Hey, Whatcha Reading? with Margaret Lesh

Hey everyone! In this time of crises, viruses, and flattening curves, some of you may find that you have more reading time! This month, I asked my friend Margaret Lesh about what she’s reading. Margaret is an author and her books will be free on Kindle until March 22nd! Here is her Amazon page.

1. What are you currently reading?

A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson (Crown Publishing, 2010).

2. How far along in the book are you?

I’m a quarter of the way through. I’ve had to renew my loan (online through my Libby app), since I’ve been reading this one slowly. It’s denser than my usual reads, so I’m not blowing through it as quickly as I usually do.

3. What is it about?

Bryson, an engaging writer with a strong science background, starts at the beginning. Way back. About 14 billion years, give or take a billion. Starting with the Big Bang, he takes us through the formation of the cosmos, our solar system, the Earth, etc., with short bios of the people who founded different areas of the sciences: Geology, Astronomy, Chemistry, Math, Paleontology, among others. I enjoy Bryson’s writing—it’s full of fun little tidbits and factoids. For instance, the reader learns that Sir Isaac Newton, one of the most famous scientists and thinkers of all time, once shoved a needle into his eyeball, jamming it around until he hit bone, just out of curiosity. Newton also stared at the sun until he could no longer. Incredibly enough, neither experiment affected his vision. Weirdo!

Another scientist of note I learned about: Mary Anning. A seaside villager with no formal education nor social status, Mary made some of the most significant discoveries to date in the field of paleontology, uncovering ancient marine fossils such as the ichthyosaur and plesiosaur. (She spent ten years unearthing one intact plesiosaur fossil. Can you imagine?)

4. What drew you to this book?

I’d finished reading two other of Bryson’s books—A Walk in the Woods, and Down Under in a Sunburned Country. I enjoyed his writing so much, I thought I’d give this one a go. Also, my science background is admittedly thin, and I always enjoy learning new things. I also thought it would give me something to talk to my young scientist son about, helping to better understand his world.

5. Who would you recommend this book to?

Anyone with a curiosity about how we ended up here, at this spot in the universe, and how the different fields of science evolved. If you’re interested in the size of an atom (inconceivably small) and cool things like that, or if you need an obscure tidbit for the next cocktail party—you know, after we get through this period of social distancing…

And a book recommendation, if you’re stuck at home right now: Over the holidays, I was home sick with a nasty virus (sound familiar?) and spent days shuttling between my bed and the couch. A good escape book I found during this period of confinement was Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, Cheryl Strayed’s 2006 bestseller of her trek across the Pacific Crest Trail in which she lugged a much-too-heavy backpack paired with ill-fitting, constantly pinching hiking boots. (Warning: much of her book is devoted to describing the nasty state of her feet and toenails because of said boots.) Struggling to cope with the death of her mother, her marriage in tatters, Cheryl set off. She wrote about her adventures with such wit and raw honesty. As I lay there feeling sorry for myself, I could at least vicariously travel with her in spirit. It was the perfect escape read.

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