I ain't afraid of no books.

I love to read. I like to read lots of different books, most of which are fiction. I think I generally like fiction better because at the end I know that no matter what happened in the book, it wasn't real. Those characters I connected to are not real people, no matter how real they may have seemed. When they die or have something horrible happen to them I am sad because one of my new friends just got hurt, but at the end of the day I can separate the fact from the fiction and be perfectly fine with the outcome.
That being said, I tend to stay away from non-fiction.This is mostly because I know that I can't just fake my way out of the sorrow and heartache I have for the characters in whatever non-fiction book I may be reading because they aren't characters at all. At the end of the book when a character dies or has some kind of horrible circumstance, it is real. Every person you meet in a non-fiction book is out there somewhere, living their life and suffering their pains (if they have them).
I don't know why, but I have been on a non-fiction kick lately (I define kick here as having read two non-fiction books in the last three months that weren't assigned by a professor). Perhaps this has something to do with the fact that I am growing up and opening myself up to the strife of the real world. I am okay with reading about real issues for pleasure (does it count as reading for pleasure if it makes you cry?) and accepting that they are real. I might not be able to save the world and solve the issues presented, but I can make myself a little more aware of them and help in what little ways I can.
The two books that have prompted this musing are Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman and The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. I highly recommend both of them (one of which I already mentioned in another blog in May) and think that many of you will enjoy them.
Orange is the New Black is about a woman who enters the federal prison system ten years after committing the crime of which she was convicted. The book chronicles the interesting make up of the group of women in the low-security prison she is sent to and brings up some very interesting issues with how the system is handled. The book reads like a letter from a good friend, and at the end of it I felt like I knew some of the women personally. The whole thing is made even better knowing that Kerman now works with non-profits to improve how they use media to get their messages out.
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is about cells taken from a woman in 1951 that have since been grown and regrown in the billions and used in extensive medical research. These cells were the first human cells to successfully live outside of the human body and have led to the polio vaccine, HPV research, and countless other valuable medical miracles. The main issue is that they were taken without the consent of Henrietta Lacks or her family. I am not a science person at all, but Skloot was able to write all of the technical science in a way that I had no problem understanding. I was able to get past the science and look at the issue of cell ownership, how research has been done in the past, and a very moving story about how Henrietta's family has dealt with finding out years later that a part of their mother was not only still alive but very important to medicine. Like Kerman, Skloot has taken the issue to heart and formed the Henrietta Lacks foundation, and proceeds from the book are donated to ensure that Lacks' grand children will have resources to go to college.
Moral of the story: don't be afraid of non-fiction. I don't think I am anymore.
Moral of the story 2.0: go buy both of these books. They are wonderful and you won't regret it.

Seven Things I Learned This Week #18 (Desert edition!)

Things to remember after moving to the desert:
1. You will start to get tanner no matter how much SPF 75 sunscreen you use. I'm okay with being a bit more tan/less ghostly pale that I was, but it seems a bit ridiculous that even after generously applying and reapplying sunscreen I am still noticably darker.
2. 100 degrees is a nice break from the heat.
3. Where shade in the heat didn't make that much of a difference in the midwest because the humidity was so high you always felt like suffocating here it means the difference between life and death.
4. STOP FORGETTING TO PUT THE REFLECTOR THINGY IN THE DASH OF YOUR CAR SARA. One day my luck will have run out and they will find a baked Sara souflee because I forgot to put the sunshield up in my car when I ran into the grocery store.
5. Upper arm strength is key when you have to carry in all of the groceries ASAP so they don't die in the trunk of your car.
6. Do all of your baking at night. I started baking a chocolate cake after 9 because this way the house won't be unnecessarily heated during the day when it is god awful hot outside.
And last but certainly not least...
7. I really am a desert rat at heart. By far the most beautiful sunsets and natural scenery I can recall seeing in my time.