Summer Reading 2011

Entering students will meet in small groups Sept.1-7 to discuss The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Rebecca Skloot's non-fiction work about medicine, family, and medical ethics.

Students will gather with their new housemates as part of orientation, Sept. 1 – 7, to discuss the book in sessions led by faculty members and administrators. See the press release on the Smith College news site for more information.

Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. She was a poor black tobacco farmer whose cells – taken without her knowledge in 1951 – became one of the most important tools in medicine, vital for developing the polio vaccine, cloning, gene mapping, in vitro fertilization, and more. Henrietta's cells have been bought and sold by the billions, yet she remains virtually unknown, and her family can't afford health insurance.

Read an excerpt from Rebecca Skloot's webpage, or visit the Crown Publising web page devoted to the book.

For more information about the book and the summer reading program for first-year and entering students, please see the Summer Reading website.

Rebecca Skloot


Biographical Information



Rebecca Skloot is an award winning science writer whose work has appeared in The New York Times Magazine; O, The Oprah Magazine; Discover; and many other publications. She specializes in narrative science writing and has explored a wide range of topics, including goldfish surgery, tissue ownership rights, race and medicine, food politics, and packs of wild dogs in Manhattan. She has worked as a correspondent for WNYC's Radiolab and PBS's Nova ScienceNOW. She and her father, Floyd Skloot, are co-editors of The Best American Science Writing 2011.

For more biographical information, please visit Rebecca Skloot's web page.

Visit the Henrietta Lacks Foundation website to learn more about the foundation.


Rebecca Skloot (photo by Manda Townsend)


Book Reviews

Please Note: If you are off campus you will be asked for your Smith Network username and password when clicking on the resources listed below.

To find book reviews of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, search by keyword for "Skloot" AND "Lacks" in the following databases of newspapers and periodical articles.
Use SC Links  to connect to full text when available.

Academic Search Premier

Expanded Academic Index

LexisNexis Academic

Keeping in Touch

Social Media Link
Rebecca Skloot’s Blog Culture Dish
Rebecca Skloot on Facebook
Rebecca Skloot on Twitter!/rebeccaskloot

Video & Audio Files

Website Link Official book trailer: Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

Selected Press Coverage (video, radio, and print) from Stephen Colbert, CBS Sunday Morning, Fox News Health Talk, NPR Fresh Air, Bob Edwards Show, and more...

Special Features (photos, video, audio) including a slide show and archival footage of HeLa cells growing in a laboratory in the 50's.  'Immortal' Cells of Henrietta Lacks Live On In Labs

More Reading

book cover Medical Apartheid
Medical Apartheid
 / Harriet A. Washington, 2006.
Call number: Neilson R 853 .H8 W37 2006

book cover Subjected to Science
Subjected to Science
 / Susan E. Lederer, c1995.
Call number: Neilson R 853 .H8 L43 1995

book cover Undue Risk
Undue Risk
 / Jonathan D. Moreno, c2000.
Call number: Science R 853 .H8 M66 2000

Past Summer Readings

Summer Reading 2010
Half the Sky by Nicholas Kristoff and Sheryl WuDunn

Summer Reading 2009
The Green Collar Economy (Van Jones)

Summer Reading 2008
Native Guard (Natasha Trethewey)

Summer Reading 2007
Persepolis (Marjane Satrapi)

Summer Reading 2006
Mountains Beyond Mountains (Tracy Kidder)

Summer Reading 2005
Kettle Bottom (Diane Gilliam Fisher)

Summer Reading 2004
The Gangster We Are All Looking For (Lê Thi Diem Thúy)

Summer Reading 2003
Atonement (Ian McEwan)

Summer Reading 2002
Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America (Barbara Ehrenreich)

Summer Reading 2001
The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down (Anne Fadiman)

Help from a Librarian

Use Got ?s or Help to send a question at any time, or contact Neilson Reference at