We Are All Stardust: Review

We Are All Stardust by Stefan Klein: Image courtesy of Scribe Publications
We Are All Stardust by Stefan Klein: Image courtesy of Scribe Publications

Stefan Klein, the acclaimed writer behind The Science of Happiness and The Secret Pulse of Time, is on a mission to connect laypeople with the diverse and often misunderstood realm of science. With his latest book, We Are All Stardust, Klein sits down with some of the world’s most prominent scientists and asks them the questions that we want to ask, but possibly don’t feel like we have enough knowledge to do so. The result is pages and pages of casual conversation with people that, at first, seem so extraordinary that we will never understand them. Yet, Klein brings them back to Earth, and we learn that they are just like us; curious humans that are merely trying to navigate the complexities of life.

Klein has an impressive list of interviewees on his agenda, including the likes of Richard Dawkins, Jane Goodall, Sarah Hrdy, and V.S. Ramachandran. While the premise of the book is a simple idea: sit down with these scientists and talk to them about their work and their lives, the resulting compilation provides a coherent overview of what the sciences look like today and how the discoveries of recent times affect us as individuals, members of society, and of a part of the broader community of inhabitants of the world.

As a layperson myself, and as someone who has never been able to grasp the great mysteries, equations, and complications of science itself, it was difficult to begin this book. I was unsure of how I would navigate the conversations about topics that I did not understand, and through this misunderstanding, I did not feel I cared about. What became evident early on, though, was that this wasn’t going to be an easy or a difficult read: it was merely going to be a read. Klein doesn’t try to make his conversations anything other than what they are. This put me at ease and I was better able to focus on the underlying task at hand; Klein’s hope to learn more about the personal lives of those who understand the lives of many.

Interviews that stood out for me included those of cosmologist Martin Rees, neuroscientist V.S. Ramachandran, neuropharmacologist Walter Zieglgänsberger, and developmental psychologist Alison Gopnik. Why these scientists in particular struck a chord in me is obvious; each one spoke through the pages and into my mind and heart in a way that I didn’t think was possible with scientists. Their words were not only about scientific facts and evidence, but also about philosophical dilemmas, mental and physical illnesses, and about living a whole and unified existence.

It was not until I finished the book and closed the front cover did I realise the true impact of what We Are All Stardust had on me as a layperson, reader, reviewer, writer, and individual of this vast world. Although I had not sat down with each scientist myself, I had left the book with a greater understanding of why and how they do the work that they do, and with this, I had a greater appreciation for the sacrifices that they make day in and day out as scientists and great thinkers. They are the role models of today, yet they are human beings just like us and have flaws, dreams, desires, and inhibitions. The greatest discovery of all then, at least in this book, is that we are all in this together. Together we are all stardust.

Worthless: Review

Image courtesy of Robyn Hennessy
Image courtesy of Robyn Hennessy

At the heart of any great book, whether fiction or non-fiction, sci-fi or drama, there is a character arc that we can personally relate to on some level. The core of all these good books often pulls at our heartstrings at a moment’s notice, leaving us breathless and wanting more.

With Robyn Hennessy’s debut novel, Worthless, the average reader may not feel they immediately identify with the story and the characters within it. But never fear, with patience comes great reward, and with Worthless, the hard work of both the writer and the reader is paid off greatly.

Worthless is the real-life story of Robyn’s struggle with sexual abuse, eating disorders, bullying, depression, self-harm, criminal activity, and drug addiction. Told in its rawest form, we are brought face-to-face with all the terrible and heart-wrenching moments of Robyn’s, and her twin sister Ashleigh’s, life growing up in Surrey, England. At age nine, the twins begin to starve themselves and worry about their weight so that they can continue to compete in Judo competitions. At the ripe age of 10, they are sexually abused and raped by two boys in their local neighbourhood, not once, not twice, but multiple times. From there, Robyn’s life spirals out of control as she is continually abused, bullied by her classmates and friends, and then as she starts a long battle with drug abuse beginning with Ritalin and marijuana and ending with the king of all drugs, Meth.

Robyn’s story is one that feels unreal at first. It’s hard to comprehend that all of these traumas could occur to such a young child in our modern-day world, yet alone in the Western country of England. Yet, through Robyn’s honest storytelling we are forced to wake up from our comforting dreams to face the reality of what she’s been through. There’s no turning back from the horrors of Robyn’s life once you open this book. It must be battled page by page. In this way, Worthless puts its reader through the ordeals of the writer. However, surprisingly, it is not with pain and heartache that we continue to read, but with a sense of hope and a growing understanding of whom this person is and why we are fixated on knowing her, helping her, and believing in her.

My own personal battles with depression, abuse, trauma, and drug addiction were, of course, hinted at throughout my reading of Worthless. Although this may seem the main reason why I wanted to read the book and why I was able to get through it with a sense of understanding, I believe that the readability of the book is not just for those who have gone through similar events. You see, we all have suffered in one form or another, whether it be through depression, trauma, or heartache, it is the human condition to fall down and to do our best to stand back up again. It’s the common story arc of a beloved character beaten down, and then triumphantly, against all odds, regaining strength and a sense of purpose. We root for the underdog because they are us.

Robyn is all of us and we are all her. Her bravery shines through in her willingness to share all of the worst parts of her life, and we are right there along with her and her journey towards recovery. Worthless is well worth your time, and it’s for the everyday person, as well as for those recovering from the worst events that mankind allows us to go through, such as sexual abuse, depression, and bullying. Although the book will make you feel at odds with humanity, through it all, you realise that there is good out there somewhere. All it takes is a little patience to find it.