Additional Praise and Reviews for Rebecca Skloot’s
#1 New York Times Bestseller The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks


  • Winner of the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine’s 2011 Communication Award for Best Book
  • Winner of the Chicago Public Library and the Chicago Public Library Foundation 21st Century Award
  • Winner of the Medical Journalists’ Association Open Book Award, General Readership, Non-Fiction
  • Winner of an Ambassador Book Award in American Studies
  • Winner of 2010 Wellcome Trust Book Prize
  • Winner of the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s Young Adult Science Book Award
  • Winner of the Library of Virginia Literary Award for Nonfiction
  • Winner of 2010 Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize for Nonfiction
  • Amazon Best Book of the Year
  • Barnes & Noble Best Books for Adults 2010
  • Winner of the 2010 Indie Lit Award for NonFiction
  • Winner of Readers Choice Award for Best Debut Author and Best Nonfiction Book of the Year
  • Winner of Powells’ 2011 Puddly Award for Nonfiction
  • Winner of Diamond Award for Best Book
  • Winner of the Audie Award for Best Nonfiction Audiobook

Selected for More than Sixty Best of the Year Lists, Including:

  • New York Times Notable Book
  • Entertainment Weekly #1 Nonfiction Book of the Year
  • New Yorker Reviewers’ Favorite
  • American Library Association Notable Book
  • People Top Ten Book of the Year
  • Washington Post Book World Top Ten Book of the Year
  • Salon Best Book of the Year
  • USA Today Ten Books We Loved Reading
  • O, The Oprah Magazine Top Ten Books of the Year
  • National Public Radio Best of the Bestsellers
  • Boston Globe Best Nonfiction Book of the Year
  • Financial Times Nonfiction Favorite
  • Library Journal Best Sci-Tech Book
  • Los Angeles Times Critics’ Pick
  • Bloomberg Top Nonfiction
  • New York Magazine Top Ten Book of the Year for 2010
  • Slate Favorite Book of the Year
  • Top Ten Book of the Year
  • Discover magazine 2010 Must-Read
  • Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year
  • Kirkus Reviews Best Nonfiction Book of the Year
  • Publishers Lunch Best of the Best Books of 2010
  • U.S. News & World Report Top Debate-Worthy Book
  • Booklist Top of the List—Best Nonfiction Book
  • Library Journal Best Sci-Tech Book
  • New Scientist/CultureLab Best Book of the Year
  • Daily Beast Best of the Best Books of the Year


Indelible . . . Much like Ann Fadiman’s The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, this is a heroic work of cultural and medical journalism. With it, Skloot reminds doctors, patients, and outside observers that however advanced the technology and esoteric the science, the material they work with is humanity, and every piece of it is precious.” —Laura Miller, Salon (read the full review)

“Skloot narrates the science lucidly, tracks the racial politics of medicine thoughtfully, and tells the Lacks family’s often painful history with grace . . . Science writing is often just about ‘the facts.’ Skloot’s book, her first, is far deeper, braver, and more wonderful . . . Made my hair stand on end.—Lisa Margonelli, New York Times Sunday Book Review

“Riveting . . . a tour-de-force debut.” CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, Favorite Book of the Year

“A real-life detective story, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks probes deeply into racial and ethical issues in medicine . . . The emotional impact of Skloot’s tale is intensified by its skillfully orchestrated counterpoint between two worlds.” NATURE

“Science journalist Skloot makes a remarkable debut with this multilayered story about faith, science, journalism, and grace . . . Skloot tells a rich, resonant tale of modern science, the wonders it can perform and how easily it can exploit society’s most vulnerable people.” Publishers Weekly, Starred Review (read the full review)

A well-paced, vibrant narrative . . . Equal parts intimate biography and brutal clinical reportage, Skloot’s graceful narrative adeptly navigates the wrenching Lacks family recollections and the sobering, overarching realities of poverty and pre–civil rights racism. The author’s style is matched by a methodical scientific rigor and manifest expertise in the field.” Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review (read the full review)

Funny, tender, sometimes violent . . . Folds together a sweeping history of scientific triumph and shame, a dramatic true story of Skloot’s long struggle to win the family’s confidence, and a cast of characters whose anger, generosity, pride, and improbable grace make them impossible to forget.” —Christine Wicker, Dallas Morning News

