The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks has been a book club favorite since it first hit shelves in 2010. Rebecca Skloot’s work of investigative journalism explores ethical issues in medical research while profiling the life of Henrietta Lacks, whose cells were taken without her consent. Here, we’ve rounded up three books perfect for groups that couldn’t put down The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.
Most of us have taken history classes over the years, but what makes The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks so interesting is that it delves into an area of history that likely wasn’t taught back when you were in school. The Radium Girls does this, too: Readers learn about the young women who worked in factories where they were exposed to radium and subsequently suffered painful illness and/or death from radium poisoning. For book clubs full of history buffs, this is a great book to pick up.
Sheri Fink’s Five Days at Memorial is a hugely impressive work of reporting about Hurricane Katrina and the impact it had on the city of New Orleans and, in particular, Memorial Medical Center. Memorial lost power, and Fink takes readers inside the hospital in the five chaotic and heartbreaking days following the storm. This book, like The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks deals extensively with ethical questions threaded into a gripping narrative.
If the medical aspects of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks are what got your group talking, we recommend picking up Complications by Atul Gawande. Gawande excels at bringing the reader inside the operating room and showing how complicated (per the title) the practice of medicine can really be. Complications details some of Gawande’s most interesting and perplexing cases as a doctor, and it’s perfect for the medically-inclined book club.