The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks: The best book I've read in quite awhile

You know that feeling you get when a book captivates you from the very first page? For me, it’s pretty much all-consuming. I’ll miss my stop on the train, never hearing the conductor bellow out my town. I’ll stay up, even though I’m exhausted. When I’m reading something I really love, I just want to lose myself, utterly and completely, in the pages. (Sometimes I go into the bedroom and shut the door, telling my teenagers they can disturb me only if there’s blood involved.) That kind of reading can be almost bittersweet — sometimes, as I near the end, I consciously try to slow down so I don’t finish too quickly. I’ve been lucky enough to have the feeling twice recently — first with Brady Udall’s new novel, The Lonely Polygamist, which doesn’t come out until April (sorry), and then with Rebecca Skloot’s The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, reviewed in this week’s issue.

How about the rest of you? What’s the last really terrific book you read?


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  • Meghan

    The last awesome book I’ve read was Running With Scissors by Augusten Burroughs. It’s become one of my new favorite books.

  • B

    WAY late on reading Harry Potter, but I did last fall. Best decision ever! Fabulous. I recommend Nicole Baart. She writes exquisite faith-based fiction.

    • DCM

      I loved Harry, too. But read it eons ago. Just finished Year of the Horse by Justin Allen because it got a comparison to HP from a writer I really admire. It is great, too!

  • Ben

    “Wolf Hall”, by Hilary Mantel. The writing is extraordinary. I’m looking forward to the planned sequel.

    • Mary

      I just finished Wolf Hall and loved it. Glad to hear a sequel is planned.

  • CH

    Jonathon Safran Foer’s “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.” That book slayed me.

  • neraclope

    I loved Henrietta’s story too. It was heartbreaking and inspirational. I also like the Sookie Stackhouse book series.

  • Mallen

    I just finished The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks too, and I felt the same way. What a great book — I almost couldn’t believe it was true.

  • Jim

    I am SO glad you are talking about this book. I cannot put it down. It’s part history, part science, part equity, and full of pain and drama. I so feel for the Lacks family. I hope they have found peace now that the record is out about their brave mother.

  • meels

    The author gave a great interview on NPR’s Fresh Air. Made me want to read the book!

    • ks

      agreed :)

  • Allison

    Black Swan Green by David Mitchell. I loved the main character of Jason Taylor and immediately thought this book should be required reading in high school so kids can learn that captivating characters, page-turners, and good award- winning writing are not mutually exclusive.

  • anonymous

    Heir to Sevenwaters by Juliet Marillier. An incredibly vivid and involving story.

  • Anna

    I just finished ‘The Post-Birthday World’ by Lionel Shriver (an E.W. Best Fiction Book of the Year). It’s a wonderful book, my second time reading it. Its protagonist is a woman named Irina, who finds herself at a crossroads involving a dashing snooker player named Ramsey Acton. She makes a choice – she either pursues him, or stays in a relationship with her stable, supportive, yet slightly passionless partner Lawrence. It’s here the narrative splits, and follows both her paths. It’s brilliantly written, both sides full and complete tales on their own, both filled with complications (passion vs. security, the downfall and upside of each choice). A great, great book.

  • LoveMeSomeBooks

    I just finished “A Reliable Wife” and must say that book was awesome. A great read from start to finish. I love books that transport you to another place and time. The characters and the story were amazing. Worth every penny.

  • VL

    I’m really enjoying The Help. Highly readable book set during the Civil Rights Era in Mississippi and narrated by 3 incredibly compelling voices. Not like anything else I’ve ever read. Love this book!

    • Ally

      That’s the last book I read that I truely loved. I have recommended it to so many people. I just finished “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” and “The Girl Who Played with Fire”…they were both entertaining, but not terribly memorable. I like to throw really light books in sometimes, so I’m reading “Beautiful Creatures”. It is okay if you liked Twilight (make the narrator a boy obsessed with a girl who is a “caster” not a vampire), but it’s not as good as say a Harry Potter.

  • arielle

    i read mostly old lit but the last newish book that totally captured me was “the road” by cormac mcarthy. his terse writing style captures a stark apocalyptic landscape that feels utterly real…hard to put that book down.

    • Heidi


  • liz

    “This is Where I Leave You.”

    Can’t think of author; it was reviewed in ET….about a dysfunctional family…touching and funny!

    • alex

      Jonathan Tropper – and yes, amazing. he’s a fantastic writer

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