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What are YOU reading? Top recommendations and reviews from Digital Science

8th September 2023
 | Simon Linacre

Friday 8 September is UNESCO International Literacy Day

To celebrate the world of books, colleagues at Digital Science have shared their recommendations and reviews of books that have interested and inspired them over summer.

Currently reading The Earth Transformed by Peter Frankopan, which takes a sweeping look at the ways humanity and climate change have impacted each other (leading to development and demise) over time.

Heather Luciano

Review: Freedom to Think: Protecting a Fundamental Human Right in the Digital Age by Susie Alegre.

Strolling through St Pancras Station, London waiting on my train, I popped into a bookshop looking for a specific title. Unsurprisingly, they didn’t have the obscure book I wanted, so I perused a bit more. Two addictions consume my life: tea and books. If I go into either type of store, I never walk out empty handed. I left with Freedom to Think.

“Human rights law guarantees freedom of thought, conscience, belief and opinion….” This book lays out the laws to the educated reader giving us the words to understand and speak about our most sacred freedom.

Alegre illuminates the art of mind control by what is and is not done to people. Like learning to paint – you must think as much about what is there as what is not – the negative space created to poignantly focus the observer. Through human-developed algorithms and strategize investments with little legal oversight, humanity is threatened as much by what we see as what we are excluded from seeing.

“Freedom of thought is about the space to think before you share.” We need that space. But no one will give it to us; it must be claimed for ourselves.

Give this book a think.

Leslie McIntosh

If you’re looking for creepy but not gruesome, I recommend T. Kingfisher’s The Hollow Places. I also just finished her book A House with Good Bones but didn’t find it as hauntingly bizarre.

Sara Gonzalez

Sasha Gӧbbels

I read Munroe Bergdorf’s autobiography, Transitional. Bergdorf is one of the very few transgender PoC fashion models (among many other things she does). She has been the campaign face for L’Oreal (before they sacked her for political posts on Instagram in 2017). The book is less about being transgender and more about what she learned on her journey. About racism, equality, being in the spotlight of public attention and finally purpose in life: “Nowhere feels like home when it’s you that you’re running from.”

Sasha Gӧbbels

Book cover

Review: The Book Eaters by Sunyi Dean.

I started a book club with other East Asian women to explore Asian history and Asian authors. My favorite this year is The Book Eaters by Sunyi Dean, who is a biracial autistic woman. It features Devon, a member of a secretive humanoid species/society that subsists on physically consuming books, while retaining the knowledge within. However, she gives birth to a son who has a mutation that makes him prefer human brains instead of books. We follow her struggle to help and protect him. The result is a riveting mashup of science fiction, fantasy, horror with an undercurrent of Margaret Atwood.

Jamie Liu

Review: Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz.

Great book for puzzle and mystery fans, this is a compelling story within a story. An editor receives a famous author’s latest manuscript and she expects all will be the same as his previous award winning books. But all is not the same in the book, nor in her life, after receiving the manuscript minus the last chapter. What happened to the last chapter? The book weaves in and out of the first story and the ‘book within the book’, and although the story in the manuscript is a traditional British Manor Murder Mystery, reminiscent of Agatha Christie and Sherlock Holmes, the detective Atticus Pünd solves mysteries in his own unique way.

This is a clever book with great twists and a beautiful voice. Best of all, the ending is completely unexpected. Great fun.

Carola Blackwood

Currently reading Braiding Sweetgrass. Beautifully written nonfiction which explores the intersections of Indigenous knowledge and plant science. Lots of food for thought for those interested in the culture of science!

Also recommend The Priory of the Orange Tree if you like things with dragons.

—Emily Alagha

I recently finished bell hooks’ The Will to Change, which I recommend to anybody wanting a more complete critical approach to understanding patriarchy and its effects. That it is a book written with love and care, and is in hooks’ unique and inviting colloquial style, makes her argument all the more impactful: though men have clear rewards in patriarchy, we are all ultimately its victims and must attend to the role we all play in perpetuating and sustaining patriarchal culture.

Adrien De Sutter

Simon Linacre

Review: The Colony by Audrey Magee.

I was fascinated by the premise of this book, which on the one hand was a slightly odd tale of two outsiders spending the summer on a remote Irish island, but was also intertwined with the Troubles in Northern Ireland in the 1970s as well as offering an allegory of the impact of colonial rule. Not only does the author create fascinating narratives on all these levels, she also manages to build tension through a slow burn of a plot, portraying very real characters as well as a wicked dark humour. All this combined to offer a very rich reading experience with a heartbreaking ending to boot. Very highly recommended.

Simon Linacre

Currently in the middle of two books  first is Understanding Privacy by Heather Burns. I’m “In the middle of” because the dead tree edition hasn’t arrived yet, but can’t help but read ahead in the ePub. Picked this up ‘cos I’ve been following Heather’s engaging posts on the birdsite. Nearly finished The Malevolent Seven by Sebastien de Castell ‘cos I’m a sucker for catchy titles  it’s (absolutely not!) beardy wizard fantasy stuff, but needed something to while away the hours as a recent guest at the Royal Infirmary. A fun read!

Jamie MacIsaac

Review: Lark Ascending by Silas House.

In Lark Ascending, Silas House strikes a poignant balance between hope and grief over the state of the world (present and future). It’s a dystopian tale but not a sci-fi one, featuring a heartbreaking queer love story and one of the best dog characters ever written. Left me with lots of feelings and lots to think about – as have House’s other novels. I‘ve been reading a lot of what might loosely fall into the genre of ‘climate fiction’ over the past few years, and this one really stands out.

Lisa Curtin

On my list (for a very summer-fiction entry) is the recently published Somebody’s Fool by Richard Russo.

Tyler Ruse

Having also watched (and survived) OppenheimerEve of Destruction is on my list. Might be grim summer reading though!

Niall Cunniffe

For a lighter read this summer I went with The Geography of Bliss by Eric Weiner. A great book for the beach or downtime during the summer.

Shannon Davis