Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Some notable books for 2011

These are some memorable books that I didn’t get a chance to blog about in 2011:

The Night Circus - Erin Morgenstern

Brilliant story of duelling magicians and their protégés: Celia and Marco, who battle it out in a circus that only opens at night. It’s filled with wonderful characters and the feats of magic are always grounded in human emotions. One of the most imaginative and enjoyable reads I’ve had this year.

The interrogator : a CIA agent's true story - Glenn Carle

Fascinating and riveting insider account of Carle’s role in the interrogation of potential terrorist suspects. He details the psychology of interrogation and the often compromised operation of US agencies in often hostile countries. Carle writes with a clear sense of urgency, anger and frustration. It is a compelling account of how ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ were a moral, political and legal failure.

The coming plague : newly emerging diseases in a world out of balance – Laurie Garrett

This year I really got into my science books; perhaps making up for my youthful disregard of biology and chemistry.

Garret’s book can almost be read as a cultural history of modern science and medicine’s battle with microbes. It tracks the major diseases to emerge in the twentieth century like, Lassa Fever, Marburg, Ebola and Yellow Fever.

Each chapter begins like a detective story, with the breakout of an undetermined illness (often) affecting a third world country. It then traces the doctors, scientist and epidemiologists who go into the field to try and identify the locus of infection. Being a science journalist, Garret is able to clearly and effectively explain complexities of how viruses work and how ‘smart’ they can be.

I found this a truly fascinating book and at times very scary, as it seems in the battle between our immune systems and viruses we always seem to be on the losing side.

Reading this book, really prepped me to watch Steven Soderbergh’s film Contagion. And I’ve got to say the book was far more compelling and interesting than the film.

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