World of Wonders-a book review

World of Wonders is not about medicine, at least not human medicine. Although there is a chapter about the Southern Cassowary, Casuarius Casuarius,  a bird that can and does kill people. All chapters are named for and describe a variety of common, familiar animals and plants-

WORLD OF WONDERS

In Praise of Fireflies, Whale Sharks, and Other Astonishments
by Aimee Nezhukumatathil
illustrated by Fumi Mini Nakamura

I frequently review health books on this blog, but you might not call World of Wonders a medical or health book. But if you’ve read some of my other book reviews, you realize I use that designation rather loosely. 

Oh Aimee Nezhukumatathil teaches English and Creative Writing in the University of Mississippi’s MFA program. Born in Chicago to immigrant parents ,she has lived in Kansas, Arizona, Ohio,Iowa, New York, and Florida. Now she lives in Oxford, Mississippi with her husband and children.

CHICAGO PUBLIC LIBRARY
CHICAGO PUBLIC LIBRARY

(The photos I’ve used in this post are from my personal albums, not from the book or connected to it.)  

The health/medical connection in this case stems from the author’s parents, Paz and Mathew.  Both of Ms. Nezhukumatathil’s parents worked in healthcare during her growing up years. She dedicated this book to them. Now retired, they live in Florida and raise oranges.

Sometimes her parents lived apart, while working in different states.Her father, an immigrant to the United States from India, worked long hours as a respiratory therapist in a neonatal intensive care unit, NICU, at Good Samaritan Hospital in Phoenix, Arizona.

Yet every weekend we headed for the hiking trails of Camelback Mountain. I never saw any other Asian American there; I don’t know if my father noticed…I didn’t know anyone else’s dad who took the time to do this with his kids. 

During one assignment, the author and her sister lived with their mother in Kansas-on the grounds of a mental hospital. As a Filipina foreign-born psychiatrist, she treated mentally ill persons, some of whom “hurled racist taunts and violent threats” against her regularly. 

We lived on the grounds of the mental institution, something no kids had done in decades, and the school district had to create a bus stop just for us. When I climbed the steps, I imagined myself a narwhal, with one giant snaggletooth-a saber-to knock into anyone who asked if my sister and I were patients there. 

Other than that, World of Wonders is not about medicine, at least not human medicine. Although there is a chapter about the Southern Cassowary, Casuarius Casuarius,  a bird that can and does kill people. All chapters are named for and describe a variety of common, familiar animals and plants-

  • Peacock Pavo cristatus
  • Monarch butterfly Danaus plexippus
  • Firefly Photinus pyralis
  • Octopus-Octopus vulgaris
a monarch waystation to aid the butterflies' migration
a waystation in Oklahoma for monarchs on the annual migration

But she also describes in detail strange, unique creatures I had never heard of. 

  • Axolotl Ambystoma mexicanum
  • Touch-me-not Mimosa pudica
  • Narwhal Monodon monoceros
  • Catalpa tree Catalpa speciosa
marine animals in an acquarium
marine life at the Shedd Acquarium, Chicago

In the essay Flamingo, Phoenicopterus ruber,  she reminisces about her freshman year in college when she and her girlfriends would go out dancing with an assortment of young men. 

We were like flamingos flying long distance, mostly at night. So many kidnappings happen in the dark, when we think we are safe, in a routine, in a place where “bad things like that” just don’t happen. When a flamingo flies in daylight, it does look comical, its long legs dragging down under the fluff of feathered torso.

Someone called the police to say they found her body the next day at a local park. 

Aimee is enamored over the Corpse Flower, Amorphophallus titanum, known for its “seriously foul smell.” She  dated a man who “didn’t wince when I said inflorescence.” He wanted to see a corpse flower for himself despite it being a plant whose smell is similar to 

what emanates from the bottom of a used diaper pail, a tin of sardines, and blue cheese salad dressing left out in the August sun

Since he was the only man who ever expressed such an interest,and who did in fact take a road trip with her to see a corpse flower, it’s not surprising he’s now her husband.

Throughout the essays (as the chapters were originally published) Aimee weaves stories about her life with her knowledge and insights about the unique plants and animals she loves to discover and explore. Sometimes it’s hard to tell where one leaves off and the other begins, as this excerpt from the essay Red-spotted Newt, Notophthalmus viridescens

I look back at the many moves my family made during my childhood and I begin to understand the red-spotted newt more clearly. (it) spends years wandering the forest floor before it discovers a pond to finally call home. When you spend as long …in a search like this, you grow pickier, more discerning…

Illustrated by Fumi Mini Nakamura

As much as I enjoyed the prose, the illustrations by artist Fumi Mini Nakamura would be worth buying the book . The drawings complement the writing perfectly. Fumi was born in Japan and at 12 years old moved to the United States where she and her family lived in Northern California. She graduated from San Jose State University with a BFA in Pictorial Arts.

Aimee Nezhukumatathil’s website

Aimee has won numerous awards for her poetry. This book was the Barnes and Noble Book of the Year 2020, which is how I found it, while browsing in the store.

 In these mini memoirs, Aimee wants to convince us that our lives are not that different from the other living creatures with which we share this planet. By discovering the unique features of these non-human beings, we may better appreciate the diversity of earth’s human inhabitants.

In its pages she invites us to join her in discovering a World of Wonders.

