Sunday, August 25, 2013

Summer Reading

One thing I have enjoyed this summer is the chance to read a few books on my own.  I thought if I didn't at least mention them here on the blog, they would disappear in the unreliable sands of my memory sooner rather than later!

1.  Boys Adrift and Girls on the Edge, both by Leonard Sax.  I technically read these around spring break and during testing, but I wanted to let people know about them.  Both are excellent, enlightening books that I am recommending everyone with kids read, just so you can understand why it seems that a good deal of boys currently are unmotivated and refusing to grow up, while many girls today are confidant on the outside, but are struggling inside with eating disorders, cyberbullying, and other issues.  He offers a lot of concrete, practical suggestions in both books.  The books did make me glad to be homeschooling, but these factors are not limited only to kids in brick and mortar schools, and regardless of whether our children actually suffer from any or all of what he addresses, we need to know what is going on in the world around us so we can be positive witnesses.

2.  The Brain That Changes Itself by Norman Doidge.  This was probably my absolute favorite book this summer because I have always been interested in neuroscience, and this book is incredibly fascinating!   It deals with neuroplasticity, the idea that the brain can "re-map" itself when one area is damaged.  Doidge sets up a bit of a straw man argument by repeatedly saying that neurologists don't believe that the brain can ever change.  I don't think that is true now, although the case studies he details are certainly more than I ever thought was possible.  I will caveat this recommendation by saying that the chapter on sexual attraction and love was uncomfortable to read, but one thing it does clearly is delineate what happens when someone gets hooked on pornography.  Definitely a cautionary tale.  It was not a horridly graphic chapter or anything--Nathan and Luke both read the book--but hard to read.  The other chapters were just so inspiring and hopeful!  I actually bought a used copy of this book so I could go back and reread it sometime, so that says a lot about how interesting I thought it was!

3.  The Violinist's Thumb by Sam Kean.  I read The Disappearing Spoon, by the same author, last summer (about the periodic table).  I really enjoyed that book, and I'm having my chemistry students read it this summer.  I think I will probably have my AP biology students read this book next summer.  It really connects DNA and genetics to a lot of different areas, with fascinating anecdotes that hopefully will help the kids remember the concepts.  The new AP bio exam is all about connections, and so is this book!  Another caveat--this book is incredibly evolutionary, although every time it assumed evolution, I thought, "Wow, that is so easily explained by a Common Designer!"  The thing that drives me batty about macroevolutionists is their assumption that evolution is the only possible explanation for similar genetic patterns and a host of other similarities.  But other than that, I really enjoyed reading this book!

4.  The Forever Fix by Ricki Lewis.  First of all, get the idea that this book was written by a talk show host right out of your head!  That's Ricki Lake.  This lady has a PhD in genetics, and is a researcher and professor as well as the author of a really commonly used genetics textbook for college.  Although the book started out a bit slow, it does pick up.  Gene therapy, or fixing genetic problems at the root genetic level, seems like a no-brainer idea--just change the genetic code to fix the defect--but in fact it has had a long, difficult road.  I didn't realize researchers have been trying gene therapy for so long, but with very limited success until just a few years ago, when a boy named Corey, who had a genetic problem leading to blindness, received gene therapy which cured him almost immediately.  Of course, his problem was an error in a small part of a gene, not many genes all working together, but it was still a huge success.   The book talked about some of the smaller successes of past gene therapy, as well as some of the failures.  Books like these do make me so sad that there are just so many tiny genetic mutations that can cause so many rare and uncurable diseases.   The chapter on fundraising to get more gene therapy research for a particular rare disease was eye-opening. 

I guess I was on a bit of a non-fiction kick this summer!  If you are looking for something interesting to read, I recommend all of these books! 

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