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February READ MY MIND ©

Jan 30, 2015 07:48PM ● By Jennifer Neys

Book Reviews by Michael G. Harris, OD

What If? And Other Gems

Have you ever wondered, “From what height would you need to drop a steak for it to be cooked when it hit the ground?” or "If everyone on the planet stayed away from each other for a couple weeks, would the common cold be wiped out?" The answer to these and other rather bizarre questions can be found in What If? a fascinating book by Randall Munroe.

Munroe is a former NASA roboticist who created the webcomic xkcd. Never heard of him or xkcd? Well, you’ll probably need to ask someone under 30. What If? is a compilation of “serious scientific answers to absurd hypothetical questions." My favorite question is, "If you call a random phone number and say ‘God bless you,’ what are the chances that the person who answers just sneezed?” Using stick diagrams and his solid scientific background, Munroe calculated the odds at 1 in 40,000. This book is great fun for anyone interested in math, statistics, or weird science. 

Do you remember Little Golden Books, those wonderfully illustrated books for young readers? Editor Diane Muldrow has compiled all of life's lessons into a charming book, Everything I Need to Know I Learned From a Little Golden Book. Filled with those famous Golden Book illustrations, we learn such lessons as "Be a hugger," "Stay curious," "Let your children know you love them," and, one of my favorites, "Turn off the TV from time to time…and crack open a book!" This is a thoroughly delightful book you can share with the entire family.

10% Happier: How I Tamed The Voice In My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, And Found Self-help That Actually Works is the true story of ABC television reporter Dan Harris’ battle to overcome "the incessant, insatiable voice in his head." Harris (no relation, even though I have a son named Dan) suffered a major panic attack during a nationally televised Good Morning America episode.  

After trying traditional medicine without success, he found the answer to his inner demons through mindfulness meditation. The book contains an appendix with easy to follow instructions on how to meditate. “Meditation won't fix everything in your life…but it can make you 10% happier, or maybe much more." I've been doing meditation and yoga for years, and it certainly works for me! (How else could I put up with those all-night city council meetings?)

"One of the most important scientific discoveries of the Twentieth Century." That's how author Jonathan Eig describes the birth control pill in his bestseller The Birth Of The Pill: How Four Crusaders Reinvented Sex and Launched A Revolution. The science behind the invention of the Pill is fascinating. Even more interesting is the political, cultural, and social challenges in bringing the Pill to market. We meet Gregory Pincus, a disgraced Harvard professor who invented the Pill, Katharine McCormick, who bankrolled the project, and Dr. John Rock, who battled his Catholic church to become one of the Pill’s most effective advocates. 

But this story would not be complete without the fourth Crusader who started it all, Margaret Sanger, the "fiery feminist" who championed birth control and women's rights in the first half of the 20th century. This true story of their efforts to change modern society is captivating.

The Secret History Of Wonder Woman by Jill Lepore is the story behind "the most popular female comic-book super hero of all time." This well researched book delves into the origin of Wonder Woman and finds a connection to Margaret Sanger. Yes, that Margaret Sanger! These two books give us great insight into the women’s rights movement.