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Oct 04, 2017 09:49AM ● By Michael Harris

Summer Books You May Have Missed

By Michael G. Harris, OD

If you didn't get your fill of summer reading, here are some books you may want to consider. Paula Hawkins’ first novel, The Girl on the Train, was a runaway bestseller and a Hollywood blockbuster. Unfortunately, her follow-up novel, Into The Water, leaves much to be desired. Set in rural Britain, the novel tries to solve the mystery of why several women had fallen off cliffs or otherwise died in "a drowning pool." Were these women killed or were their drownings accidental? Are they somehow related?

In The Girl, Hawkins weaved a spellbinding thriller that used her main characters as alternate narrators. She tries to do the same thing with Into The Water, but it just doesn't work. Hawkins’ used just a few of the characters as narrators in The Girl. In Into The Water, she seems to use everybody and his mother! And that’s the rub! It got to the point where I couldn't tell which character was which or who was narrating. Making matters even worse, the characters are so shallow I really didn't care about them or the drowning victims. As if this weren’t baffling enough, Hawkins jumps back and forth with little warning between the 17th century witch-hunts and the 2015 drowning deaths of this book. A most disappointing read.

Now, for a change of pace. As a scientist, how could I resist a book titled Astrophysics for People in a Hurry? For those of you who may not know, astrophysics is “a branch of astronomy that applies the laws of physics and chemistry to explain the heavenly objects in the universe.” Noted author and astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson packs a wallop in his “shortcut to scientific literacy, with entertaining, bite-sized chapters that explore cosmic questions.”

In terms even a layman can understand, Tyson discusses such topics as dark matter, black holes, quarks, quantum mechanics, exoplanets, the Big Bang, why so many objects in space are round, the search for new planets, and the search for other life forms in the universe. One word of caution: you may have to reread some sections to fully understand them, but it’s worth the time. You'll be a regular "Einstein" when you finish this book.

Another interesting little book is The Secret Life of Trees, by Forester Peter Wohlleben’s. I'm not exactly a tree-hugger, but this book opened my eyes to a whole new world of our tall, green friends. Did you know trees have feelings and can communicate with each other? Did you know that forests have a "social network" and trees live together like human families? After reading this book, "a walk in the woods will never be the same again."

Jurassic Park author Michael Crichton died in 2008. His recently discovered manuscript, Dragon Teeth, was published earlier this year. It's the story of a Yale student who loses a wager with classmates and joins a paleontology expedition to find fossils "out West" in 1876. The story of his adventures and the characters he meets, real and fictional, are entertaining enough, but the storytelling lacks the pizzazz of Crichton’s previously published works. I got the impression that Dragon Teeth was an early work he wrote before he mastered the skills that made our spines tingle in The Andromeda Strain. I think Crichton may have looked at Dragon Teeth as “a practice novel” for Jurassic Park and not worthy of publication. Perhaps his estate or publisher decided to capitalize on his name and publish this after his death. In any case, it's an okay read but not up to the standards that I expected from the creator of Westworld.


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