Looking for a Good Read? Two End-of-Summer Book Recommendations

This transcript has been edited for clarity.

It’s Dr Kathy Miller from Indiana University. I’m here with a couple of end-of-summer book club recommendations for you. I realize many people think about the beach read or the pool read as being something light, fluffy, and entertaining. I tend to reach to science books that are entertaining and satisfy my inner geek.

There are two books that I want to point you to that I’ve been thinking about recently. One of these is an old favorite, published back in 1998, by Robert Bazell. You’ll remember Robert as a former nightly news science reporter. His book is Her-2: The Making of Herceptin, a Revolutionary Treatment for Breast Cancer.

If you’ve ever wondered how we came to Herceptin, what all the trials and tribulations were, and how we almost didn’t have this powerful therapy for breast cancer, this book is a sure winner. For those of us who do clinical research, it is a fascinating and disturbing read in many ways. I highly recommend it. This book was made into a Lifetime made-for-TV movie. The book is fabulous, but the movie is absolutely terrible. Get the book; skip the movie.

The next one is a more recent book that I just finished. This one is by Walter Isaacson, another well-known science writer. His book is The Code Breaker: Jennifer Doudna, Gene Editing, and the Future of the Human Race. You’ve been hearing about CRISPR-Cas9, gene editing, and designer babies. This book will take you deep into the basic science world of this very early discovery that really came from wanting to understand how bacteria protect themselves against viruses.

This story starts with yogurt. I’ll leave it at that and let you read the book to understand how this story unfolded. It’s a powerful lesson in the importance of basic science research and how those discoveries can take us to places that were never anticipated when the work first started. There is also much to think about regarding how we will use this powerful tool and who should decide how we use it.

Check out both these books, whether you’re headed to your favorite beach or your favorite armchair. I hope you enjoy. I’ll be back with you again soon.

Kathy D. Miller, MD, is associate director of clinical research and co-director of the breast cancer program at the Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center at Indiana University. Her career has combined both laboratory and clinical research in breast cancer.

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