I read When I Was a Loser: True Stories of (Barely) Surviving High School recently. Uplifting title, no? 🙂 Basically, they assigned a bunch of writers the task of writing on the topic (no other explanation) of “when I was a loser”. I forget if they specified high school or not, but that’s the overall setting/theme of the book, not surprisingly.

The stories range from hilarious to poignant to really sad, with occasional bits of just plain weird. And unless you were captain of the football team (or cheerleaders), or maybe even if you were, there should be at least one moment of cringe-worthy recognition in the book.

Not a long read, but a very enjoyable one, and perfect for summer.

Teasing Secrets from the Dead: My Investigations at America’s Most Infamous Crime Scenes — I love books like this. I think I’d be a great forensic anthropologist. Plus, then I could chase bad guys and eat Thai food with David Boreanaz, right? 🙂

Dr. Craig has had a very cool career, and has resulted in her working cases from the Kentucky backwoods (she’s the board-certified forensic anthropologist for the Commonwealth of Kentucky) to Waco and the 9/11 attacks. The storytelling is strong, though I think she could have gone a little heavier on the science, but that’s just my taste.

I also suspect it might bother some readers how often she admits to working by intuition, by just knowing something. However, she also notes that she can never make decisions on that alone. These are crime scenes and murder victims, after all, and require hard science and solid evidence. She also has a frequent habit of mentioning going into almost a trance while she’s working. I’m not denying she does, but it’s a bit strange to keep reading.

I love the process of discovery and putting the puzzle pieces of bones, bullets, fabric, and other evidence together. She talks about the challenges of keeping scientifically detached while at the same time remaining cognizant that the bones were people, with lives and stories and all the rest. However, like any other scientist or rescue worker (police, firefighters, EMTs, etc.), there is a thrill to starting a new case; the thrill of discovery, of a mystery, of a challenge.

Dr. Craig’s career has been pretty interesting all the way through, from her initial work in medical illustration, to the career change to some degree into orthopedics and medical sculpture, to going back to school in her 40s to earn a Ph.D. in forensic anthropology. She studied with Dr. Bill Bass at the (in)famous Body Farm in Tennessee, which is the focus of the book Death’s Acre and The Body Farm, the Patricia Cornwell novel, among other sources. (Death’s Acre is not for the squeamish.) I believe Kathy Reichs mentions the place as well.

Anyway, if you’re like me and “like gross stuff”, as Andrew put it, an excellent and interesting read. Plus, Dr. Craig has a Springer Spaniel, which totally wins her extra points in my book. 🙂

1 Comment on Books

  1. The high school book you describe happens to be a topic that’s been on my mind lately. I had a weird realization this weekend. I was at a conference and became very visible in the organization holding it. I found myself very popular, a person who everyone wanted to sit with at dinner, someone who people came up and talked to, someone at the centre of others’ attention. I realized that I had become one of the cool kids, without knowing it or really trying to do anything to gain it.

    This kind of popularity 100% eluded me in my younger years — back then, I was the one sitting alone on the bus, alone in the cafeteria, even alone in classrooms where people were seated in pairs.

    I’m not sure how or when the transition occurred. I’ve changed as a person, of course, in the years since high school; but I can’t have changed that much — I think it’s just a whole different dynamic that’s at work with a group of adults.

    It makes me really, really thankful that I’ve grown up. I wouldn’t be 15 again for anything.

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