The Sports Gene By David Epstein
Do you remember the star athlete at your high school? You know the one who excelled at every sport with ease? Maybe he or she was a natural. Or was it just disciplined training? For as long as humans have been competing, we’ve been debating nature vs. nurture. David Epstein, senior writer for Sports Illustrated, takes a look at both sides of the debate in The Sports Gene.
Since the sequencing of the human genome, scientists have been able to better understand the relationship between biological endowments and athletic training. This research sheds light on why the discipline to train may be innate and the lightning fast reaction of a baseball batter may be learned. Epstein also explores sensitive questions concerning race and gender. Are athletes of some ethnicities naturally better runners? Should males and females be separated in athletic competitions? Should kids be genetically tested for athletic ability? And could this genetic testing determine who might be more at risk for injury?
This book is a resource for educators and parents as well as a captivating read for the casual reader. Epstein has pulled together scientific research, interviews and anecdotes that are practical and engaging. It seems we finally have a basis to really understand athleticism in a holistic way. We may never have a definitive answer as to why one excells at sports and another is unremarkable, but Epstein’s book points to the potential that we all have. Reviewed by Lisa Newman
Shouting Won’t Help By Katherine Bouton
Shouting Won’t Help caught my attention because it deals with a topic seldom written about or discussed: hearing loss. It is estimated that about 17 percent of the American population suffers from some degree of hearing loss. This book is born out of Katherine Bouton’s own experience with hearing loss at the age of thirty.
Because of her own personal experience, Bouton examines the stigma surrounding hearing loss and why it still persists in the information age. Only one in five Americans who needs a hearing aid uses one. It took Bouton twenty years to use one. Even when hearing loss is aided with hearing aids or cochlear implants, it is not exactly the same as “natural hearing.” Bouton also writes sensitively about the psychological effects of hearing loss and how it affected her work life at one of the nation’s most prestigious magazines, The New Yorker.
In the final chapters, Bouton looks at treatment options and research areas with leading experts on hearing loss. Although still not perfect, hearing aids and cochlear implants are now coming closer to mimicking the human ear, and are expected to improve even more in the future. In addition, communication technology, sometimes criticized for its tendency to isolate and encourage shallow conversation, will remain an enriching tool for the hearing impaired.
Through Bouton’s personal stories and scientific inquiry, Shouting Won’t Help is a well-rounded exploration for an American population, with an increasing incidence of hearing loss, or concern about a loved one who is experiencing it. Reviewed by Lisa Newman
Moonwalking with Einstein by Joshua Foer
Whether you’re young or old, we all know the frustration that ensues when memory fails us. It’s easy to find techniques on how to improve memory, but while researching for an article on memory competitions, Joshua Foer decided to formally train his memory and see if he could actually win the USA Memory Championship.
Moonwalking with Einstein is Foer’s narrative as he trains for the competition, learning ancient techniques that Cicero and medieval scholars used to memorize entire books. I found myself fascinated with Foer’s efforts while also learning about what memory is, what can go wrong with it, how we can improve memory, along with a history of memorization techniques.
This is a book you’ll pass on to family and friends, and don’t be surprised if you end up putting yourself and others to a memory challenge. Joshua Foer did better than he ever imagined; he memorized 52 cards in one minute and 40 seconds, winning the 2006 “speed cards” event while setting a new record for the USA Memory Championship. Reviewed by Lisa Newman
KID’S BOOK SHELF
A Book of Sleep By Il Sung Na Grades K – 2
Na’s colorfully illustrated book is one that children will likely turn to again and again. The text is sparse but soothing in its rhythms: “When the sky grows dark / and the moon glows bright / everyone goes to sleep … except for the watchful owl.” In the double-page spreads that follow, we are introduced to a variety of animals at rest (“Some sleep peacefully alone, / While others sleep all together, huddled close at night”). Throughout the pages of the book, a variety of sleeping creatures are guarded by the “watchful owl.” Children will enjoy finding him, whether he is tucked between two huddling penguins or perched on the branch of a distant tree. Finally, the sun comes up, and “the tired owl” gets his turn to sleep.
The Day the Crayons Quit By Drew Daywalt, Illustrated by Oliver Jeffers Ages 3 – 7
Drew Daywalt’s clever story of a box of crayons who launch a letter-writing campaign to express their individual concerns and voice their frustrations. The combination of text and Oliver Jeffers’ illustrations are perfectly suited to the colors’ personalities: yellow and orange demand to know the true color of the sun; green – clearly the people pleaser of the bunch – is happy with his workload of crocodiles, trees, and dinosaurs; the peach crayon wants to know why his wrapper was torn off, leaving him naked and in hiding; blue is exhausted and, well, worn out; and pink wants a little more paper time. The result of their efforts is colorful creativity and rib-tickling fun for the readers.
Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes By Eric Litwin, Illustrated by James Dean Ages 4 – 8
Pete the Cat is a long-legged navy blue feline, who goes walking down the street wearing his brand new white shoes. Along the way, his shoes change from white to red to blue to brown to WET as he steps in piles of strawberries, blueberries and other big messes! But no matter what color his shoes turn along the way, Pete keeps movin’ and groovin’ and singing his song…very proud of his fine shoes.
Journey By Aaron Becker Ages 4 – 8
Readers of Harold and the Purple Crayon will find that the similarities in Journey are quite undeniable, but while following the familiar theme Journey is not an unspectacular imitation but actually complements the classic. Aaron Becker’s balance of color and beautifully detailed illustrations capture the eye and effortlessly tell the story of a lonely girl who uses a red crayon to draw her way into a magical adventure. As the journey comes full circle, a purple bird – the work of another imagination – opens the way to another wonderful adventure: friendship.
All books featured in this edition of BookShelf and Kids BookShelf are available at Lemuria Books.