The Vaccine Race

The Vaccine Race

The Vaccine Race: Science, Politics, and the Human Costs of Defeating Disease
by Meredith Wadman

RA 644 .R8 W33 2017

“Until the late 1960s, tens of thousands of American children suffered crippling birth defects if their mothers had been exposed to rubella, popularly known as German measles, while pregnant; there was no vaccine and little understanding of the disease itself. In June 1962, Leonard Hayflick, a young biologist in Philadelphia, produced clean, self-replicating cells in which vaccines against rubella and other common childhood diseases could safely be grown. Two years later, in the midst of a devastating German measles epidemic, his colleague Stanley Plotkin developed the actual vaccine that would one day wipe it out. The new cells, derived from a legally aborted fetus, led to vaccines that have saved millions of Americans, and billions of people around the world, from some of the deadliest diseases in history.

The Vaccine Race is the story of these major breakthroughs in cell biology and public health, and of their legacies today. Meredith Wadman nimbly explains the science of these achievements, but also describes the political roadblocks that nearly stopped the scientists. She recounts the terrible dilemmas of pregnant women exposed to German measles, and the testing on infants, prisoners, orphans, and the intellectually disabled, which was common in the era. These events took place at the dawn of the battle over using human fetal tissue in research, during the arrival of big commerce in campus labs, and as huge changes were coming to the laws governing who owns research cells and who can profit from biological inventions. It is also the story of those for whom the rubella vaccine arrived too late, and of yet one more unrecognized woman whose cells have been used to save countless lives.

This is a masterful account of heroic possibilities and tragically missed opportunities at the intersection of science and politics. The new methods and new cells led to vaccines that have fought off polio, rabies, chicken pox, measles, hepatitis A, shingles, and adenovirus. With frightening viruses constantly emerging – and reemerging – around the world, no medical story could have more human drama, impact, or urgency today than The Vaccine Race.”
– publisher description

Hit Makers

Hit Makers

Hit Makers: The Science of Popularity in an Age of Distraction by Derek Thompson

HC 79 .C6 T49 2017

“Nothing ‘goes viral.’ If you think a popular movie, song, or app came out of nowhere to become a word-of-mouth success in today’s crowded media environment, you’re missing the real story. Each blockbuster has a secret history – of power, influence, dark broadcasters, and passionate cults – that turns some new products into cultural phemonena. Even the most brilliant ideas wither in obscurity if they fail to connect with the right network, and the consumers that matter most aren’t the early adopters but rather their friends, followers, and imitators – the audience of your audience.

In his groundbreaking investigation, Atlantic senior editor Derek Thompson uncovers the hidden psychology of why we like what we like and reveals the economics of cultural markets that invisibly shape our lives. Shattering the sentimental myths of hit making that dominate pop culture and business, Thompson shows quality is insufficient for success, nobody has ‘good taste,’ and some of the most popular products in history were one bad break away from utter failure. It may be a new world, but there are some enduring truths to what audiences and consumers want. People love a familiar surprise: a product that is bold yet sneakily recognizable.

Every business, every artist, and every person looking to promote themselves and their work wants to know what makes some works so successful while others disappear. Hit Makers is a magical mystery tour through the last century of pop culture blockbusters and the most valuable currency of the twenty-first century – people’s attention.

From the dawn of Impressionist art to the future of Facebook, from small Etsy designers to the origin of Star Wars, Derek Thompson leaves no Pet Rock unturned to tell the fascinating story of how culture happens and why things become popular.”
– publisher description

Cannibalism

Cannibalism

Cannibalism: A Perfectly Natural History by Bill Schutt

GN 409 .S38 2017

“For centuries scientists have written off cannibalism as a bizarre phenomenon with little biological significance. Its presence in nature was dismissed as a desperate response to starvation or other life-threatening circumstances, and few spent time studying it. A taboo subject in our culture, the behavior was portrayed mostly through horror movies or tabloids sensationalizing the crime of real-life flesh-eaters. But the true nature of cannibalism – the role it plays in evolution as well as human history – is even more intriguing (and more normal) than the misconceptions we’ve come to accept as fact.

In Cannibalism, zoologist Bill Schutt sets the record straight, debunking common myths and investigating our new understanding of cannibalism’s role in biology, anthropology, and history in the most fascinating account yet written on this complex topic. Schutt takes readers from Arizona’s Chiricahua Mountains, where he wades through ponds full of tadpoles devouring their siblings, to the Sierra Nevadas, where he joins researchers who are shedding new light on what happened to the Donner Party – the most infamous episode of cannibalism in American history. He even meets with an expert on the preparation and consumption of human placenta (and, yes, it goes well with Chianti).

Bringing together the latest cutting-edge science, Schutt answers questions such as why some amphibians consume their mother’s skin, why certain insects bite the heads off their partners after sex; why, up until the end of the twentieth century, Europeans regularly ate human body parts as medical curatives; and how cannibalism might be linked to the extinction of the Neaderthals. He takes us into the future as well, investigating whether, as climate change causes famine, disease, and overcrowding, we may see more outbreaks of cannibalism in many more species – including our own.

