These two non-fiction reads both have appealing, kind-of-punny titles (is “punny” a real word?); both are written by illustrious women; and both are about fascinating scientific topics. So why not group them together in my mini reviews? (And it’s also ARC-cleaning time, so…) These aren’t as mini as my usual mini reviews though, but calling them “medium-sized reviews” sounds weird, haha. So they can be “mini-but-ate-too-much-for-dinner reviews”! 😛
Journalist Lydia Denworth didn’t realize why her third son, Alex, didn’t respond as fast to her voice or start talking as early as his brothers did – that is, until he was identified with significant hearing loss before he turned two. While Denworth makes the decision to send Alex to a specialized school and equip him with a cochlear implant, she decides to learn all she could about how hearing works. Denworth’s writing is touching and personal as she incorporates her own family’s story, and appropriately detailed as she explains the history behind the development of hearing aids and cochlear implants. She captures both the personality and the ideas of prominent researchers in the field, and is able to present very technical ideas in layperson’s terms.
What I find most interesting about this book are the controversies surrounding the deaf community and deaf culture; when I was in college, my classmates at the time were petitioning to have American sign language count for their language requirements – I never realized how big of a deal that was, and the extent of my interest in sign language was trying to learn how to sign “cookies.” Reading I Can Hear You Whisper really made me more aware of the deaf community and pushed me to learn more about hearing disorders and deafness.
Jane Goodall is known for her work with chimpanzees, but she’s an all-around environmentalist who also has a passion for plants. In Seeds of Hope – also what Michael Pollan refers to as a “love letter to the plant world” – Goodall weaves childhood memories through the history of anything and everything plant-related; she meanders from roots and photosynthesis to tobacco plantations and slavery, and touches on genetically modified organisms and sustainable farming while calling attention to the trees that survived the atomic bombing on Hiroshima as well as those that survived 9/11. Plants are everywhere, and thus, Goodall’s memories of her plant-filled life takes her everywhere. I’d describe this book as whimsical, for both the organization of the book as well as Goodall’s writing style.
And how I loved the sound of his leaves in summertime: the gentle whispering as the breeze played with them; the joyous, abandoned dancing and rustling as the breeze quickened; and the wild tossing and swishing sounds, for which I have no words, when the wind was strong and the branches swayed. And I was part of it all.
I was left in awe at nature and in fear of humans for our impact on our environment. This was a slow read, since I was Googling things like Rafflesia arnoldii and Welwitschia mirabilis (both amazingly spectacular-looking plants!) at every other page.