Take A Literary Vacation
We asked two long-time science and book nerds which stories help them take a mental vacation when they need a break from the office.
Dr. Amy Boileau is a Nutrition Scientist, Registered Dietitian, and health care advocate with a background in NAD biology, and pediatric and diabetes nutrition care. Her current research is dedicated to improving overall health and quality of life during aging.
Sarah Garthe has worked in the pharmaceutical and dietary supplement industry for almost 15 years. With a Master’s in Chemistry, she now specializes in regulatory work for dietary supplements and figuring out creative ways for her own children to eat healthily.
Favorite Book Related to My Field
The Scalpel and the Butterfly, Deborah Rudacille.
As a scientist who is dedicated to the cause of advancing human health, I have always struggled with the ethics of animal research. I almost quit graduate school early on due to internal conflict. This book put history and reality into perspective and helped me to navigate this moral dilemma. I would love to participate one day on an animal ethics review committee.
Full Body Burden: Growing Up in the Nuclear Shadow of Rocky Flats, Kristen Iversen.
This books dives into the history of Rocky Flats, a secret nuclear weapons plant in Colorado. It is written from the perspective of a woman who grew up near that area. For my entire life I have driven down the highway closest to the facility and heard rumors, but this book gave a really good understanding of what happened there. The recounting of these events brings to life the real impacts of science in our communities. It can be scary to think about what happens in your own backyard!
Favorite Non-Fiction Book
Start with Why, Simon Sinek.
I was introduced to this book when I was working on a really challenging project—where I was struggling to find direction. Today I can appreciate that when you know WHY you do what you do, then it’s a heck of lot easier to organize the what and the how. I keep a copy within reach when I am looking for a reminder of what motivates me and how to keep our team engaged and focused on the goals.
Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, Sheryl Sandberg.
I found this to be a fascinating and easy read. This book focuses on the possibilities of women in the workplace and what it means to step up and put yourself in positions that challenge your insecurities, but push your career to the next level. As a woman working in chemistry and a predominately male field, I find that I need to make more of an effort to speak up when I have an idea. This is something that is so far outside my comfort zone, but I've discovered that when I put myself in these situations, I learn more, am taken more seriously, and have more confidence for the next day. I hope to see lots of women in science in the future.
Favorite Fiction Book
The Jungle, Upton Sinclair.
This is my favorite book of all time because I experience an entirely different story every time I read it. I first read The Jungle when I was 13 years old. I vividly remember the story about the horrors of meat packing and understanding why there is a Food and Drug Administration. I read it again when I was 30 and cried at least a dozen times before it was over, appreciating the gut-wrenching near hopelessness of the Lithuanian immigrant family at the center of the story.
All the Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr.
I have an affinity for World War II historical fiction. Set in France, All the Light We Cannot See is a captivating read that follows the life of a young blind girl and a German soldier during the war and how their stories intertwine. I am not sure what it is about this time in history that I find so interesting. I think it’s partially the intimate stories and struggles of the characters, or maybe trying to grasp such a dark part of history and the triumphs of those individuals. I can’t even imagine what it would have been like and the courage that was needed. It’s also a part of history that really isn’t that long ago, my grandparents lived through World War II. Without giving too much away about the story, I really just recommend everyone read it. I also loved The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society—another WWII historical fiction.
What I’m Reading Right Now
The Invention of Air, Steven Johnson.
A co-worker recommended it to me. Whenever someone recommends a book that changed their perspective or point of view on a subject, I’m in!
109 East Palace: Robert Oppenheimer and the Secret City of Los Alamos, Jennet Conant.
I recently got back from a trip to New Mexico. I visited a friend’s family in Los Alamos and learned just a small snippet of the history there and the Manhattan Project. Physicist Enrico Fermi once stayed in the house now owned by my friend’s family. As a scientist, and already having an interest in WWII, I was obviously interested to learn more. So far I am really enjoying learning about all the personalities involved.
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