Hello Book Nerds of Bloglandia!
Well, everyone, it’s the second week of the month of February (seriously, who stole January out from under me?), and that means it’s time for that new endeavor on the blog I mentioned a few weeks ago.
Or rather, an old endeavor.
In case you missed that post, here’s the quick rundown of what’s going on…
A couple years ago I had a podcast (The Book Owl Podcast). It was a haven for book nerds who like a little humor with their bookish history and trivia. I loved doing the podcast, but I was losing out on well over five hours of writing time every week just to produce a 20-minute episode.
But, since there really was a ton of good stuff in those episodes and since I’d love to start sharing with you more bookish goodies than I have been, I’ve decided it’s time to recycle the Book Owl (do NOT attempt with real owls) by sharing the content with you in blog post form*.
*I would share the audio portion, but those old recordings have a lot of book news and shout outs that are now far out of date, so I figured just the written side of things would be better for recycling.
Now, if you haven’t met the Book Owl before…
As I said, this will no longer be a podcast, so maybe we should call this endeavor the Book Owl’s History Bits, or maybe the Book Owl’s Bookish Bits of History and Trivia (bit long that), or maybe Book Nerd’s Corner, or… clearly, I’m open to suggestions…
Whatever it’s called, here’s the description of the Podcast Formerly Known As Book Owl…
The Book Owl Podcast delights your inner book nerd and feeds your reading addiction with everything you didn’t know you wanted to know about books.
Delivered with plenty of light humor, each episode spins tales of tantalizing tomes to luscious libraries, and literary lore to quirky bookstores.
So, if you’ve ever wondered what book will kill you, whether dogs read, or why a bookstore has a train running through it, it’s time to get caught in The Book Owl’s beak.
The Book Owl Podcast, we give a hoot for book nerds.
But Enough with the Introductions…
I’m kicking of the content recycling with the first ever (and one of my favorite) episodes: “This Book Will Kill You.” Mwuahahahaha!
Every day, hell, every HOUR, we’re being bombarded with news of scary things going on throughout the world.
From war to disease to chemical spills, it’s like life has become a horror movie on repeat.
Which means I know you’re eager to find out about yet another way you could die.
Because, although reading and books seem like safe pastimes, there is one book out there that will kill you.
In this premier post of The Book Owl (Not a) Podcast we’ll discover the story behind the woman who wrote this troublesome tome and the danger it still poses today.
The Book Owl (Not a) Podcast Episode One
This Book Will Kill You
If you tell someone, say your bungie jumping buddy, your favorite hobby is reading, they probably look at like, “Wimp.”
Reading’s something you do to relax, it’s something you do from the safety of an armchair, it’s about as far from bungie-jumping danger as you can get, and it’s rarely associated with causing bodily harm unless you’re reading on your phone and walk straight into a lamppost, but that’s a whole ‘nuther topic.
However, there is a book out there that can kill you.
It won’t kill you quickly. It will invade your body, linger in there, and wreak havoc until you finally die.
It’s so dangerous it’s stored in a lead-lined box and you have to sign a waiver to see it. Should you disregard the rules and safety instructions, you risk burns, nausea, and even cancer.
So who wrote this dangerous tome? A headstrong woman who was celebrated in her lifetime, but also scorned and shunned.
Her name? Marie Curie.
Marie Curie, born Maria Sklodowska in Warsaw in 1867.
She couldn’t be bothered with the conventions of the time that said women didn’t need higher education, so she studied in the wonderfully named Flying University, an underground school in Russia.
This school served its purpose for a time, but she eventually opted to finish her education in Paris.
But, just like today, heading off to school in Paris wasn’t cheap. To afford her education, she turned off all the heat in her apartment and would instead wear all her clothes layered on top of one another to keep warm.
I can totally relate as I sit here in four layers of clothes, hovering over a steaming cup of tea for warmth!
Marie was big science nerd. She was obsessed with physics and chemistry, so much so that she’d get so lost in her work, she’d forget to eat.
Where they have taste tempting boulangeries with baguettes, croissants, petit pains, eclairs, and… sorry, got a little lost in carbs there.
