Give Me Your Hand by Megan Abbott and Unthinkable by Helen Thomson
This month I’ve read two books about science and the brain’s influence on our actions and perception of the world.
Give Me Your Hand is a taut, atmospheric thriller set in a lab which is studying PMDD (an extreme form of PMS). Kit, the only female grad student in the lab, is set reeling after a dark stranger from her past joins the team. This is an intelligent, well-written book that examines politics in science while keeping you on the edge of your seat.
In Unthinkable, Helen Thomson travels the world to meet some of the people behind the unusual brains she has read about for so long in scientific journals. She talks to them about what it’s like to live with their different perceptions and experiences – which to them are the only normal they’ve ever known. A great mix of scientific research and compassionate journalism, Thomson takes us inside the heads of nine fascinating people.
Blue Horses; A Thousand Mornings; and Felicity by Mary Oliver
I had never heard of the American poet Mary Oliver until Blue Horses, a slim volume of her work, arrived at our shop. The very first poem that I read took my breath away. Oliver’s poems are direct and vulnerable, casually profound, like chatting with an old friend who just “gets it”. One moment, you’re lazily shooting the breeze, trading gossip and jokes. The next, your friend says something that hits you in the chest with its warmth and insight, and the spinning cogs of your mind pause to let the precious words land. Perhaps you feel tender and exposed, with an ache that is both pain and joy at once. Two more volumes of Oliver’s poetry – A Thousand Mornings and Felicity – have since arrived in the shop and similarly bowled me over. I imagine I’ll be evangelically quoting and recommending her work for years to come.
The Animal Kingdom by Randal Ford
This is a book to pore over selfishly and unapologetically, with no regard for time whatsoever! I know it’s said that you should never judge a book by its cover… but for this book I make an exception. Schika the beautiful tigress whose portrait features on the front cover is only the beginning of the wondrous and breathtakingly beautiful photographs to be found within its pages. Each image is so exquisite in its detail that you could lose yourself in it happily for days (definitely not an exaggeration). The care and love that has been taken to put together this collection is evident on every page. There is also a fantastic section at the end of the book where you can read more about each animal themselves and get to know a little of their story, as well as the artist Randal Ford’s recollections of the sitting. If you are at all an animal lover, a nature lover or simply someone who enjoys the art of photography itself, then do your eyes a favour and ask us for this book.