Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Book Review: 'No Biking in the House Without a Helmet' by Melissa Fay Greene

✰✰✰½ Award winning journalist Melissa Fay Greene and her husband already had four biological children when they decided to adopt a little boy from Bulgaria. Rather than accept the "empty nest" that their home threatened to become when the oldest children headed off to college, the couple kept adopting. The next child was a little girl from Ethiopia. By the time Greene and her husband were finished adopting, their family included a total of nine kids from three continents.

The Bottom Line: Melissa Fay Greene's writing style is approachable for most readers. She writes with humor, tenderness, and honesty as she covers both the joys and the challenges of raising a large family. Recommended for everyone interested in the study of families. Also, for potential adoptive parents.

Book Club Notes: The short chapters and conversational tone of this book made it a quick read. One member pointed out that it was reminiscent of Erma Bombeck's writing style. The discussion was lighthearted as we worked out way through questions available in the reading guide from Macmillan. The anecdotes made for fun reading, and it was easy to get sidetracked by our own stories as we defined what it means to be a family. The discussion turned lively as we debated the pros and cons of domestic vs. international adoption. Furthermore, many of us agreed that we wanted to hear more about Greene's husband, Donny. Some members commented that the book could have been shorter. Also, several members noted that the stories were not all in chronological order. Overall, the group gave the book 3.75 stars and enjoyed reading it.

Details: No Biking in the House Without a Helmet by Melissa Fay Greene. Paperback published by Sarah Crichton Books in 2011. 368 p. ISBN: 978-0-374-53338-0

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Book Review: 'Dr. Mütter's Marvels' by Cristin O'Keefe Aptowicz

✰✰✰✰½ The world-renowned Mütter Museum in Philadelphia features collections of anatomical specimens, medical instruments, and models. Visitors come from around the world to marvel at the various specimens. But how did these collections come to be housed together? Author Cristin O'Keefe Aptowicz brings us the story of the man behind the collection.

Thomas Dent Mütter was orphaned as a young boy. Despite suffering from illness all his life, the young Mütter went on to pursue a degree in medicine. Eventually, his curiosity led him to the practice of plastic surgery, where he dedicated his skills to helping people labeled as "monsters" by society. Mütter's ideas and surgical techniques proved to be innovative, but his flamboyant style and popularity with students sometimes clashed with other doctors. Mütter's forward thinking lead to advances in cleanliness in the operating room, the use of anesthetic, and compassionate care.

Throughout his career, Dr. Mütter collected all types of specimens. While some may view these collections as medical oddities, Dr. Thomas Dent Mütter collected the items with the intent of supplementing his medical lectures. Due to continuing ill health, Dr. Mütter died young, but before he did, he left behind the legacy that is now the Mütter Museum.

The Bottom Line: Despite the length of the book, this was a fairly quick read. Author Cristin O'Keefe Aptowicz approaches her subject with enthusiasm and compassion. Dr. Mütter was a fascinating man. He was a pioneer in his field who made many lasting contributions to the field of medicine. I especially enjoyed reading the notes written by Dr. Mütter. This well-written biography is highly recommended for readers interested in medicine, surgery, medical collections, and American history. A background in medicine is not required to understand and enjoy this book; however, descriptions of surgical procedures may bother some readers. This book contains more than 80 black and white photos and illustrations.

Details: Dr. Mütter's Marvels: A True Tale of Intrigue and Innovation at the Dawn of Modern Medicine by Cristin O'Keefe Aptowicz. ARC published by Gotham Books in 2014. 384 p. ISBN: 978-1-592-40870-2 NOTE: I received a free copy from Gotham Books in exchange for an honest review. This was made possible by the Early Reviewers program atLibraryThing.