Anyway, she eventually came to work in the lab of Pierre Curie.
I know, her better-known name is a big spoiler alert, but let’s just say these two not only shared a passion for science, but for each other.
Pierre was keen to marry Marie, but she refused him.
She had planned to go back to Poland and really had no intention of staying in Paris, so what would be the point?
Pierre, rather romantic for a scientist, told her he would give up science and move to Poland with her.
This still didn’t win Marie over. What sealed the deal? Marie found out that as a woman, she would have a tough time establishing a career in Poland, so she went back to Paris and back to Pierre.
Okay, maybe not the most heart-stopping romantic reason for a wedding, but a girls’ gotta do what a girl’s gotta do.
The two were wed and let me just set this scene. This wasn’t frills and fancy dresses.
Marie didn’t even have a wedding dress. Ahe wore her normal lab clothes!
So you can almost picture this couple urging the officiator to hurry up, they crank out their I dos, look at each other for a sec and then dash back to the lab to keep on working. Honeymoon, schmoneymoon, there’s chemicals to be analyzed.
And that’s where we get back to that deadly book — actually a collection of books: Marie’s lab journals and notebooks.
Marie was curious about work being done with x-rays and decided to study uranium and how exactly radiation works.
So when I did my physics studies in college we of course had some lessons on radiation…with accompanying lab work.
We were literally handed a piece of radioactive material and, well I don’t really remember what we did with it, but we did have to follow a lot of safety rules.
Another radioactive memory of mine… as a kid, my school took a field trip to the Hanford Nuclear Plant, because you know, what better way to educate kids than exposing them to radiation?
But again, we all wore those little exposure meters and we all had to follow some strict rules.
But strict rules in Marie’s days? Not so much.
There were no safety regulations because no one understood the danger.
This was a time when young woman painted uranium directly onto watch faces to make them glow in the dark. This was fine, delicate work and the ladies would lick, LICK the paintbrushes to bring them to narrow points to do the detail work.
Needless to say, these ladies were not the healthiest lasses on the block.
This was also a time of quack cures and silly amusements that tried to used science as a marketing tool.
People knew certain materials like thorium radiated energy. Well, who doesn’t want more energy, right?
Which is why, if you had a product you claimed would leave the consumer bursting with energy, you tossed a little thorium in.
So thorium, as in radioactive thorium, was added to toothpaste, drinking vessels, and, um, laxatives for that little extra something.
Anyway, back to Marie.
She’s handling uranium, polonium, and radium with no more concern than we would handle a jug of merlot.
She’d even keep vials of the stuff in her pocket. Forget they were there and wander home with them.
She even delighted in keeping the vials around the lab because in the dark, and I quote, “the glowing tubes looked like fairy lights.”
Um, yeah, fairy lights of death!
Marie’s haphazard ways with deadly substances weren’t in vain.
She coined the term radioactivity and ushered in the era of particle physics. She also won a couple Nobel Prizes, one in Physics (with Pierre) and one in Chemistry.
Too bad that the heavy exposure to her fairy lights left both her and Pierre to ill to attend the ceremony for the first Nobel she won. Irony?
Three years after missing the Nobel Prize ceremony, Pierre died.
Oddly enough, not of radiation sickness, but of being crushed under a horse-drawn cart. Which makes you wonder if the horse was being fed thorium-laden oats to boost his energy.
Marie mourned Pierre, but she continued her work.
She was living in a time when women were meant to stay home and raise the kids, and she was working in a field that was filled mainly with men. She did not have an easy time of things and was often shunned despite her being super smart (except about safety).
After a time, Marie started a relationship with a former student of Pierre’s. His name was Paul and he was married, but had been estranged from his wife long before hooking up with Marie.
Nevertheless, Marie was labeled as a home wrecker.
The tabloids were no different then than today, and they had a field day denigrating Marie.
Poor Marie wasn’t even home at the time. She’d gone off to a conference in Belgium. When she returned she had to fight her way through an angry mob.
Still, Marie wasn’t a woman to be held back by rumors.
