What I’m Reading: The Henrietta Lacks Edition

Happy Thursday! We’re going to try a little experiment today and you can tell me what you think.

Each week, I try to write useful articles on topics like psychology and habit formation, medicine and health, and science and entrepreneurship. Where do I get many of these ideas? By reading books written by people who are smarter than me.

And because of that, I thought it might be interesting to share a handful of books that I've been reading recently. At the end of each review, I've included a link to the book on Amazon so that you can read additional reviews and learn more if you'd like.

And with that said, here’s what I’ve been reading recently…

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

I remember seeing this book on the New York Times best-seller list a year ago and I passed it up. Then, I heard that “every scientist should read this book” and I decided to buy a copy. After reading it, I agree. The story of Henrietta Lacks is so important to the history and progression of science that every scientist should read it.

Furthermore, Rebecca Skloot does such an incredible job of writing the story that I think anyone (scientist or not) will find it compelling and enjoyable. In fact, from a writing standpoint, Skloot’s work is some of the best I’ve ever read. It took her 10 years to write the book and the amount research that went into it is incredible. As an example, this video explains how much effort went into writing just one sentence in the book.

It’s a fantastic read.

Print | Kindle | Audiobook

The House of God by Samuel Shem

If you love medicine or are interested in what it’s actually like to be a physician, then you’ll find this book interesting.

The story, which I believe is more or less true, follows the life of Roy Basch and five other interns at a teaching hospital in Boston. The book offers an unglorified, unfiltered view of what it’s like to work as a physician in a hospital. I believe many medical schools have made this book required reading for their students because it’s one of the only texts that shows just how unheroic the work can be.

It's also worth noting that Samuel Shem does a wonderful job writing the book and I found myself laughing out loud at phrases like “gomertose” and “LOL in NAD.”

Print | Kindle | Audiobook

Predictably Irrational, Revised and Expanded by Dan Ariely

Dan Ariely is a researcher after my own heart. A professor at Duke University, Ariely’s work (and this book) focuses on why we behave the way that we do. Specifically, Predictably Irrational covers why we make irrational choices over and over again. It was a humbling book to read as there were multiple times when he would explain an irrational behavior and I would think, “Yep, I’ve done that.”

Most importantly, I think Predictably Irrational is highly accessible. It’s not an academic book filled with useless theory and jargon. There is plenty of research in it, but Ariely does a great job of breaking down studies into practical examples and applying them to the world around you. This style of practical writing is something that I try to do each week when I write about habits, goals, success, and procrastination. Needless to say, Ariely does a better job of it than I do.

Print | Kindle | Audiobook

Your First 1000 Copies by Tim Grahl

Tim Grahl has worked with multiple best-selling authors, so he definitely knows his stuff when it comes to book marketing. In Your First 1000 Copies, Grahl hits all the basics of building an online platform. I kept nodding my head as I read it and thought, “Yep, this is exactly why I do [insert some audience building idea.]”

This book will give you a good idea of the right way to build an audience online (i.e. get permission first, be relentlessly helpful, etc.). That said, it’s not a how-to book. It will give you the 50,000 foot view of the process of building an online platform, but you’re not going to get many detailed tips or action steps. That said, I still got two or three ideas out of it that I immediately implemented, so I would recommend reading it if you're building a blog or writing a book.

Print | Kindle | Audiobook

Make a Killing on Kindle by Michael Alvear

As regular readers know, I’m working on my first book right now and you can probably tell from my current reading selection.

Make a Killing on Kindle is all about selling books on Amazon. The early sections of the book cover the author’s dislike for blogs, Twitter, and Facebook. I agree with him that too many people waste time on social media, but I disagree on the blogging front. I have plenty of experience to back up the business advantages of building a blog and an email list.

That said, the majority of the book is all about Amazon’s platform and how selling on it works. This is very much a step-by-step, how-to book. I thought it covered the process of selling on Amazon well and it definitely gave me a few ideas for my own book launch in the coming months.

Kindle

More Book Recommendations

Looking for more good books to read? Browse the full reading list, which lists the best books in each category.

Happy reading!