As part of our Best Books of 2010 coverage, our editors weigh in on some of their personal favorites from the list.
I blogged about The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks back in June, but I wanted to give it another shout-out here at the end of the year for a couple of reasons: 1) It did break the top 5 on our Best of 2010 list and 2) it seems like everybody I know is in the midst of nominating book club picks for 2011, and I want to make sure this excellent choice is on your radar.
Here’s why you should choose this book for your reading group:
1. You can branch out of your genre comfort zone. I’m guessing that many of you do not rank “science writing” at the top of your genre preferences, perhaps fearing dry writing and overly technical subject matter. Even though Rebecca Skloot addresses medical ethics, the historical discrimination on account of race in science research, the history of the HeLa cell line and the medical discoveries it afforded, I guarantee you will not be in over your head. The science is balanced with a couple of compelling personal narratives—that of Henrietta Lacks and her family and that of Skloot on her journey to get to the bottom of Lacks’s story. I’m not exaggerating when I say this book is a page-turner, and Skloot clearly (but not condescendingly) explains scientific terms and processes.
2. Any book that addresses medical ethics is sure to inspire lively discussion, especially since Skloot makes it very clear how cellular research can affect you.
3. You’ll be outraged at the treatment of Lacks and her family. As the book’s blurb says, “If [Lacks] was so important to medicine, why couldn’t her children afford health insurance?” In this case you can act on your anger if you wish as Skloot has set up The Henrietta Lacks Foundation.
4. If you’ve been avoiding The Immortal Life because of long waits at the library or you don’t want to shell out for a hardcover, never fear! The paperback will be available on March 8.
Will you choose The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks for your book club in 2011?
Browse BookPage’s Best of 2010 coverage.