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Texts on the beach: What scientists recommend for summer reading

Jane Goodall, primatologist and U.N. Messenger of Peace, is founder of the Arlington-based Jane Goodall Institute.

Fiction:

-- "On the Beach" by Nevil Shute (1957). "I read it at a time when the nuclear holocausts of Nagasaki and Hiroshima were much on my mind. It is chilling, and he is a great storyteller."

-- "The Day of the Triffids" by John Wyndham (1951). "It has some sad commentaries on human nature. . . . It makes me think of all the other forms life could have taken."

-- The space trilogy by C.S. Lewis, beginning with "Out of the Silent Planet" (1938). "The descriptions of colors and scents and sounds, unknown to us on Earth, are brilliant."

Nonfiction:

-- "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" by Jean-Dominique Bauby (1997). "This captures so vividly the horror that we feel to contemplate being trapped inside the body, unable to communicate. It is a vivid reminder of the strength and ingenuity of the mind: Imagine devising an alphabet with blinks. Quite an extraordinary book."

-- "The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat: And Other Clinical Tales" by Oliver Sacks (1985). "Again, this illustrates how much we still have to learn about the workings of our minds. Quite enthralling and sometimes very, very poignant."

Mae C. Jemison, a physician who in 1992 became the first African American woman to travel in space, founded the Dorothy Jemison Foundation, a nonprofit educational organization named after her mother.

Fiction:

-- "Kindred" by Octavia E. Butler (1979). "An accomplished, modern African American woman time-travels back to the pre-Civil War South and has to cope with slavery, ignorance and brutality. Growing up, I realized slavery had been abolished less than 100 years before. I wondered how my attitude of 'I can do anything" and 'I'm not putting up with that' would have gotten me through."

-- "The Sparrow" by Mary Doria Russell (1995). "Humans travel to another planet and encounter two intelligent species that evolved side-by-side . . . a fascinating story."


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