jahren

Lab Girl by Hope Jahren

Book Cover for Lab Girl by Hope JahrenLab Girl

Hope Jahren

Club Selection for April 2017

Pages: 290 / Audio: 11 Hrs 45 mins
Published April 5th 2016 by Knopf (first published March 1st 2016)
 
Acclaimed scientist Hope Jahren has built three laboratories in which she’s studied trees, flowers, seeds, and soil. Her first book is a revelatory treatise on plant life—but it is also so much more.
Lab Girl is a book about work, love, and the mountains that can be moved when those two things come together. It is told through Jahren’s stories: about her childhood in rural Minnesota with an uncompromising mother and a father who encouraged hours of play in his classroom’s labs; about how she found a sanctuary in science, and learned to perform lab work done “with both the heart and the hands”; and about the inevitable disappointments, but also the triumphs and exhilarating discoveries, of scientific work.

Yet at the core of this book is the story of a relationship Jahren forged with a brilliant, wounded man named Bill, who becomes her lab partner and best friend. Their sometimes rogue adventures in science take them from the Midwest across the United States and back again, over the Atlantic to the ever-light skies of the North Pole and to tropical Hawaii, where she and her lab currently make their home.

......................................................................................................................................................

 

About the Author

 

Goodreads Author Hope Jahren

HOPE JAHREN

Hope Jahren is an award-winning scientist who has been pursuing independent research in paleobiology since 1996, when she completed her PhD at UC Berkeley and began teaching and researching first at the Georgia Institute of Technology and then at Johns Hopkins University. She is the recipient of three Fulbright Awards and is one of four scientists, and the only woman, to have been awarded both of the Young Investigator Medals given in the Earth Sciences. Currently, she is a tenured professor at the University of Hawaii at Manoa where in 2008 she built the Isotope Geobiology Laboratories, with support from the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Energy, and the National Institutes of Health.

Interviews & Other Cool Stuff

 

 

 
PBS NEWSHOUR
The secret life of plants — and ‘Lab Girl’ author Hope Jahren
May 24, 2016 at 6:20 PM EDT

 

'Lab Girl': An Homage To The Wonders Of All Things Green
April 22, 20165:10 AM ET
Heard on Morning Edition

Listen below or get the transcript here

Book Club Mojo

Donna hosted the meeting for Lab Girl and pulled together a beautiful evening full of great discussion and delicious food themed after the book; Potato Dumplings (a true labor of love) and Hungarian Goulash. She also prepared a fresh Cucumber Tomato Salad and served Pickled Beet Salad from Trader Joes. We were all so busy talking and enjoying the meal that we forgot to take photos of the evening so you'll want to look over Donna's recipes and give them a try to experience Lab Girl more fully!

Discussion Questions

Source: Litlovers

1. How did Jahren's upbringing help determine her dedication to science? Consider her father's background as a science teacher and her mother's love of English literature.

2. One of the literary tropes Jahren uses in her memoir is the comparison of plant life with human life. Talk about the parallels she draws between her subjects and herself. In what ways are we all similar to our rooted, blossoming brethren? Do you see those parallels in your own life?

3. What do you find most remarkable in Jahren's descriptions of the wonders of the natural world? Consider, for instance, the sheer numbers of the plant world. Or how the willow tree clones itself...or the symbiotic relationship between trees and fungi...or the airborne signals of trees in their perennial war against insects.

4. Talk about Jahren's struggle with manic depression and how it has affected her life and work.

5. How would you describe Jahren's relationship with her lab partner Bill? What makes both professional and personal relationship work?

6. Describe some of the hardships that make life for any scientist difficult—bucking the status quo, the often endless waiting for results, the grunt work, or the scarcity of funding.

7. Will you ever take a tree—or any plant life—for granted again?

 

...................................................................................................................

 

Source: Penguin Random House

1. Lab Girl opens with a detailed description of the laboratory Jahren loved as a child. How does she transform a cinder-block room stocked with scientific equipment into a “castle” (p. 8)?  In what ways do her recollections of her time in the lab and the trips home late at night with her father evoke the mood and magic of fairy tales? 

2. Jahren writes of the emotional distances between members of a Scandinavian family, of “growing up in a culture where you can never ask anyone anything about themselves” (p.11). Are Jahren’s feelings about her family shaped solely by cultural tradition? 

3. Does Jahren’s observation that “being mother and daughter has always felt like an experiment that we just can’t get right” (p. 16) capture something you have experienced, either as a parent or child? Why do you think Jahren dedicated Lab Girl to her mother? 

