Mar 08

A Library Find: “The Disappearing Spoon”

spoonThose who follow this blog (thank you for sticking it out, by the way) know that I travel often for my job and love to listen to books on CD to keep me company.  An 11 disc book is just about the right length for many of my trips, and The Disappearing Spoon has not disappointed me.

I rarely go to the library with a specific book in mind. In fact, I have found that I rarely enjoy those that I seek out specifically.  Instead, my library seeking goes something like this…

 

Go to the library.

Return books that I have finished or have chosen not to read.

Go to the row of books on CD.

Look through the usual fiction authors that I love such as Mary Higgins Clark to see if anything new has appeared.

Side note: I took a road trip from North Dakota to Rhode Island during the summer after my sophomore year in college.  A friend lent me several Mary Higgins Clark books on tape (no CD player in my car “back” then).  They are the perfect companion except very late at night as one crosses the state of Pennsylvania. As the dew-infested fog takes over the early morning (and one has had little sleep), they are pretty scary.

Back to the bookshelves.

If no fiction books pop out, I then go to the non-fiction to see if there is something “fun” that I could learn. 

Side note: Malcolm Gladwell is always a great find, but I have now read almost all of his books.  I think that I still need to read Blink.  Ok (as the huz likes to point out) – I have not read the books.  I have listened to them.

Non-fiction is a huge genre, and one cannot tell what one will find in this part of the shelves.  Last week, as I chose books for my trek north earlier this week (yes – in the slowest moving Minnesota snow storm of the season), The Disappearing Spoon stood out as a possibility.

I have decided that the trick to sucking in readers for these books is to have a great title along with a descriptive back cover. 

True here.

The Disappearing Spoon is a book for smart people (or people who want to be smart – that’s me)…at the very least, one needs to have an understanding of the fact that the periodic table exists.  It delves into the history and the science behind the creation of the periodic table, but more than that – it covers some of the mysteries and scandals that came out of its development.

While I have not had a chemistry class since college, the book was accessible enough to me (I brushed some cobwebs from parts of my brain that had stored information form “Chemistry for Non-Chemistry Majors”).  This means that most people could probably glean something from the book.

Side note: I took the above-mentioned chemistry class in the last semester of my senior year in college.  It was the same year that I missed several days due to having our first child. I would not have made it through that class without the help of my friend Heidi who tutored me for hours.

Another side note: the entire point of generals in college is to help us discover what we might want to do when we grow up (as well as to develop well-rounded citizens).  Allowing me to take the chemistry class at the end of my college career was a huge disservice to me.  What if I was actually a budding chemist who might have won a Nobel Prize some day?  All of that is lost now…hopes dashed against the wall of poor scheduling.

It is unreal how many rabbit trails I have taken in this post!

I have not finished the book (I have disc remaining), but I have heard the information which drew me to the book: why lithium works to stabilize bipolar illness.  I listened intently to the first 8 discs just sure that – at any moment – the author would delve into the chemistry behind the psychological illness whose tendencies live (and sometimes rage) inside of me.

The opening of disc 9 dove right into what I wanted to hear, and I feel that – like no other time – I finally understand bipolar tendencies.  The author stated that sunlight stimulates proteins to attach to DNA in our brains.  This attachment creates our awake state.  Darkness at the end of the day causes the proteins to fall off, and we need to sleep.   

The proteins hang on to the DNA in the brains of people with bipolar illness; thus, the continued awake state – or mania.  Eventually the body and mind have had enough, and the depressive side comes in.

Lithium breaks the bonds between the proteins and the DNA.  During the day, sunlight helps to keep the bonds together, but – once darkness comes – the lithium wins out. This resets the circadian rhythm and essentially balances out the person’s awake and sleep cycle.

So cool!

That is what I am reading…what about you?  What are you reading?  What is the coolest thing you have learned lately?

PS: If you want to know why the book is named The Disappearing

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