|I cannot live without books. -Thomas Jefferson||Reading Lists|
|Don't forget to be happy. -Dalton Trumbo||Quotes|
The Chinese scientist He Jiankui recently claimed to have opened yet another of Pandora's seemingly endless set of boxes: Germline gene editing. He proudly announced that two babies were recently born whom he had genetically modified to provide resistance to HIV, changing their embryos, their germline, in vitro prior to their implantation in their mother's wombs by employing gene editing techniques based on the new phenomenon CRISPR-Cas9, a recently characterized bacterial immune system.
Jennifer Doudna's book A Crack in Creation: Gene Editing and the Unthinkable Power to Control Evolution warned against such a premature application of CRISPR-Cas 9 to the human germline. If you are interested in this new technology, its enormous promise and power, and the potential consequences, good and bad, this book is must read. The ability to directly and much more easily modify the genome of any living organism, via somatic or germline modification, has become a reality.
Book Book Review, Title Inhabited, Author Charlie Quimby, Rating 4.0,
Inhabited, Charlie Quimby's follow-up novel to his excellent Monument Road, focuses on life as a homeless person in a small city in western Colorado. This story is both edifying and compelling because he draws sympathetic and realistic characters, not just of those who migrate uncertainly from one temporary abode to another, but of those inhabitants who try to help the homeless and those who oppose such help, which can even be the same person under differing circumstances.
Book Book Review, Title Slouching Towards Bethlehem, Author Joan Didion, Rating 3.0,
Slouching Towards Bethlehem
Joan Didion's set of personal essays from the mid-60's, an exercise in the emerging New Journalism and most in the first person, are episodically brilliant, but just as often facile and self-indulgent.
Book Book Review, Title Ordinary Geniuses, Author Gino Segrè, Rating 3.0,
This is a good but not great biography of two lesser-known 20th century scientists, George Gamow and Max Delbrück, both of whom show up in many historical accounts of the history of molecular biology, hence my interest. I was particularly interested in the author's depiction of Delbrück, a Nobel Prize winner late in his life for work done thirty years prior. Delbrück, who is routinely depicted as a great thought leader and a fiercely intelligent scientist, is elusive in other historical accounts, begging the question: What did he contribute, and why was his input so prized?
Book Book Review, Title What Men Live By, Author Leo Tolstoy, Rating 4.0,
What Men Live By
Tolstoy remains one of my favorite writers. His War and Peace and Anna Karenina were reading investments that still pay dividends. These four short stories, in particular What Men Live By, represent some aspects of Tolstoy's later turn to a simpler and more universal religious outlook, when he eschewed organized religion, and embraced a code based on Christ's teaching alone, centering on the Golden Rule and the Sermon on the Mount.
Book Book Review, Title Mink River , Author Brian Doyle, Rating 4.5,
The Department of Public Works in the coastal village of Neawanaka on the Mink River, besides performing the ordinary public works of cleaning streets and repairing sidewalks, slowly expands over time to 'preserve history, collect stories, repair marriages, prevent crime, augment economic status, promote chess, manage insect populations, run sports leagues, isn't that a bit much? We even give haircuts.' ( page 15) Worried Man and Cedar are its two aging employees, idealists who doggedly work to carry out their mission statement: 'Brains against Pains.' ( page 45)