Life’s Mysteries, Real and Fictional

Fair Warning by Michael Connelly

If you have ever had doubts about what happens to your DNA after you submit it to a genetic analytics company, this book will add to your concerns. It raises the fictional (I hope) possibility that DNA information might be sold on to multiple other companies to do with as they wish because the industry is not sufficiently regulated.

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Jack McEvoy is a reporter working for a consumer protection agency called Fair Warning, which is an actual consumer news website. He becomes embroiled in a murder mystery when a woman he once dated is murdered after having been cyber-stalked.

Together with a former girlfriend, Rachel Walling, an FBI agent, he discovers that multiple women have been killed in a similar manner and realizes they are dealing with a serial killer. The common denominator in all the killings is that the women all submitted their DNA to the same company for analysis. That company had sold the data on to others, including a group claiming to be studying a gene associated with addictions. In fact, the information wound up in the hands of a group of misogynists, or Incels.

This story brings the rising numbers of such groups together with DNA analysis in a fascinating and engaging story while simultaneously raising important moral questions. It is a complex plot with lots of suspense and engaging characters. Even though I had not read any of the other books in the series, I did not have any problems in thoroughly enjoying this great mystery novel.

The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking by Oliver Burkeman

This book made a lot of sense for me. I have been turned off by some of the over-the-top enthusiasm of some leaders of the positive thinking movement, which is probably why I was drawn to the book’s title. I listened to it as an audiobook and found the author-as-narrator both expressive and entertaining.

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At first blush, you might think it makes no sense to advocate against positive thinking, but the more I listened the more I became convinced that Oliver Burkeman was on to something. I was encouraged to rethink my attitudes towards negative events in my own life and to realize that I could successfully embrace things I have been avoiding.

The book brings together philosophy, psychology, and religion to show the value in contemplating worst-case scenarios and finding well-being in present circumstances even if they are troubling. Sometimes, the drive to achieve can be just one more thing to worry about.

This is not a how-to book so much as it is collection of ways to live realistically, accepting all of our life’s experiences. From Burkeman’s perspective, filtering out the negative actually diminishes us. When we integrate life’s obstacles, we open ourselves to the “strange, excited comfort of being presented with, and grappling with, the tremendous mysteries life offers.”


  1. I believe I have been forced to look at life’s negatives for a very lengthy time, negatives surrounding health at least. I know there are many other negatives also. My mother was ill for my entire life with her and I have lived with a neurological illness since I was 9. I feel as though I do see life a bit differently because of this. However I don’t believe I’ve found comfort in this. If anything, I have cursed my deficits and longed to have a normal body, one that works properly. Those are my dark moments. I am also a people-lover and so enjoy being with others. This Covid shutdown has been a real pain!

    • You have endured a great deal with a lot of grace, Mary Beth. I have a lot of admiration for you.

      I may not have done justice to Burkeman’s book in this brief summation. I did not mean to suggest that the book says we can find comfort in bad circumstances. It does a much better job than I did of explaining how relentless optimism does not make us happy.

      • I got a giggle from your reply. Indeed “relentless optimism” could cause a person at least a headache!

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