INTO THE GRAY ZONE: A NEUROSCIENTIST EXPLORES THE BORDER BETWEEN LIFE AND DEATH BY ADRIAN OWEN

 

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For a book written by a neuroscientist, Into the Gray Zone is surprisingly understandable and engaging. Adrian Owen explains the science behind his attempts to understand what goes on in the brains of people who, because of a disease, disorder, or injury, are left in a vegetative state. He, and many scientists like him, have spent years trying to answer the question, “Despite outward appearance, are some people in a vegetative state actually conscious, and aware of everything around them? And if so, is there a way to communicate with these people trapped within?” A fascinating and unexpectedly moving look at brain science and the people–doctors, researchers, and family members–who so desperately want to reach those who are lost in this gray zone.

This book manages to find the perfect balance between scientific, ethical, and existential questions. I highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in studies of the brain–but not interested in dry, technical, indecipherable books. I also highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in the ethics surrounding the right to live/right to die issue–but not interested in preachy, we-know-what’s-best-for-you books.

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Recommended by Dennise

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GINNY MOON BY BENJAMIN LUDWIG

 

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Ginny Moon is autistic. She likes patterns and numbers and schedules and Michael Jackson. Ginny spent several years in foster care, but she’s finally found her Forever Home, and her new parents are trying really hard to make the transition smooth for Ginny. The problem is, Ginny keeps trying to “escape” her Forever Home, and no one can figure out why she wants to go back to a mother who Social Services says is not safe. Ginny tries to tell them why, but no one seems to understand. Now life at her Forever Home is starting to unravel. Will Ginny ever stop trying to run away? Will her pleas ever be heard?

Written through the eyes of a thirteen (about to turn fourteen) year-old autistic girl, Ginny is living a life much like the rest of us–messy, confusing, and sometimes painful. Unlike us, however, Ginny’s autism adds an additional layer of frustration as she struggles to communicate–without letting people see her brain–so people will listen.

A wonderful book!

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Recommended by Dennise

ELEANOR OLIPHANT IS COMPLETELY FINE BY GAIL HONEYMAN

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I strongly recommend this book for anyone who likes quirky, break-the-mold characters, who, despite their peculiarities, are completely endearing. Eleanor is quite okay with who she is: a no-nonsense person possessed of perfect logic, perfect manners, and perfect solitude. Her perfectly-ordered life, however, unexpectedly falters when she meets Raymond, the new IT guy, who both repulses and fascinates Eleanor with his kindness, lack of judgment, and utter lack of proper decorum. Sloppy, happy Raymond, new to the company, seems completely unfazed by Eleanor’s lack of social skills, not caring that she is very odd–maybe even crazy–and that he, like their other coworkers, might do better to avoid her. For better or worse, however, Raymond blithely breaks into Eleanor’s perfectly-ordered world, and Eleanor, to her chagrin, begins to find herself not only quite fine, but for the first time in a very long time, inexplicably hopeful.

“The book is wonderfully, quirkily funny. You both ache for Eleanor. . . and laugh with her.” –Seattle Times 

“That Eleanor’s social awkwardness is extreme, sometimes painfully and often comically so, is far more apparent to the reader than it is to Eleanor herself — and that we get this through Eleanor’s own narration is a credit to the author’s cleverness and craft. . . A touching, funny novel.” –Minneapolis Star Tribune

“Debut author Honeyman expertly captures a woman whose inner pain is excruciating and whose face and heart are scarred, but who still holds the capacity to love and be loved. Eleanor’s story will move readers.” —Publishers Weekly

“[Eleanor Oliphant] happens to be among the most compelling and complex characters drawn in recent memory, one who is always peculiar, often infuriating, but funny and utterly endearing.” —The National (Scotland)

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Recommended by Dennise

MAGPIE MURDERS BY ANTHONY HOROWITZ

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Hi. My name is Katie. And I am addicted to British mystery shows. It’s true. I’ve seen them all: Endeavor, Inspector Morse, Inspector Lewis, Broadchurch, Happy Valley, Sherlock, Rosemary and Thyme, Poirot, Miss Marple, Grantchester, Wallander. You name the show. I’ve watched every episode. Probably twice. If you’re saying “SAME!” to yourself, then, like me, you will love Magpie Murders by New York Times bestselling author (and screenwriter of Foyle’s War and Midsomer Murders) Anthony Horowitz.

Horowitz cleverly sets his mystery within another mystery. Our present-day heroine, Susan Ryeland, spends her weekend editing Magpie Murders, Alan Conway’s latest manuscript and the next addition to the Atticus Pünd mystery series. The manuscript adheres to the traditions of the golden age of whodunits, set in a quintessential English village with the typical cast of characters—the vicar, the detestable lord of the manor, the philandering lady of the manor, the respected doctor, the gruff mechanic, the outcast gardener, the lovely assistant, and so on. Yet, the more Susan reads, the more she’s convinced that the book contains clues to a mystery in her present-day world.

Magpie Murders is suspenseful, fast-paced, and just plain fun. It’s an easy weekend read. A perfect accompaniment to a glass of red wine and perhaps a red herring.

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Recommended by Katie

HEROES OF THE FRONTIER BY DAVE EGGERS

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What makes someone decide to leave everything and go to Alaska? With her two young children and $3,000 cash in a small cloth bag? In a rented RV that has seen better days?

Josie is a 40 year old dentist from Ohio who has just found out that the man she lived with and had two children with is getting married to someone else. Not her. He never wanted to marry her.  She’s tired of the drama of her life – and the pseudo-drama of the suburbs. She decides to leave her cellphone behind and take her children, eight year old Paul, and 5 year old Ana, on an adventure. She doesn’t want anyone to know where she is, especially her ex.

Josie has a stepsister of sorts who lives in Alaska and at first Sam is the North Star that she navigates the RV toward.

“Then there is happiness of one’s personal slum. The happiness of being alone, and tipsy on red wine, in the passenger seat of an ancient recreational vehicle parked somewhere in Alaska’s deep south, staring into a scribble of black trees, afraid to go to sleep for fear that at any moment someone will get past the toy lock on the RV door and murder you and your two small children sleeping above” From Heroes of the Last Frontier by Dave Eggers

Once Josie gets to Sam’s, she realizes that this wasn’t where she wanted to be and she takes off, driving through an Alaska of forest fires, breaking into abandoned cabins, riding a used bicycle down a campground trail while the owner of the campground watches her kids. Her parenting skills are a little quirky to say the least. But as they continue on their journey and have less and less, they learn to rely on themselves more and living becomes more about

The writing is beautiful, thoughtful, and intelligent. I found myself going back to reread paragraphs. This is a great pick for a book group. You could have some great discussions around our desire for the illusion of safety at all costs, and how much we have domesticated ourselves and numbed ourselves in order to function in our modern society.

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Recommended by Nancy

THE WOMAN IN CABIN TEN BY RUTH WARE

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Journalist Lo Blacklock is relieved to be leaving London after her flat was burgled.
She’s been chosen to review a new luxury cruise liner, the Aurora Borealis. It’s a
perfect escape from her anxiety and a potential career starter. In the middle of her
first night aboard, Lo awakes from a blackout, hearing a scream and a splash from
next door in cabin 10. The journalist in her demands she investigate, despite being
warned to stop digging.

The Woman in Cabin 10 is an easy weekend read: think Murder on the Orient Express meets The Girl on the Train. It’s absolutely binge- and beach-worthy. And it will have you double-checking your locks tonight.

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Recommended by Katie