Staff Pick

Davis came to immunology from physics and, like visions of outer space, his picture of the human immune system—the little we actually know of it—is dizzying, intriguing, and strange. It was only circa 1989 that we began to realize and explore the complexity of how the body fights disease, and this book is as much the story of the science at work as it is what the research has revealed. Davis takes us into the minds of the pioneering biologists as well as into their labs, highlighting what led to various discoveries, from the initial puzzle of how immune cells know what foreign particles to attack (germs, not food; but only harmful germs, not beneficial parts of the body’s microbiome), to whether, and then how, the immune system can fight cancer. But even before investigating the mysteries of auto-immune diseases and the effects of stress, sleep, and age on the immune system, how do scientists choose what questions to ask? When do they pursue “curiosity-based” rather than hypothesis-based projects? How do they design studies? How do they recognize true discoveries—and if they make one, how do they know what to do with it next? Emphasizing that “no scientist is an island,” Davis follows the strings of achievements and failures (always at least as valuable as the successes) that have led to radical reinterpretations of how the immune system works. His explanations are rich in technical detail, but always clear: as he recreates the revelatory moments in the labs, he puts the reader right there at the microscope, on the edge of discovery. I was surprised how quickly I became (temporarily) fluent in the language of dendritic cells, receptors, cytokines, and so on. Davis also clearly defines more familiar terms such as interferons and interleukins, explains cortisol’s effects and how it’s related to cortisone, and flags the truly revolutionary insights in this history of sometimes baffling eureka moments.

The Beautiful Cure: The Revolution in Immunology and What It Means for Your Health Cover Image
ISBN: 9780226371009
Availability: In Stock—Click for Locations
Published: University of Chicago Press - September 28th, 2018

Staff Pick

Resisting the easy narrative which many memoirs follow in dealing with chronic illness, Khakpour reenacts the struggle not toward resolution, but simply toward diagnosis itself. Organized by setting and suffused with uncertainty and a sense of dislocation, Sick is a story of transformation and struggle that refuses defensiveness or moralizing. Placing herself in a history of women who have been treated as unreliable witnesses to the chaos inside of them, the book also becomes, in its own way, a feminist consideration of illness and treatment.

Sick: A Memoir Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062428738
Availability: In Stock—Click for Locations
Published: Harper Perennial - June 5th, 2018

Staff Pick

In How To Survive a Plague, David France is both a witness and a journalist, documenting the movement that fought to make AIDS a manageable disease rather than a death sentence. The book is not just about the collective movement, but also about individual activists, people who were faced with something unprecedented and had to fight against neglect, discrimination, and ignorance to save their lives and lives of their friends. This history is And The Band Played On for the new generation, a behind-the-scenes comprehensive work of journalism and a deeply personal account. In its depiction of activists’ struggle, it is also an inspiring book, showing us what can be done by determined and desperate people in unfriendly and uncertain times.

How to Survive a Plague: The Inside Story of How Citizens and Science Tamed AIDS Cover Image
ISBN: 9780307700636
Availability: Special Order—Subject to Availability
Published: Knopf - November 29th, 2016

How to Survive a Plague: The Story of How Activists and Scientists Tamed AIDS Cover Image
ISBN: 9780307745439
Availability: In Stock—Click for Locations
Published: Vintage - October 3rd, 2017