Tuesday, May 18, 2010

on reading science

I just finished a very wonderful book. I really mean that. It folded me up inside it, educated me, excited me, exercised my compassion and my wonder. It introduced me to ideas I had never considered and made my world more interesting by filling in the detail in places I hadn't bothered to look. It's also really, really, really well written.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. It's by Rebecca Skloot. The history of cell culture, biomedical ethics, and people, in all their messy, brilliant, and ordinary glory. Oh man, but reading a good book can make me so incredibly happy!

I've been addicted to reading about science. It's a recently discovered pleasure. Several months ago, I had a conversation about taxonomy that lodged in my head and set off sparklers of delighted recognition. Here were so many of those things that I obsess over in dancing and writing -- perception, relationships, the understanding of things not ourselves -- but approached from another direction entirely. It was like studying a gorgeous sculpture for years, memorizing every minute detail of it, and only just realizing that you could walk around to the other side.

The particular of science is seductive. The astonishing and exact details that make the world more interesting to experience. The crazy beautiful shift from vague to precisely textured. There is no practical reason for why someone like me needs to know about telomeres or FISH, but learning about them is either like peeling off the surface of the world, or piling it up with layer over layer of intimate wonder, I can't decide which.

(Reading I've liked aside from the Henrietta Lacks book: Genome by Matt Ridley, Creation Revisited by Peter Atkins, The Language Instinct by Steven Pinker, The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat by Oliver Sacks.)


Kat Howard said...

I'm so glad to hear you liked that book. It is the next book I'm buying as soon as I get settled in.

Megan Kurashige said...

It was wonderful. I think you'll enjoy it!