4. Jahren writes, “I chose science because science gave me what I needed—a home as defined in the most literal sense: a safe place to be” (p. 18).  Discuss and evaluate the combination of elements that determine her choice, including her attachment to her father and the recognition that “being a scientist wasn’t his job, it was his identity,” the acceptance by her science professors of “the very attributes that rendered me a nuisance to all of my previous teachers,” and her simple declaration that the desire to become a scientist “was founded upon a deep instinct and nothing more.”  Compare this initial explanation with the self-portrait she offers in the final chapter (p. 277).
 [eallen1]Per text of book. 

5. In alternating chapters, Jahren forges links between her own life and the plants that have populated it. How does the story of the blue spruce tree (pp. 27–29) set a pattern that is echoed and enhanced throughout the book? What insights do these close examinations of a large variety of plants provide into the needs and the capabilities shared by all living things? Is there a particular topic—for instance, the universal struggle for survival or the interdependence evident in nature—that resonates with you?

6. In recalling her first scientific breakthrough, Jahren writes, “On some deep level, the realization that I could do good science was accompanied by the knowledge that I had formally and terminally missed my chance to become like any of the women that I had ever known” (p. 71).  What are the emotional and practical repercussions of this moment?  Is there a moment in most people’s lives that marks a line between who they are and who they might have been?

7. Jahren describes her struggles with mental illness in a gripping and vivid interlude (pp. 144–47).  Why do you think she introduces this at the midpoint of her book?

8. Jahren’s relationship with Bill is a sustained theme in Lab Girl.  In what ways do Bill’s manner and methods in the lab complement Jahren’s?  What qualities shape their behavior toward each other on a personal level? Discuss the sense of intimacy and tolerance at the core of their friendship, as well as the boundaries they establish.  What do their long conversations, their reactions to institutional rules, and the misadventures they share on their field trips all add to the book?  In what ways does their trip to the Arctic capture the essence of their bond (pp. 195–201)?

9. What previously hidden aspects of Jahren’s character come to light as she describes her meeting and marriage to Clint (pp. 205–209)?  

10. Jahren writes of her pregnancy, “I know that I am supposed to be happy and excited. . . . I am supposed to celebrate the ripening fruit of love and luxuriate in the fullness of my womb. But I don’t do any of this” (p. 217).  How do such factors as her childhood, her professional ambitions, and her mental illness affect her experience? Why does she “decide that I will not be this child’s mother. Instead, I will be his father” (p. 228). 

11. What obstacles does Jahren face in her career as a research scientist?  Are some of the setbacks Jahren faces attributable to her being a woman in a male-dominated field? 

12. Do you agree that “America may say that it values science, but it sure as hell doesn’t want to pay for it” (p. 123)?

13. Science writing is sometimes criticized for seeming to anthropomorphize scientific subjects. Do you think that Jahren avoids this potential pitfall? In what ways do her choice of words and use of metaphor balance the scientific facts that she wants to convey with having the reader understand and even delight in these facts? What facts did you find most interesting?

14. As you read Lab Girl, were you equally engaged with the autobiographical sections and the chapters on plants and trees, or did you find yourself more drawn to one or the other? 

15. Lab Girl makes use of a wide range of language and tones, from the scientific to the colloquial, from biblical references to profanity. Does this range subvert our expectations about how scientists “should” talk? What do the different tones reveal about Hope? How does her varied language help us to see her in multiple lights—as scientist and writer, as friend and human?

16. Memoir is a highly intimate form. Do you feel you’ve gotten to know Hope through Lab Girl? Does she seem similar or different to science teachers you have had? Do you see her as an inspiration for young women who want to pursue a career in science?

 

 

Happy Reading!

Novel Gobblers Book Club icon

The Last of the Bandit Riders…Revisited by Matt Warner

The Last of the Bandit Riders…Revisited by Matt Warner

Last of the Bandit Riders ... Revisited

Matt Warner

Pages: 186
Published November 1st 2000 by Big Moon Traders

One of the classic biographies of a western outlaw, LAST OF THE BANDIT RIDERS has been reprinted in a large trade edition, with dozens of photographs, maps, newspaper accounts and letters added to the original text. The book features a letter written by Butch Cassidy and sent to Matt Warner along with three photographs in 1937, providing a convincing argument that Butch returned from South America and lived out his life in the United States.


Novel Gobblers Perspective

Carol's Rating:  ★★★★★

Marvelous True Tales of the Old West

I loved this book. It is full of photographs, letters, maps, documents, and exciting recollections of nostalgic times in the Old West. It reads like a collection of tall tales but they are confirmed true events in history.

A man who has had an outlaw past is never safe, no matter how straight he goes afterwards. That's the price he pays. Something out of his past life may raise up against him and wreck his life any time."

