Why Fish Don’t Exist: A Story of Loss, Love, and the Hidden Order of Life by Lulu Miller
This book, at first glance, may seem incredibly boring. I mean, a story about classifying and studying fish from the early 20th century? But after my first read, I wondered if it was all a dream, so I reread it. This book is about science and filled with mystery, chaos, life, death, murder, the ugly side of history, changing history and real-life struggles.
I rarely read a book twice, but this one is worth it. Pick any theme, and Miller has dived into it in this book. Why Fish Don’t Exist also crosses several genres: part biography, memoir, adventure and science non-fiction. This book will leave you with many things to ponder and discuss.
This book is primarily a biography about someone you probably didn’t study in school, David Starr Jordan, an ichthyologist, a scientist who studies fish and the first president of Stanford University. The story begins with his first official interest and studies of fish, to his rise and tenure as President of Stanford.
Without feeling like you’ve diverted from the main storyline, Miller works her memoir throughout Jordan’s life. The book is interesting from the beginning, but the plot gets deeper and thicker as you go, sucking you in until the end. And the book’s title is not purposeless. You will need to read the entire book to find out if fish really do exist.
Some themes to explore in this book are:
- Bringing order to chaos is impossible.
- Classifying and naming things is human nature, but it changes as we learn new facts. and we must flow with the changes.
- What makes a hero?
This is my first 5-star book for 2022; however, since it’s my second reading, it earns 5-stars for 2020 too.
LuLu Miller is a science writer for NPR. Although Miller is an extensive writer, Why Fish Don’t Exist: A Story of Loss, Love, and the Hidden Order of Life is Miller’s first. The book was awarded the best book of 2020 by The Washington Post, NPR, the Chicago Tribune and the Smithsonian.
The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World by Dalai Lama XIV, Desmond Tutu and Douglas Carlton Abrams
The writer Douglas Abrams facilitates a conversation about joy between the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu in The Book of Joy. The book covers the topic of joy when the two meet in India for the Dalai Lama’s 80th birthday, and the conversations cover several days.
Most of the book includes Abrams facilitating the dialogue covering different aspects of joy such as:
- What is joy?
- How to experience joy?
- How to cultivate joy?
Throughout the book, you learn about the genuine appreciation and friendship between the two. There are many side jokes, jabs and hugs between the two.
This book illustrated that one world religion might not be possible, so learning to accept and appreciate a person’s beliefs and be open to others’ viewpoints is essential for cultivating joy.
Because this book was a recounting of a conversation, I expected more from the book. I assumed the leaders of the world’s most popular religions would express their deep thoughts and meditations. But sometimes, a simple message works wonders. However, I was still looking for deeper insights into the idea of joy.
If you would like to learn more about the author, his website is worth a look: https://www.douglascarltonabrams.com/
For a glimpse into the type of conversation this book illustrates, check out this video: ,https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lnad7ejKOXU
The Storyteller: Tales of Life and Music by Dave Grohl
Does boring even exist in stories about Rock stars? No. So, if you are looking for an escape from reality and into a rock star’s life, try Dave Grohl’s The Storyteller. It won’t disappoint.
From everything I’ve seen over the years with Grohl, I anticipated a book full of goofy entertainment, humor and outrageous antics. But Grohl reigns his humor in, and there is a lot left to the imagination, which for a reader who is not a world-famous rock star, I would have appreciated more juicy details.
But even though Grohl is relatively clean regarding sex and drugs, the book had plenty of F-bombs to remind you that he is first a rock star.
Grohl details the antics of learning to play the drums, his struggles and making it big. However, my favorite part was how many stories the book included about meeting celebrities and how giddy Grohl gets every time he meets someone famous. From Joan Jett, Paul McCartney and Tom Petty, or any rock star from the obscure to the uber-famous.
One moment that I believe could develop into book two is Grohl’s description of his natural sixth sense. It seemed Grohl was hesitant to tell people about his sixth-sense abilities, but I appreciated the stories he shared regarding this, and I found it very interesting.
Grohl narrates the audiobook, so that version is worth the money. One fun bonus was looking for videos from the scenes Grohl describes in his book. Here are a few I found that will bring the book to life:
- Grohl plays the White House: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M3yomVIvN1A
- Kennedy Center Honors 2010: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t4lk9vZwIyQ
- Grohl’s daughter plays the drums: ,https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i3b84Nfd89g
The Vapors: A Southern Family, the New York Mob, and the Rise and Fall of Hot Springs, America’s Forgotten Capital of Vice by David Hill
This book is about the rise and fall of the US’s first Las Vegas strip homegrown in Hot Springs, Arkansas. The author is from Hot Springs, and his grandmother is one of the central characters in the book. The book spills all the juicy details from the mob, bootleggers, illegal gambling, quick riches, the poorhouse and the revelers who couldn’t let the party end.
This book brings out the best of a good Southern story; it’s true but strange, dichotomous (Pentecostal churches standing next to illegal casinos novel), and Americana. It will leave you wondering why this story was left untold. During this time, gambling was illegal, but Hot Springs was bringing in 5 million visitors a year and building massive hotels before anyone knew Las Vegas was a possibility.
Hill does a great job of creating a story out of historical facts. I enjoyed how he brought the characters to life and the description of downtown Hot Springs. His detailed accounts of three characters illustrate the action at the time. I couldn’t put the book down.
My husband grew up in Hot Springs, and I have always been fascinated by the daring and lawless childhood stories he would tell. He said there are underground tunnels in downtown Hot Springs. When he was younger, he and his friends used to put their headlamps on and explore the underground canals. Pristine, warm water filled the tunnels, no rats in sight. He even claims to have seen chains hanging from one of the tunnel walls for torturing those who dare cross the mob.
His dad was a pharmacist and knew a lot of people in the book. My father-in-law is a little tighter-lipped about the shady stories that would go on, but he did confirm many of the stories and characters from the book, including the ones about Virginia Clinton-Kelley, Bill Clinton’s mother.
Unintentionally, I created a Hot Springs, Arkansas book sandwich by reading this book. This book is set in the late 50s and early 60s, so it acts as the first layer. Ruth Coker Books: All the Young Men in the 80s is the meat, and Fearless: The Undaunted Courage and Ultimate Sacrifice of Navy SEAL Team SIX Operator Adam Brown by Eric Blehm set in the 90s, and early 2000s makes the top bread slice. All the above books are on my top-rated, will read-again list, and I encourage you to read them as well.
For more information on Vapors, check out the NY Times review here: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/07/books/review/the-vapors-david-hill.html
For a more personal touch and insight on Hot Springs culture, check out these two author interviews:
- Clinton School Speaker’s interview with Hill here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vrvQttRFB3c
- Team Storey: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XSMK1OHC2ys
If you are an author looking for a book review, I’d love to hear from you. Or, if you are a reader with a comment on one of my book reviews, please post it to start a conversation.