Tag Archives: Science

“The Poisoner’s Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York” by Deborah Blum

Deborah Blum’s nonfiction work is a riveting tale of history, science, and politics. What links the science of toxicology and Jazz-Age shenanigans? It’s simple—alcohol, and the lack thereof. Just as medical examiners and forensic scientists were developing the first tests for poison (which had previously been a nearly undetectable form of murder), the US began its noble experiment. The prohibition on alcohol during the 1920s created a raging black market for bootleg liquor, much of which was of dangerously poor quality. The government, hindered by dogmatic support for Prohibition, responded in odd and unhelpful ways. If you’ve ever been curious about Sherlock Holmes’ chemical tests; if you’ve ever wondered about Lucrezia Borgia’s hobbies; and if you’ve ever daydreamed of living through the Roaring Twenties, this is the book for you.

Read if you enjoyed: Stiff by Mary Roach, Boardwalk Empire by Nelson Johnson

Look for The Poisoner’s Handbook at Multnomah County Library .


“Atlantic: Great Sea Battles, Heroic Discoveries, Titanic Storms, and a Vast Ocean of a Million Stories” by Simon Winchester

Simon Winchester called his project “the biography of an ocean,” and that is the perfect phrase for this mesmerizing book. Who knew oceanography could be so entertaining? Using Shakespeare’s “Seven Ages of Man” as a framework, he explores the history of the Atlantic Ocean, from its geological formation to the development of civilization along its shores; from the slave trade to the Titanic; and so much more. Winchester draws on his own experiences crossing the ocean in ships and planes, traveling for work and pleasure. His respect and affection for the great body of water are clear throughout this rich, exciting work of nonfiction.

Read if you enjoyed: Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond, A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson

Look for Atlantic at Multnomah County Library.