Flavia de Luce is still at it. The precocious eleven-year-old chemist that we first met in "The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie", my Pick for September 2009, has continued to solve the mysterious deaths that occur just about every year in her 1950's English hamlet of Bishop's Lacy.
Meet Flavia de Luce. You are going to like her. It is 1950 and Flavia, a very precocious eleven year old, lives in a small village in England in a deteriorating grand mansion with her father and two older sisters. Her passion is chemistry, which she has learned on her own by reading a textbook owned by her deceased mother and practiced in a laboratory inherited from her uncle.
What are the consequences of allowing irrational ideas into the science classroom? If you are willing to rely on faith instead of reason to come to conclusions about nature and our origins, then there is no reason to stop with Intelligent (sic) Design. Why not go all the way (and beyond that) and teach that the universe is the result of divine intervention by The Flying Spaghetti Monster?
This book has been around since 1991, but I had not read it until a colleague suggested that I do. This is the first of least four novels by Stanford chemist Carl Djerassi, best known for his work on oral contraceptives.
The full title of this book is "The Areas of My Expertise: Which Include Matters Historical, Matters Literary, Matters Cryptozoological, Hobo Matters, Food, Drink & Cheese (a kind of food), Squirrels and Lobsters & Eels, Haircuts, Utopia, What Will Happen in the Future, and Most Other Subjects". It is full of little-known and bizarre facts, all of which were fabricated.
"A Friend of the Earth" is a novel that alternates in time between the near-present and about twenty-five years in the future, when the worst nightmares of the environmental movement have come to pass. Global warming has turned Southern California into a terrible place to live; violent storms alternate with 130 degree days.
It's not too late to do some recreational reading this summer. "Catalyst" is an enjoyable, light read, especially for chemists. How often do you find a novel that includes catalysis, NMR, mass spectrometry, TLC, some scientific misconduct, and a little sex?
This book was first published in 1972, and is still in print, in paper. The author also wrote "The Great Santini", "The Lords of Discipline", and "The Prince of Tides". His current best-seller is "Beach Music". "The River is Wide" is a fictionalized version of Conroy's own experiences as a teacher of isolated and neglected rural black children in South Carolina.