In that same year, she won her second Nobel Prize becoming the first person ever to win two of the prestigious awards. Go Marie!
Surprisingly, Marie lived to a fairly good age for the time of 67.
Unlike Pierre, she did suffer the effects of radiation poisoning and had been plagued with chronic illness most of her adult life.
Her passion for what she was studying would be the cause of her death.
Marie is recognized as one of the greatest scientists of her time and her notebooks contain a wealth of information and insight into her discoveries.
Unfortunately, as I said, they will kill you.
But the books can still be read.
They’re kept in the Pierre and Marie Curie collection at the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris.
To contain the radiation, the books live in lead-lined boxes.
And no you can’t check them out even if your fines are paid up.
You can, however, arrange to view them…provided you wear protective gear (a haz mat suit) and sign a liability waiver.
The crazy thing? This protocol hasn’t been in place all that long.
The notebooks were actually used on a regular basis (and not kept in lead-lined boxes) by the Institute of Nuclear Physics until 1978.
When they started noticing an unusually high cancer rate amongst the scientists and people in the surrounding neighborhoods, the books, were finally put in lockdown.
I hope you enjoyed this, and that it’s left you glowing!!
Because you’re full of new information, that is, not because of any thorium-laced laxatives….
Hoot at you soon!
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Huge 99c/99p Non-Deadly Book Deal
Domna: The Complete Series
Destiny isn’t given by the gods. It’s made by defying them.
My romantic historical fantasy Domna got picked for a Bookbub Featured Deal, which means this big ol’ box set is discounted to only 99c/99p* at oodles of online bookstores (head HERE to pick your preferred retailer).
This boxset features all six books of the “highly recommended” series, plus exclusive bonus content, and is normally around $10 (USD), so this really is quite the deal!
Here’s what readers have to say about the boxset….
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About the Book
Sofia Domna has her future planned. She will follow in her father’s footsteps and lead the Temple of Apollo. She’ll marry her childhood love, Papinias. She’ll have respect, status, and power.
But when her father bitterly forces her betrothal to a stranger and orders her from the life she’s always known, Sofia is thrown into a new world where any wrong move could mean her demise.
Thrown into a world of full of political turmoil, violent ambition, and dangerous temptation, Sofia discovers her only chance of survival is to stay one step ahead of her enemies, but in Osteria new perils lurk around every corner and plots don’t always strike down their intended victims.
As Sofia’s life moves through the trials of a forced marriage, motherhood, and yearning temptation, she learns that destiny isn’t given; it’s made by cunning, endurance, and, at times, bloodshed.
With every option having dire consequences to those closest to her, when it comes down to the choice between love and power, which will win out?
If you like the political intrigue, adventure, and love triangles of historical fiction by Philippa Gregory and Bernard Cornwell, and the mythological world-building of fantasy fiction by Madeline Miller and Simon Scarrow, you‘ll love Domna.
Grab your copy at your favorite retailer HERE.
*The sale price is good through 15 February and is available in the US, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the EU.
Thanks for popping by and have a great week of reading, everyone!!!
5 thoughts on “Value Your Life? Then DON’T Read This Book!”
Love it! Somehow, I am new to the podcast. Marie is a shining light in the history of bad ass women. Also, I recently toured a nuclear reactor during a college visit with my son. He is leaning toward a nuclear engineering major, but I do think he knows better than to carry radioactive material in his pocket. I hope.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Hmmm….perhaps you better start buying him some lead-lined jeans, just in case. And no worries about the podcast…you weren’t missing much 😂 At least it can live on in written form.
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Marie Curie has been one of my heroes since I first saw the movie about her when I was a kid. I’ve often wondered how many brilliant women aren’t remembered simply because they didn’t manage to win /two/ Nobel Prizes. 😦
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She is pretty intriguing. Unfortunately, I was listening to a podcast recently and the hosts didn’t even know how to pronounce her name, let alone know who she was. I unsubscribed from the podcast immediately.
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Seriously????? Oh that is so sad. She is one of THE greats. That’s like not knowing who Shakespeare was, or Einstein. 😦