Missouri Science Summer Book Club

Last Saturday marked the first day of summer. What could be a better time to enjoy the sunshine, a nice breeze and a good book? We compiled a list of suggested reads covering scientific ethics, economics, trailblazers, and more. 

Join us as we discuss these books in a private Facebook group and on live Zoom discussions every two weeks this summer. The first 15 people to sign up for each book will receive complimentary copies of the book, made possible by a Research!America Civic Engagement Microgrant.  

Email rachel@mostpolicyinitiative.org for information and to join the summer reading club. 

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind

By Yuval Noah Harare

Book Club: June 26 to July 10

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind is a thought provoking and entertaining read for any science minded individual. I highly recommend it.” – Dan English, Missouri LSEN Coordinator

Where did we come from and where are we going? Humans like us have only been around for a  blink of an eye in geological time, but we became the dominant species on the planet in no time at all. Author, Yuval Noah Harari takes us on a journey from the first species of humans thousands and millions of years ago, to us now, and what may become of us in the future.

Harari submits that what makes us the most dominant species is our ability to create ideas that everyone shares. Our language leads to gossip, gossip leads to shared myths. Later we share ideas of religion, capitalism and corporations. Our species has existed through a cognitive revolution, the agricultural revolution, and the industrial revolution. What will happen to us next is anyone’s guess. But Harari suggests human kind is destined for a biotechnological revolution where we might cheat death, becoming half human, half robot cyborgs that live forever. 

The Story of More: How We Got to Climate Change and Where to Go from Here

By Hope Jahren

Book Club: July 10 to July 24

My husband surprised me with a copy of Hope Jahren’s second book because I loved her first – Lab Girl. I can’t wait to dive in and learn from Jahren’s experiences!” – Rachel Owen, MOST Director

Hope Jahren is an award-winning scientist, a brilliant writer, a passionate teacher, and one of the seven billion people with whom we share this earth. In The Story of More, she illuminates the link between human habits and our imperiled planet. In concise, highly readable chapters, she takes us through the science behind the key inventions—from electric power to large-scale farming to automobiles—that, even as they help us, release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere like never before. She explains the current and projected consequences of global warming—from superstorms to rising sea levels—and the actions that we all can take to fight back. At once an explainer on the mechanisms of global change and a lively, personal narrative given to us in Jahren’s inimitable voice, The Story of More is the essential pocket primer on climate change that will leave an indelible impact on everyone who reads it.

Fatal Invention: How Science, Politics, and Big Business Re-create Race in the Twenty-first Century

By Dorothy Roberts

Book Club: July 24 to August 7

“So pervasive is race in the way we think about the world, it will be difficult for many readers to accept Dorothy Roberts’ argument that there is absolutely no biological basis for the social and political concept of race. With the mapping of the human genome, many thought that we would discover some scientific basis for the way we tend to identify both ourselves and others.” To read the rest of this review by David E. Spiro: New York Journal of Books

Ms. Roberts is an award-winning author for Killing the Black Body.

Code Girls: The Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers of World War II

By Liza Mundy

Book Club: August 7 to August 21

In “Code Girls,” journalist Liza Mundy tells the irresistible tale of the female cryptographers who learned to crack these diabolically difficult systems. Being chosen for this mission changed the lives of more than 10,000 young American women, took them out of their familiar surroundings and prescribed destinies, and offered them a thrilling opportunity to do urgent war work at the nation’s center.

But they took vows of secrecy, and this vast enterprise has been hidden for almost 70 years. In her research to uncover it, Mundy examined collections in the National Archives in College Park, Md., found dozens of recently declassified and archived oral histories, and tracked down 20 surviving code girls, centering on the intrepid Dot Braden Bruce, a Randolph-Macon Woman’s College graduate and high school teacher from Virginia, who is still a firecracker at 96. Mundy skillfully interweaves the history of the war and the evolution of modern military intelligence with the daily lives of the women who were racing to decipher the messages of the enemy, while dealing with bureaucratic rivalries, administrative sexism, romance and heartbreak on the home front. To read the rest of Elaine Showalter’s review visit the Washington Post Online.

Jump-Starting America

By Jonathan Gruber and Simon Johnson

Book Club: August 21 to September 4

The American economy glitters on the outside, but the reality is quite different. Job opportunities and economic growth are increasingly concentrated in a few crowded coastal enclaves. Corporations and investors are disproportionately developing technologies that benefit the wealthiest Americans in the most prosperous areas–and destroying middle class jobs elsewhere. To turn this tide, we must look to a brilliant and all-but-forgotten American success story and embark on a plan that will create the industries of the future–and the jobs that go with them.

Beginning in 1940, massive public investment generated breakthroughs in science and technology that first helped win WWII and then created the most successful economy the world has ever seen. Private enterprise then built on these breakthroughs to create new industries–such as radar, jet engines, digital computers, mobile telecommunications, life-saving medicines, and the internet– that became the catalyst for broader economic growth that generated millions of good jobs. We lifted almost all boats, not just the yachts.

Jonathan Gruber and Simon Johnson tell the story of this first American growth engine and provide the blueprint for a second. It’s a visionary, pragmatic, sure-to-be controversial plan that will lead to job growth and a new American economy in places now left behind.