Willard Erastus Christiansen, alias Matt Warner, was born on April 12, 1864 in Price, Utah and gives us his personal account of living the outlaw life when horses were the major mode of transportation. He tells of:

  • his adventurous exploits from cattle rustling to robbing banks to train holdups and dynamiting safes with outlaw friends that include Butch Cassidy and Tom McCarty
  • near death brushes with the law
  • marriage and children and attempts to leave the outlaw life and how past wrong deeds follow a man, making it nearly impossible to lead an honest life
  • navigating a rapidly changing world that includes railroads and telegraphs; where money and lawyers can save your skin better than a jailbreak can
  • dealings with corrupt lawmen and honest lawmen and what it takes to reform a bandit
  • touching relationships inside and outside the law
  • what became of his outlaw friends and most particularly, that Butch Cassidy did not die in South America but returned to the USA and lived a long life
  • of keeping a vow to live an honest life and doing so for nearly 40 years as "one of the best Deputy Sheriffs, police officers, and Justices of the Peace Carbon County has ever known."

This is a rousing, extraordinary look at life on the wrong side of the law during the late 1800's that stretches from Utah to Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Wyoming, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington. It is a marvelous piece of our regional history.

Historic Photos, Maps, and More

mattwarner-16

Willard Erastus Christianson, alias Matt Warner, age 16, 1880

 

butch

Robert LeRoy Parker, alias Butch Cassidy,  Parker was born 15 April 1866 in Beaver, Utah, and was raised by Mormon pioneer parents on a ranch near Circleville, Utah

 

mattwarnerprisoner

While they were charged with first-degree murder, Matt Warner and Bill Wall were convicted only of manslaughter

robbersroost

Robbers Roost was a popular outlaw hideout for over 30 years

 

vernal

Main Street of Vernal, Utah, c. 1900, several years after Matt Warner and Bill Wall were threatened with vigilante justice. To protect the prisoners, they were removed from jail and taken overland to Carter, where they boarded the westbound train. They were taken to Ogden, where they were tried for the killings.

mattwarnerstraight

From January 21, 1900, until his death on December 21, 1938, Matt Warner stayed within the bounds of the law.

Follow Us on Pinterest!

Discussion Questions

  1. What did you learn from reading this book?
  2. Was there anything that you found surprising?
  3. Was there something in the book that you related to?
  4. Were there specific passages that struck you as significant—or interesting, profound, amusing, illuminating, disturbing, sad…? What was memorable?
  5. What do you think Matt Warner's overall message was throughout this book?
  6. Do you believe that Butch Cassidy returned to the US and lived a long life?
  7. What happened to Matt Warner's first daughter, Hayda?
  8. Have you visited any of the areas along the Outlaw Trail?
  9. Would you recommend this book to others? Why?
Happy Reading!

cropped-NGicon

The Exploration of the Colorado River and Its Canyons by John Wesley Powell

The Exploration of the Colorado River and Its Canyons by John Wesley Powell

The Exploration of the Colorado River and Its Canyons

John Wesley Powell

Pages: 432 / Audio book: 8 hrs 39 mins
Published May 27th 2003 by Penguin Classics (first published 1895)

The great unknown of the Southwest is conquered by a one-armed man and his crew of adventurers, placing the Colorado River and the Grand Canyon on the map of the American continent. It is a journey no human being had ever made before. Dangerous rapids, narrow canyon walls offering no escape, terrifying river waterfalls, capsized boats, near drowning, lost equipment and disillusioned men are dramatically described by John Wesley Powell, leader of this adventurous party. Powell powerfully describes the spectacular beauty of the landscape, the fascinating lives of the indigenous people and the courageous efforts of the expedition party.

One of the great works of American exploration literature, this account of a scientific expedition forced to survive famine, attacks, mutiny, and some of the most dangerous rapids known to man remains as fresh and exciting today as it was in 1874.

The Exploration of the Colorado River and Its Canyons, recently ranked number four on Adventure magazine’s list of top 100 classics, is legendary pioneer John Wesley Powell’s first-person account of his crew’s unprecedented odyssey along the Green and Colorado Rivers and through the Grand Canyon. A bold foray into the heart of the American West’s final frontier, the expedition was achieved without benefit of modern river-running equipment, supplies, or a firm sense of the region’s perilous topography and the attitudes of the native inhabitants towards whites.


Novel Gobblers Perspective

Carol's Rating:  ★★★★★

I listened to the audio book narrated by Andre Stojka. To be honest, I expected it to be a reading of dull, dry scientific notes pulled from John Wesley Powell's log book. But instead I found it to be an absolutely enthralling experience. This may have been a result of the wonderful narrator whose voice was jovial and pleasant and as full of enthusiasm as if the words were his own. And the words! John Wesley Powell paints spectacular word pictures of the landscape, the geology, the dangers, the hardships and the joys that he and his men encountered on the expedition as well descriptions of Indian cultures, social dynamics of the clans, and re-tellings of a few Indian fables. At times I felt as though I could be sitting 'round the fire with him, completely captivated as he recounted the colorful tales of his grand adventures (and he with only one arm!).  Highly, highly recommended.

