Monday, February 20, 2012

Allow me to introduce myself: I am Julia and I have a cold.

Hello, fine followers of the Brookline Blogsmith. I am Julia, resident of our famous Card and Gift section and newest contributor to our lovely blog. I like cats, Japanese animated films, sewing, and not being sick. But alas, winter has bestowed upon me a cold that just won't quit. Thus, in the spirit of sickness, I will share with you some of my favorite books about disease--and some items to help you deal with it.

Siddhartha Mukherjee's The Emperor of All Maladies doesn't really need an introduction, as it's already won the Pulitzer Prize and been a bestseller since its first release in November 2010. But man, can this guy write. Cancer isn't exactly the happiest of topics to spend your time reading about, but if anyone can make cancer look good it's this guy (I mean, not good, but... well, you know). From its very beginnings to the most recent research on the disease, Mukherjee covers pretty much everything. You'll finish this book feeling about as knowledgeable about cancer as you can be, aside from actually being a doctor or researcher. For me, this book just makes me feel better about the fact that I only suffer from a bad case of the sniffles.

And if cancer isn't enough to sate your appetite for the grotesque plagues upon mankind, check this out. David Grann's The Lost City of Z isn't specifically about sickness, but heck, if getting lost in the rain forest doesn't scream "creepy, deadly diseases and insects," I don't know what does. The book covers the history of one Col. Percy Fawcett, a member of the Royal Geographical Society who, in the early 20th century, made multiple trips into the Amazon, mapping out this mysterious part of the world, befriending natives, and displaying his superhuman powers of resisting any and all diseases that one can acquire in the rain forest (he later mysteriously disappeared searching for an ancient civilization, which is the main topic of the book, but that's beside the point right now). Needless to say, exaggeration was common in early explorers' descriptions of the flora, fauna and natives of this area, but stories of the hardships of Fawcett's unlucky companions (almost all of which contracted horrifying and nearly fatal diseases/infections on your journey) might just turn your stomach... so I'll spare the details for you readers who are faint of heart. Why hundreds of people of people would risk--and sometimes lose--their lives exploring this place is beyond me, but it makes a fascinating tale.

Now Julia, you may ask, do you only read such morbid texts? Well, I reply: all right, not everything that catches my attention is so gross. I will leave you with one more book, one that offers a glimmer of hope for that banes of human existence. Wendy William's book Kraken: The Curious, Exciting, and Slightly Disturbing Science of Squid gives a surprising amount of information relevant to us vertebrates. Okay, so the word "disturbing" may be in the title, but really, doesn't it intrigue you that researching the neurons of squid could help find a cure for Alzheimer's disease? That their brain cells are identical to ours, but we currently have no clue how to measure the intelligence of squid and their cousin the octopus? My inner nerd is showing here, but cephalopods are pretty friggin' cool. So, when you feel like learning about some of the most fascinating sea creatures out there, check out this book. Seriously.

For those of you concerned about catching my germs the next time you come to peruse our shelves, worry not; I have two days off coming up, and come Thursday I should be fit as a fiddle and ready to help you with all your card and gift needs. Tonight I plan to go home and heal up with some of our great gift products perfect for a relaxing evening. I'm thinking one of our Paddywax tin candles in a variety of calming fragrances; I'm partial to Paperwhite. These soy-based candles burn cleanly and last in the ballpark of 45 hours, so I'll be treated to relaxing, non-overpowering fragrance for as long as I want.

While I'm at it, perhaps I'll treat myself to a nice cup of hot tea from one of our Keep Calm and Carry On mugs--a mantra that applies quite appropriately to me and my fellow Card & Gift teammates, especially during our huge 50% off sale. And hey, last time I checked we even had a couple of these items on our sale tables (only slightly dinged up), so get them while they last!

Well fine readers, thank you for indulging in the rantings poor sick giftseller. Next time I promise to talk about something slightly less gross. I hope this will be the start of a very fond (and healthy) friendship.

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