Don’t take my word for it ; listen to the author explain why she wrote this book and hear her read an excerpt.

exploring the HEART of a World of Wonders

a statue of Dorothy and Toto from the Wizard of Oz
Like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, Aimee is not in Kansas now.
This statue is in a park in Chicago.

I hope you enjoyed exploring the World of Wonders with me. Please consider purchasing a copy through BOOKSHOP.ORG. (This is an affiliate link.)

Bookshop.org is an online bookstore with a mission to financially support local, independent bookstores. They believe bookstores are essential to a healthy culture and they are dedicated to the common good. Bookshop.org donates a portion of every sale to independent bookstores.

Thanks for following this blog. If you’re visiting, I would love for you to start following Watercress Words : use the form to get an email notification of new posts. Don’t worry, you won’t get anything else from me. I also want you to find and follow me on Facebook, Pinterest , Instagram, and LinkedIn .

Dr. Aletha

Will reading about health make you healthier?

Did you know that reading books can help you be more creative, more successful, and add years to your life? Well, it can, according to science.

Did you know that reading books can help you be more creative, more successful, and add years to your life? Well, it can, according to this article

Why reading books should be your priority, according to science

I chose several book sites as affiliates for this blog- because I like to read, I believe reading is important, and I hope my readers do also. Even though I write for the internet, I think books and other printed media are valuable.

 

I have reviewed several books for this blog but in this post I share some others that I have heard of and think sound worthy of considering. I haven’t read them yet, but if you have or do read them, please write me and tell me what you think. I’ll share it with my other readers (anonymously if you prefer).

Will reading about health make you healthier? watercresswords.com

 

 

These book links are affiliate links- but if you want to borrow them from your local library that’s fine, I borrow books also. If you do make a purchase, you will be supporting the work of this blog- to spread the HEART of health throughout the world. Thank you!


The China Study: The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Ever Conducted And the Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss, And Long-term Health 

by  T. Colin Campbell, PH.D and Thomas Campbell, M.D.

The science is clear. The results are unmistakable.

You can dramatically reduce your risk of cancer, heart disease, and diabetes just by changing your diet.

More than thirty years ago, nutrition researcher T. Colin Campbell and his team at Cornell, in partnership with teams in China and England, embarked upon the China Study, the most comprehensive study ever undertaken of the relationship between diet and the risk of developing disease. What they found when combined with findings in Colin’s laboratory, opened their eyes to the dangers of a diet high in animal protein and the unparalleled health benefits of a whole foods, plant-based diet.

In 2005, Colin and his son Tom, now a physician, shared those findings with the world in The China Study, hailed as one of the most important books about diet and health ever written.

Featuring brand new content, this heavily expanded edition of Colin and Tom’s groundbreaking book includes the latest undeniable evidence of the power of a plant-based diet, plus updated information about the changing medical system and how patients stand to benefit from a surging interest in plant-based nutrition.


Bestsellers at eBooks.com!

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org

First ,Do No Harm: The Dramatic Story of Real Doctors and Patients Making Impossible Choices at a Big-City Hospital

by Lisa Belkin

“A powerful, true story of life and death in a major metropolitan hospital…Harrowing… An important book.”
THE NEW YORK TIMES

“What is life worth? And what is a life worth living?

At a time when America faces vital choices about the future of its health care, former NEW YORK TIMES correspondent Lisa Belkin takes a powerful and poignant look at the inner workings of Hermann Hospital in Houston, Texas, telling the remarkable, real-life stories of the doctors, patients, families, and hospital administrators who must ask–and ultimately answer–the most profound and heart-rending questions about life and death.”

Fat Girl Walking: Sex, Food, Love, and Being Comfortable in your Skin…every Inch of It

by  Brittany Gibbons

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org

“Fat Girl Walking isn’t a diet book. It isn’t one of those former fat people memoirs about how someone battled, and won, in the fight against fat.

Brittany doesn’t lose all the weight and reveal the happy, skinny girl that’s been hiding inside her. Instead, she reminds us that being chubby doesn’t mean you’ll end up alone, unhappy, or the subject of a cable medical show. What’s important is learning to love your shape.

With her infectious humor and soul-baring honesty, Fat Girl Walking reveals a life full of the same heartbreak, joy, oddity, awkwardness, and wonder as anyone else’s. Just with better snacks.”

 Read it on iBooks

“Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, one of the world’s foremost experts on trauma, has spent over three decades working with survivors.

In The Body Keeps the Score, he uses recent scientific advances to show how trauma literally reshapes both body and brain, compromising sufferers’ capacities for pleasure, engagement, self-control, and trust.

He explores innovative treatments—from neurofeedback and meditation to sports, drama, and yoga—that offer new paths to recovery by activating the brain’s natural neuroplasticity. Based on Dr. van der Kolk’s own research and that of other leading specialists, The Body Keeps the Score exposes the tremendous power of our relationships both to hurt and to heal—and offers new hope for reclaiming lives.”

In case you missed it, here is my guest post about how reading changed my life.

How have books changed yours?

Reading-The Fastest Way to Everywhere

 

 

Kindle Unlimited Membership Plans

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks for reading Watercress Words. Please share, follow, and support this blog  as we explore and share the HEART of Health together. 

                                     Dr. Aletha 

come read with me-TyndaleRewards.com
Tyndale Rewards.com