The Bookworm: Blood-filled journey; tales of gore

Terri Schlichenmeyer

“Nine Pints: A Journey Through the Money, Medicine, and Mysteries of Blood”

  • By Rose George
  • c. 2018, Metropolitan Books
  • $30, $39.00 Canada; 354 pages

It didn’t hurt at first. At least not for a second and then – yow, that knife/scissors/serrated edge was sharp! There’s a cut that’s going to leave a nice scar. There’s a cut that needs covering, pronto. And in “Nine Pints” by Rose George, there’s a story inside that cut.

What was on the screen above her head wasn’t nearly as interesting as the clear bag near her elbow, and so Rose George studied the latter. Healthy and willing, she watched as one-ninth of the blood she had in her body moved up to three miles per hour around her limbs and out to a collection bag for donation.

"Nine Pints: A Journey Through the Money, Medicine, and Mysteries of Blood" by Rose George.

Once upon a time in history, blood was a commodity, the giving of which could make a person a decent living; there was a time when unions were formed for blood-givers but we know now that blood-for-bucks is considered less safe than relying on donors. Safety is key, since that anonymously donated blood is needed “every three seconds, somewhere in the world … .”

That’s important news for American blood donors who contribute to one of the safest blood supplies in the world. Even so, bad things can happen, as George discovered: she looks at the history of tainted blood, unsafe sex, and how both caused the AIDS virus to be passed from person to person. Sadly, it doesn’t stop there: paid plasma donors may have contributed to a tainted plasma supply and contributed to the spread of Hepatitis C. Obviously, we need more healthy blood donors.

Author Rose George

But, of course, human blood is not just used for medical purposes or research. In her quest to get to the bottom of what keeps us upright, George traveled to Nepal where teens and women endure a monthly ritual called chaupadi, which demands total isolation from family and friends. Because products for “catamenial flow” are expensive in developing countries, she met with a male “sanitary pad superstar.” And finally, George examines what happens when blood spills … and nothing can be done about it.

In the average day, your blood travels 12,000 miles in a circuit around your body. And that paper cut you got at work today?  Your blood is splendidly capable of fixing it, all by itself. No wonder you’re tired, so go lie down – and take “Nine Pints” with you.

With a strong vein of humor, total candor, and a willingness to dig in deep, author Rose George takes readers on a journey tailored to the curious: into laboratories, Nepalese huts, and several countries to examine how blood fits in with health, culture, and science. It’s a trip to open eyes and inform, but it’s never boring: along the way, George drops fact-nuggets like bread crumbs on a path, making even the most squeamish want to follow.

So whether you’re a red-blooded patriot, a bit of a blue-blood, or you know what’s thicker than water, this book will be near to your heart. For inquisitive readers and fans of Mary Roach, “Nine Pints” is a cut above.

“A Tiger Called Tomás”

  • By Charlotte Zolotow and Marta Alvarez Miguéns
  • c. 2018, Sourcebooks
  • $17.99, $24.99 Canada; 40 pages

“Mother Ghost: Nursery Rhymes for Little Monsters”

  • By Rachel Kolar, illustrated by Roland Garrigue
  • c. 2018, Sleeping Bear Press
  • $16.99, $20.99 Canada; 32 pages

“Disney Villains: The Evilest of Them All”

  • By: Rachael Upton, Disney Storybook Artists (Illustrator)
  • c. 2018, Studio Fun International
  • $11.99, $15.99 Canada; 112 pages

“Haunted: Malevolent Ghosts, Night Terrors, and Threatening Phantoms”

  • By Brad Steiger with Sherry Hansen Steiger
  • c. 2018, Visible Ink Press
  • $19.95, $29.50; 384 pages

“Zombie Cross-Stitch”

  • By Kristy Kizzee and Erika Kern
  • c. 2018, Thunder Bay Press
  • $19.99, $26.99 Canada; 64 pages

It’s not the weather that keeps your eyes open these days. It’s not the paper skeletons that appear in your neighbor’s windows or the pumpkins that grin from their stoops, either. No, what really makes you howl are all the new Halloween-themed books for everyone in the family …

Candy isn’t the only thing the smallest tricksters want. Kids ages 2-to-5 will love the story inside “A Tiger Called Tomás” by Charlotte Zolotow and Marta Alvarez Miguéns. In it, Tomás was sure his trick-or-treat costume would surprise everybody – but instead, they all knew exactly who he was. His friends called him by name. Even the lady down the block recognized Tomás. That made him sad, until his Mamá said words to make him smile.

Books with a Halloween theme.

Older kids (5-to-8-year-olds) who are familiar with nursery rhymes will enjoy “Mother Ghost” by Rachel Kolar, illustrated by Roland Garrigue. It’s a clever take-off on classic nursery rhymes, complete with accompanying spooky illustrations. Read it, and neither of you will ever see “Little Miss Muffet” the same way again …

For school ghouls, grab “Disney Villains: The Evilest of Them All,” a book full of “interviews” with The Evil Queen, Ursula, Captain Hook, and others. Here, your child can learn more about the nastiest, most despicable and meanest that the Magic Kingdom has to offer. This book has tons of illustrations, of course, as well as interactive windows to open in somewhat of a comic book format. It’s perfect for kids ages 8 to 12.

Readers ages 13 to adult are a whole lot braver, so they’ll want to have “Haunted: Malevolent Ghosts, Night Terrors, and Threatening Phantoms” by Brad Steiger with Sherry Hansen Steiger next to their bedside. Or maybe not – this book isn’t for the faint of heart or anyone who wants to sleep.

Here, you’ll find chapter after chapter of creepy things: psychic pets that keep their owners safe from spectres; poltergeists, and how the age of their victims figures into their presence; buildings and homes that host ghosts the most; angels and demons; Near-Death Experiences and how spirits really do want to talk to us; seers and psychics; and why you shouldn’t want to mess with any of the above. It’s an easy-to-read book, broken up in small bites so you can read for a few short minutes or until you’re good and scared, or you can easily browse it to find what terrifies you most. Word to the wise: this book is one of Brad Steiger’s last; he died earlier this year, so get this book now.

And finally, if you want Halloween to keep you in stitches, look for “Zombie Cross-Stitch” by Kristy Kizzee and Erika Kern. It’s a book with all kinds of crafty charts, including a zombified Michael Jackson, zombie heads, Miss Zombie, baby zombie – and more: colored thread, needles, an embroidery hoop, Aida cloth, and instructions to make a couple of lovely zombie portrait for your living dead-ing room wall.

So make yours a happy Halloween with books that’ll make you howl.

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The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. She has been reading since she was 3 years old and never goes anywhere without a book. Terri lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 11,000 books.