Cannibalism places a perfectly natural occurrence into a vital new context and invites us to explore why it both enthralls and repels us.”
– publisher description

Secondhand Time

Secondhand Time: The Last of the Soviets: An Oral History
by Svetlana Alexievich

DK 510.76 .A44913 2016

“When the Swedish Academy awarded Svetlana Alexievich the Nobel Prize, it cited her for inventing ‘a new kind of literary genre,’ describing her work as ‘a history of emotions . . . a history of the soul.’ Alexievich’s distinctive documentary style, combining extended individual monologues with a collage of voices, records the stories of ordinary women and men who are rarely given the opportunity to speak, whose experiences are often lost in the official histories of the nation.

In Secondhand Time, Alexievich chronicles the demise of communism. Everyday Russian citizens recount the past thirty years, showing us what life was like during the fall of the Soviet Union and what it’s like to live in the new Russia left in its wake. Through interviews spanning 1991 to 2012, Alexievich takes us behind the propaganda and contrived media accounts, giving us a panoramic portrait of contemporary Russia and Russians who still carry memories of oppression, terror, famine, massacres – but also of pride in their country, hope for the future, and a belief that everyone was working and fighting together to bring about a utopia. Here is an account of life in the aftermath of an idea so powerful it once dominated a third of the world.

A magnificent tapestry of the sorrows and triumphs of the human spirit woven by a master, Secondhand Time tells the stories that together make up the true history of a nation. ‘Through the voices of those who confided in her,’ The Nation writes, ‘Alexievich tells us about human nature, about our dreams, our choices, about good and evil – in a word, about ourselves.'”
– publisher description

Can’t Just Stop

Can’t Just Stop: An Investigation of Compulsions by Sharon Begley

RC 533 .B446 2017

“Mild compulsions, such as shopping with military precision or hanging the tea towels just so, are something most of us have witnessed, or even engaged in. But compulsions exist along a broad continuum, and at the extremes there exist life-altering disorders.

Sharon Begley’s meticulously researched book is the first to examine all of these behaviors together – from obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) to hoarding, to compulsive exercise, even compulsions to do good. They may look profoundly different, but these behaviors are all ways of coping with varying degrees of anxiety.

With a focus on the personal stories of dozens of interviewees, Begley compassionately explores the role of compulsion in our fast-paced culture and the strange manifestations of this very human behavior throughout history.

Can’t Just Stop makes compulsion comprehensible and accessible, exploring how we can realistically grapple with it in ourselves and in those we love.”
– publisher description

The Lonely City

The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone by Olivia Laing

N 71 .L24 2016

“What does it mean to be lonely? How do we live, if we’re not intimately engaged with another human being? How do we connect with other people? Does technology draw us closer together or trap us behind screens?

When Olivia Laing moved to New York City in her mid-thirties, she found herself inhabiting loneliness on a daily basis. Increasingly fascinated by this most shameful of experiences, she began to explore the lonely city by way of art. Moving fluidly between works and lives – from Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks to Andy Warhol’s Time Capsules, from Henry Darger’s hoarding to David Wojnarowicz’s AIDS activism – Laing conducts an electric, dazzling investigation into what it means to be alone, illuminating not only the causes of loneliness but also how it might be resisted and redeemed.

Humane, provocative, and deeply moving, The Lonely City is about the spaces between people and the things that draw them together, about sexuality, mortality, and the magical possibilities of art. It’s a celebration of a strange and lovely state, adrift from the larger continent of human experience, but intrinsic to the very act of being alive.”
– publisher description

I Contain Multitudes

I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life
by Ed Yong

QR 171 .A1 Y66 2016

“For most of human existence, microbes were hidden, visible only through the illnesses they caused. When they finally surfaced in biological studies, they were cast as rogues. Only recently have they immigrated from the neglected fringes of biology to its center. Even today, many people think of microbes as germs to be eradicated, but those that live with us – the microbiome – are invaluable parts of our lives.

I Contain Multitudes lets us peer into that world for the first time, allowing us to see how ubiquitous and vital microbes are: they sculpt our organs, defend us from disease, break down our food, educate our immune systems, guide our behavior, bombard our genomes with their genes, and grant us incredible abilities. While much of the prevailing discussion around the microbiome has focused on its implications for human health, Yong broadens this focus to the entire animal kingdom, giving us a grander view of life.

With humor and erudition, Ed Yong prompts us to look at ourselves and our fellow animals in a new light: less as individuals and more as the interconnected, interdependent multitudes we assuredly are. When we look at the animal kingdom through a microbial lens, even the most familiar parts of our lives take on a striking new air. We learn the secret, invisible, and wondrous biology behind the corals that construct mighty reefs, the glowing squid that can help us understand the bacteria in our own guts, the beetles that bring down forests, the disease-fighting mosquitoes engineered in Australia, and the ingredients in breast milk that evolved to nourish a baby’s first microbes. We see how humans are disrupting these partnerships and how scientists are now manipulating them to our advantage. We see, as William Blake wrote, the world in a grain of sand.

I Contain Multitudes is the story of these extraordinary partnerships, between the familiar creatures of our world and those we never knew existed. It will change both our view of nature and our sense of where we belong in it.”
– publisher description