Book Review: Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs

Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs? And other Questions about Dead BodiesWill My Cat Eat My Eyeballs? And other Questions about Dead Bodies by Caitlin Doughty
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Definitely a kid/teen book but if you are a quirky, enjoyer of macabre science, it’s for sure fun for adults. I don’t have an in-depth review because this book is exactly what it is: a book that answers strange questions about death in a way that is approachable for children.

Book Review: Fossil Men

Fossil Men: The Quest for the Oldest Skeleton and the Origins of HumankindFossil Men: The Quest for the Oldest Skeleton and the Origins of Humankind by Kermit Pattison
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Really mixed feelings about this book. Overall, I did like it. I found the science behind identifying and classifying fossils to be absolutely fascinating. Pattison was able to go into the nitty gritty of scientific exploration while still being accessible to the layperson. 10/10 on that aspect.

Now, this next part is on me. As someone who as been in academia and around the anthropology/archaeology circles, I’ve heard the Tim White stories. Knowing this book featured White et al pretty exclusively should have alerted me to the ridiculous drama that would be the through-line of the book. There was so. much. drama. Middle school-esque drama from grown men with doctoral degrees. It was a lot and after awhile I was just over it. That alone brought the book down two stars for me.

Book Review: This is What America Looks Like

This Is What America Looks Like: My Journey from Refugee to CongresswomanThis Is What America Looks Like: My Journey from Refugee to Congresswoman by Ilhan Omar
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“I am, by nature, a starter of fires. My work has been to figure out where I’m going to burn down everything by adding the fuel…”

Sometimes, books have this magical ability to find you at the perfect time in your life and they change you forever. Ilhan Omar’s book was just that. I had been part of my TBR shelf for months but I put off reading it because I knew it would be heavy and difficult to hear some of the passages about growing up in war-torn Somalia. However, I’m so glad I finally worked up the courage to read it.

Omar’s story is one of resilience. Yes, there is utter devastation and sadness as she recounts losing her home, her childhood, her innocence, and some of her dearest family members. Yet, despite that pain, she describes moments of true joy and happiness. And throughout everything, there is a desperate desire to change the world, to help others, and to never lose sight of hope.

It’s a must read for any age.

“Your today does not determine your tomorrow.”

Book Review: Little Fires Everywhere

Little Fires EverywhereLittle Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Oh dear. Where to start? I liked the Hulu series better than the book. There. I said it.

I’m usually a “the book is better than the movie” kind of person. However, Little Fires Everywhere as a book really just didn’t do it for me. I can’t say exactly why to be honest. The show differs from the book significantly, almost to the point that they are two separate entities.

There is no doubt in my mind that Celeste Ng is a fantastic storyteller. I thoroughly enjoyed Everything I Never Told You. Ng has the ability to present the humdrum of the every day intermixed with the major events of a lifetime and the secrets all families keep. Yet, in Little Fires Everywhere the secrets seemed too big, too kneejerk, too dramatic even for a fiction novel. And it took a good long while to get anywhere near a point and I’m still unconvinced we actually got to one.

In contrast, the Hulu series took aspects of the story felt thrown into the book haphazardly, and fleshed them out, supposing things and filling voids that were left to reader prior. I’m usually all for ambiguity and unhappy endings in a book, but there were just too many loose ends for my taste.

Overall, it wasn’t a terrible book. There were still many beautiful passages and moral conundrums. Ng flows from one character’s perspective to another in a flawless manner that brilliantly demonstrates the idea that the truth is hidden between two people’s idea of a situation. Unfortunately, the book just lacked the spark it really needed to take off and I am grateful that Hulu was able to really do it justice.

Book Review: 18 Tiny Deaths

18 Tiny Deaths: The Untold Story of Frances Glessner Lee and the Invention of Modern Forensics18 Tiny Deaths: The Untold Story of Frances Glessner Lee and the Invention of Modern Forensics by Bruce Goldfarb
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I have so many mixed feelings on this book. I’ve been interested in the Nutshell Studies for probably two decades and I was thrilled when I learned about a book that finally focused on the creator of the Nutshells. Frances Glessner Lee is a relatively unknown figure who did have quite the historical impact on how we study death today. I knew that it was a full biography and not just a story of the Nutshells, however, the book did not live up to my expectations.

I’m going to start off my formal review by saying, it’s a little sassy. I had strong opinions about everything in this book. I work in civil rights and police accountability and I’m a nonprofit professional who works exclusively with individual donors. You have been forewarned.

The Review

The beginning of the book focuses heavily on Lee’s childhood in a very large, very fancy house built in Chicago by an architect who’s name was mentioned a lot but I have forgotten it because it was not at all required. Her parents had a lot of money. They had so much money, in fact, that Lee had her own tiny two-room playhouse with a working potbelly stove. Great detail was given to reading circle Lee’s mother held: their clothes, their knitting projects, their handbags. We get it. The Lee’s were drowning in material wealth and so were their friends.

Lee married the son of a “confederate hero.” Nuff said about that term. At least she divorced him and he was gone after just a few pages, which brings me to…

The tangents. Oh goodness. There are a great many of them in this book. There’s an entire chapter on George Burgess Magrath that was so interesting I started to wish the book was about him. And while he was imperative to the story of the Nutshells, the entire chapter about his life was not necessary (especially when it makes the reader want to put down your book to find one about him).

This next part is more of a professional beef I have with Harvard and Lee. The relationship Harvard has with Lee is super icky. Nonprofits and other organizations need to move away from the idea that they should do whatever the donor asks in order to get as much money as possible. Donors will milk that for all it is worth and it leads to an incredibly toxic relationship where nobody comes out on top. Stick to the mission and don’t let the donors run the show.

Goldfarb makes it painfully clear that Lee was very, very wealthy. We learn all the extravagant ways she spends her money: hosting $50,000 banquets, paying salaries for professors, buying one-of-a-kind textbooks, buying incredibly tiny hinges for her Nutshells. She even uses her wealth to gain access to rationed materials during WWII. Despite all that money, she’s still never taken seriously because she’s a woman and never went to college. However the resounding message is that nothing can hold you back if you can throw enough money at the problem. Probably not the best moral of a story.

The book was just slow. We don’t even get to the Nutshells until well after the halfway point in the book. Once Goldfarb finally got to the making of the Nutshells I was fascinated. The detail that went into finding wood with scale grain was brilliant. I loved everything about that process. Unfortunately there was only a handful of pages about Lee’s work on the Nutshells and then we went right back into throwing money at Harvard.

Lee was truly a fascinating woman. This book does her a disservice.