 

Happy Reading!

cropped-NGicon

The Night the Mountain Fell by Edmund Christopherson

The Night the Mountain Fell by Edmund Christopherson

The Night the Mountain Fell

The Story of the Montana-Yellowstone Earthquake

Edmund Christopherson

Pages: 88
Published 1960
AUGUST IS A BUSY MONTH in the exciting mountain vacation area that centers in West Yellowstone, Montana, and includes Yellowstone National Park, the restored ghost town of Virginia City, the nationally famous trout fishing reach of Madison Canyon that, runs through the Gallatin National Forest, plus dude ranches and lakes in the parts of Montana, Wyoming and Idaho where the three states come together.

Geologically, it’s a new area, where enormous forces are still thrusting up mountains, where volcanic craters still exist, and where the heat of the earth still spouts its imprisoned fury through the geysers that have made Yellowstone Park’s Firehole Basin famous.

At 11:37 P. M. on Monday, August 17, 1959, one of the severest earthquakes recorded on the North American continent shook this area. It sent gigantic tidal waves surging down the 7-mile length of Hebgen Lake, throwing an enormous quantity of water over the top of Hebgen Dam, the way you can slosh water out of a dishpan, still keeping it upright. This water—described as a wall 20 ft. high—swept down the narrow Madison Canyon, full of campers and vacationers who were staying in dude ranches and at three Forest Service campgrounds along the seven-mile stretch from the dam to the point where the canyon opened up into rolling wheat and grazing land. Just about the time this surge of water reached the mouth of the canyon, half of a 7,600-ft.-high mountain came crashing down into the valley and cascaded, like water, up the opposite canyon wall, hurtling house-size quartzite and dolomite boulders onto the lower portion of Rock Creek Campground.

This slide dammed the river and forced the surging water —carrying trees, mud, and debris, back into the campground. The campers who’d escaped being crushed under part of the 44 million cubic yards (80 million tons) of rock found themselves picked up and thrown against trees, cars, trailers, the side of the canyon, etc. Heavy, 4,000 pound cars were tossed 40 ft. and smashed against trees by the force of the ricocheting water and the near-hurricane velocity wind created by the mountainfall. Other cars were scrunched to suitcase thickness and thrown out from under the slide.

And the water stayed—held by the earthquake-caused natural dam. It began to flood the lower end of the canyon. At the upper end, big sections of the road that would take the 300 people trapped in the canyon to safety crumpled and fell into Hebgen Lake, cutting them off from the world outside.


Novel Gobblers Perspective

Carol's Rating:  ★★★

This was an interesting book full of first-hand accounts and geologic facts of the tragic 1959 Montana-Yellowstone earthquake and landslide. With a 7.8 rating on the Richter scale, it was nearly as big as the 8.2 rating of the 1906 San Fransisco quake. Having occurred late into the night, the accounts tell of the death and destruction left in its wake; however, the accounts also tell of the grand heroic acts of communities near and far to provide aid to the victims. 

Happy Reading!

cropped-NGicon

Exploring the Night Sky with Binoculars by David Chandler

Exploring the Night Sky with Binoculars by David Chandler

Exploring the Night Sky with Binoculars

David Chandler

Pages: 46

An excellent introduction to observational astronomy for beginners of any age. Award winner from the New York Academy of sciences Children's Science Book Award. Although not originally intended for children, the subject matter is clearly presented for readers of any age. Basics included range from how to choose binoculars to how we are located in our universe and what objects are readily accessible with household binoculars.


This compact little book covers both what can be seen in the sky and the significance of what is seen. Although it was not written explicitly for children, it received honorable mention in the New York Academy of Sciences Children’s Science Book Awards (older children’s division). It is beautifully illustrated with specially commissioned artwork by renowned space artist Don Davis.  Besides being a starter book for beginners, it is used in a number of colleges as a textbook supplement for the first-week’s reading assignment!

Illustrations are as Important as Text

NightSkyIllustration

The artwork of Don Davis, commissioned especially for this book, is not just an attempt to “approximate” photography: it represents what is seen to the eye better than a photograph can. Shown here is the subtle glow of the “North American Nebula” approximating very well what is actually seen in binoculars.  This is one of the most challenging objects presented in the book, but a very satisfying object to see with ones own eyes.  Photographs show this to be a spectacular nebula, but they can mislead a visual observer, especially a beginner.   What can be perceived visually are subtle “variations in the blackness.”The nebula is quite large, making a pair of binoculars, rather than a high powered telescope, the best viewing instrument.  To find this nebula (visible only in a sky dark enough to show the Milky Way), start from Deneb, the bright star in the tail of Cygnus, the flying swan, and look for the dark cloud forming the Atlantic coast and the Gulf of Mexico.  The faint surrounding glow, with the general shape of North America, can then be detected by contrast.

Source: DavidChandler.com

 

Happy Reading!