Holiday reading (6)

Today’s second entry, our sixth in the series, comes from Mrs Green, one of our lovely biologists.  Her book for Christmas was The orchid hunter : a young botanist’s search for happiness by Leif Bersweden.  Mrs Green says:

“I was bought ‘The Orchid Hunter’ by Leif Bersweden for Christmas.

It is the story of a young botanist’s search to find all British species of Orchid within a single season – some science and classification of orchids combined with lovely stories of his hunt to find all 52 species within a very short time period.

It is clearly of interest to people who are interested in plant Biology, but it is also a lovely story of this period in his life.”

Click here for a great review from Isabel Hardman at The Spectator.  Bersweden is indeed a young botanist, having carried out his search for orchids during the gap year between school and university, a year spent in a vastly different manner from those of many students. As a cataloguer of books, I find the idea of a young person classifying  and cataloguing plants, especially ones he has searched for himself, fascinating, but it sounds as though there is much more to this book than that act in itself. Another to add to my ever-increasing to-be-read pile!

orchid hunter

Y:The Descent of Men (Steve Jones)

Fascinating science, historical tit-bits and humour.

Parts of this book made me wince!

Being male is tough ….

Mrs Ashwell’s Christmas reading…

Mrs Ashwell also had a very productive reading time during the Christmas break and thoroughly enjoyed the books she read.  The first is:

“Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. Born a poor black tobacco farmer, her cancer cells – taken without her knowledge – became a multimillion-dollar industry and one of the most important tools in medicine. Yet Henrietta’s family did not learn of her ‘immortality’ until more than twenty years after her death, with devastating consequences …Balancing the beauty and drama of scientific discovery with dark questions about who owns the stuff our bodies are made of, “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” is an extraordinary journey in search of the soul and story of a real woman, whose cells live on today in all four corners of the world. “A fascinating, harrowing, necessary book”. (Hilary Mantel, “Guardian”). “A heartbreaking account of racism and injustice”. (“Metro”). “A fine book…a gripping read…The book has deservedly been a huge bestseller in the US. It should be here, too”. (“Sunday Times”).”  NielsenBookDataOnline

and the second is:

“In the winter of 1991, at a concert in Krakow, an older woman with a marvellously pitched violin meets a fellow musician who is instantly captivated by her instrument. When he asks her how she obtained it, she reveals the remarkable story behind its origin…Imprisoned at Auschwitz, the notorious concentration camp, Daniel feels his humanity slipping away. Treasured memories of the young woman he loved and the prayers that once lingered on his lips become hazier with each passing day. Then a visit from a mysterious stranger changes everything, as Daniel’s former identity as a crafter of fine violins is revealed to all. The camp’s two most dangerous men use this information to make a cruel wager: If Daniel can build a successful violin within a certain number of days, the Kommandant wins a case of the finest burgundy. If not, the camp doctor, a torturer, gets hold of Daniel. And so, battling exhaustion, Daniel tries to recapture his lost art, knowing all too well the likely cost of failure. Written with lyrical simplicity and haunting beauty and interspersed with chilling, actual Nazi documentation, “The Auschwitz Violin” is more than just a novel: it is a testament to the strength of the human spirit and the power of beauty, art, and hope to triumph over the darkest adversity.”  NielsenBookDataOnline

Two extremely powerful books – they sound absolutely fascinating, I will put them on my reading list.  Mrs Ashwell is currently reading The hare with amber eyes by Edmund de Waal, winner of the Costa Book Awards Prize for Biography.

Dr Hundal’s great summer reads…

We asked all members of staff to tell us what they had been reading during their summer holidays and received some really interesting replies.  Here are Dr Hundal’s choices:

Netherland by Joseph O’Neill

Dr Hundal says of this book: “An enjoyable account of a father taking solace in cricket as a means of escaping his personal woes (failing marriage and his tedious job in finance).  The book is set in New York and explores, amongst other things, the main character’s attraction to the world of immigrant cricket and the dreams of one man.  Lots of memorable moments as the central character drifts through life without any clear goals – if only life could be that simple…”



The Greatest Show on Earth by Richard Dawkins

Dr Hundal’s thoughts are: “Well it is me (!) – an accessible book detailing the evidence for evolution.  Worth a read, if this is your first book on the subject.”
Nielsen BookData Online adds:”The Greatest Show on Earth” comes at a critical time: systematic opposition to the fact of evolution is now flourishing as never before, especially in America. In Britain and elsewhere in the world, teachers witness insidious attempts to undermine the status of science in their classrooms. Richard Dawkins provides unequivocal evidence that boldly and comprehensively rebuts such nonsense. At the same time he shares with us his palpable love of the natural world and the essential role that science plays in its interpretation. Written with elegance, wit and passion, it is hard-hitting, absorbing and totally convincing.”  Open your minds!
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

This book needs so little introduction, so concur with Dr Hundal’s  view or not (please let us know what you think):
“It was great to go back and re-read this – got aught up a bit in the hype of its 50th year of publication.  I was amazed at how much more I got out of it second time round – the tensions surrounding Scout and the expectations to conform to a Southern notion of womanhood, the ‘reverence’ of calling their father Atticus rather than Dad, the polarisation of the community between justice and racism.  For me, this book has stood the test of time.”
What do you think?  Why do you think that this book has appeared so often on the American Library Association’s list of banned books?  The banning of it is still sought in American schools…

Blame My Brain – the amazing teenage brain revealed (Nicola Morgan)

Nicola Morgan’s book ‘Blame My Brain’ gives a superb insight into what happens inside the teenage brain, both scientifically and emotionally, as the young adult grows and matures.  It helps to explain why teenagers behave the way they do and gives hope, as well as dispels fear (on the part of parents and teachers) about what is happening during these turbulent years!

An additional synopsis follows:

‘A comprehensive guide to the biological mysteries that lie behind teenage behaviour. Contrary to popular (parental) opinion, teenagers are not the lazy, unpleasant – frankly, spotty – louts they occasionally appear to be. During the teenage years the brain is undergoing its most radical and fundamental change since the age of two. Nicola Morgan’s carefully researched, accessible and humorous examination of the ups and downs of the teenage brain has chapters dealing with powerful emotions, the need for more sleep, the urge to take risks, the difference between genders, the reasons behind addiction and depression, and what lies ahead.  Funny and non-patronizing, it makes essential reading for both parents and teenagers alike.’   Nielsen BookData Online

We have this book in our library (although currently on loan).  Nicola Morgan does state that although the teenage brain is undergoing all this change, its control remains very much in the power of its owner…  She does not excuse anything.