Books to Movies: Percy Fawcett and Henrietta Lacks

April 22, 2017 | Kelli

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In a weird coincidence, two of my favorite nonfiction books of the last few years have been made into new films that are available within days of each other. 

The Lost City of Z by David Grann has been made into a feature film which is in limited release in theatres right now.  The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot has been made into an HBO miniseries starting April 22nd. Even if you watch the film and miniseries, read the books as well.  These two are not to be missed.

Lost city of zIn the Lost City of Z, Grann investigates the disappearance of English explorer Percy Fawcett.  In 1925, Fawcett led an expedition into the Amazon to try to find an ancient civilization, what he called the Lost City of Z. Fawcett and everyone with him vanished, never to be heard from again. For decades, the fate of Fawcett's expedition was a source of speculation.  Many set off into the Amazon themselves trying to find answers to the group's fate, only to perish as well.  As Grann became drawn into the quest for the truth about the fate of infamous expedition, his own adventure and his stunning discoveries make for an enthralling story. 

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Immortal life of henrietta lacksIn The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Rebecca Skloot investigates the history of the HeLa cells and finds a heartbreaking story of greed and prejudice. In 1951, Henrietta Lacks, an impoverished African American woman, was admitted to John Hopkins Hospital for cancer treatment. During her time there, her cancer cells were taken for use in research without her consent.  Scientists at the hospital soon discovered that Henrietta's cells were very usual, as they could be easily and repeatedly reproduced in a lab.  This had not been possible with any other cells before then.  These 'immortal' cells were so important that they became part of many of the medical breakthroughs that have occurred since that time. However, Henrietta's family were neither informed of the use of her cells in research, nor did they receive any financial benefit from the production of HeLa (short for Henrietta Lacks) cells. Her family was not told about this use of her cells until the 1970s. Even then, it was so poorly explained that it caused many unintended impacts on her family.


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