During the pandemic, I actually haven’t read as much as usual. Real life has been distracting lately. Combined with some personal struggles and my final semester of college, reading just hasn’t been at the top of my list of things to do. However, I have managed to read some good non-fiction worth sharing, and so here’s a list of some books I enjoyed to take your mind off the world outside.
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (5/5) By Rebecca Skloot
Immortal Life is one of the best portraits I’ve ever read of systemic medical racism in American health care. The book follows the story of the HeLa cells — the ovarian cancer cells taken without consent from a Black woman that turned into the worlds most frequently used cells for medical testing, contributing to many of the worlds most important medical findings. However, the book takes the doctors and racism in the medical establishment to task, as well as talking about the
woman’s family, her story, and how the medical establishment actively harms minorities.
Dreamland (3/5) by Sam Quinones
As someone from Ohio, everyone I know has read and suggested Dreamland to me for years. The Opioid epidemic is still raging in Ohio, and I am one of the thousands of Ohioans who know people who have died or have problems with addiction. However, I wasn’t a huge fan of this book. I can’t put my finger on it, but I think that some of the stereotyping made me uncomfortable, especially toward Mexican communities and poor whites. There is truth to the stories he tells, but some of the stereotyping isn’t mitigated well. Although I learned a lot about the issue, I felt like there were voices being left out. The strong point of the book is defiantly the history of opioids in the US, and I would highly recommend those chapters of the book if you’re just interested in the pharmaceutical’s history and lawsuits.
The Body Keeps the Score (4/5) by Beseel Van Der Kolk, MD
The BKtS is a book focused on how trauma works, how it’s currently diagnosed and treated, and how a person can help themselves handle it. I read this book in order to understand medical trauma specifically, and although the book actually doesn’t talk about it very much, I still found the information relevant. Learning about all the different ways that trauma can effect someone’s life (from the immune system to their bonding and behaviors) really made me rethink my own behaviors and reactions. My only criticism of the book is that it is very technical at points. It’s a lot of information and it’s not a particularly ‘fun’ or easy read. I would suggest this book to people who work with children or may someday work in a field that deals with people.
How We Fight For Our Lives (5/5) by Saeed Jones
The author, Saeed Jones, lives in my city and is a relatively public figure here, so I knew who he was before I picked up the book. I enjoyed reading his tweets, and so I figured I’d love the book. I did!
How We Fight is a short memoir about Jones’s life growing up in the South as a Black, gay man. His style is lyrical and poetic, and his descriptions of his relationship with his mother are beautiful. I loved this book because it wasn’t too long, and although the structure wasn’t completely chronological, it worked well for him. I absolutely loved this book, and I really hope to read more from Jones in the future.
UnTamed (4/5) by Glennon Doyle
I first noticed this book because of the cover, knowing nothing about the author, but quickly fell in love with the energy of the author. Doyle’s writing style is immediately engaging, and although it took me a second to get a hold of her as a person, I did enjoy the time I spent with her. Doyle’s remarks on finding herself through love with a woman, leaving her marriage, and building her new family meant a lot to me. She made me realize that when I do become a parent I can choose the way in which my kids learn about the world with a focus on love and encouraging my kids to really be themselves. Doyle made me feel really free. My only issue with the book was its lack of through line. I didn’t dislike the non-chronological structure, but for some reason with this book it was sometimes very jarring. It does work at points, but in other places I found myself very lost.
Kathryn Poe is a student at Capital University in Columbus, OH