“This extraordinary account shows us that miracle workers, believers, and con artists populate hospitals as well as churches, and that even a science writer may find herself playing a central role in someone else’s mythology.” The New Yorker (read the full review)

“No one can say exactly where Henrietta Lacks is buried: during the many years Rebecca Skloot spent working on this book, even Lacks’s hometown of Clover, Virginia, disappeared. But that did not stop Skloot in her quest to exhume, and resurrect, the story of her heroine and her family. What this important, invigorating book lays bare is how easily science can do wrong, especially to the poor. The issues evoked here are giant: who owns our bodies, the use and misuse of medical authority, the unhealed wounds of slavery . . . and Skloot, with clarity and compassion, helps us take the long view. This is exactly the sort of story that books were made to tell—thorough, detailed, quietly passionate, and full of revelation.” Ted Conover, author of Newjack and The Routes of Man

“It’s extremely rare when a reporter’s passion finds its match in a story. Rarer still when the people in that story courageously join that reporter in the search for what we most need to know about ourselves. When this occurs with a moral journalist who is also a true writer, a human being with a heart capable of holding all of life’s damage and joy, the stars have aligned. This is an extraordinary gift of a book, beautiful and devastating—a work of outstanding literary reportage. Read it! It’s the best you will find in many many years.” Adrian Nicole LeBlanc, author of Random Family

“Writing with a novelist’s artistry, a biologist’s expertise, and the zeal of an investigative reporter, Skloot tells a truly astonishing story of racism and poverty, science and conscience, spirituality and family driven by a galvanizing inquiry into the sanctity of the body and the very nature of the life force.” BOOKLIST, Starred Review (read thefull review)

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is a fascinating read and a ringing success. It is a well-written, carefully researched, complex saga of medical research, bioethics, and race in America. Above all it is a human story of redemption for a family torn by loss, and for a writer with a vision that would not let go.” Boston Globe (read the full review)

“A work of both heart and mind, driven by the author’s passion for the story, which is as endlessly renewable as HeLa cells.” Los Angeles Times Faces to Watch in 2010 feature

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks brings to mind the work of Philip K. Dick and Edgar Allan Poe. But this tale is true. Rebecca Skloot explores the racism and greed, the idealism and faith in science that helped to save thousands of lives but nearly destroyed a family. This is an extraordinary book, haunting and beautifully told.”Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation

“Skloot’s book is wonderful—deeply felt, gracefully written, sharply reported.” Susan Orlean, author of The Orchid Thief

Rebecca Skloot has written a marvelous book so original that it defies easy description. She traces the surreal journey that a tiny patch of cells belonging to Henrietta Lacks’s body took to the forefront of science. At the same time, she tells the story of Lacks and her family—wrestling the storms of the late twentieth century in America—with rich detail, wit, and humanity. The more we read, the more we realize that these are not two separate stories, but one tapestry. It’s part The Wire, part The Lives of the Cell, and all fascinating.”Carl Zimmer, author of Microcosm

This is a science biography like the world has never seen. What if one of the great American women of modern science and medicine—whose contribution underlay historic discoveries in genetics, the treatment and prevention of disease, reproduction, and the unraveling of the human genome—was a self-effacing African-American tobacco farmer from the Deep South? A devoted mother of five who was escorted briskly to the Jim Crow section of Johns Hopkins for her cancer treatments? What if the untold millions of scientists, doctors, and patients enriched and healed by her gift never, to this day, knew her name? What if her contribution was made without her knowledge or permission? Ladies and gentlemen, meet Henrietta Lacks. Chances are, at the level of your DNA, your inoculations, your physical health and microscopic well-being, you’ve already been introduced.”Melissa Fay Greene, author of Praying for Sheetrock and There Is No Me Without You

“A jaw-dropping true story . . . raises urgent questions about race and research for ‘progress’ . . . an inspiring tale for all ages.” ESSENCE

“Has the epic scope of Greek drama, and a corresponding inability to be easily explained away.” SF WEEKLY

“There are a handful of journalists who have such a deep capacity for empathy that they can become fully absorbed into their subjects’ lives, gaining their confidence and crossing huge divides of race, culture, class, and geography to tell a story of transcendent humanity. This is what Rebecca Skloot . . . has done in her first book, a nonfiction masterpiece.” The Progressive

“One of the great medical biographies of our time.” FINANCIAL TIMES

“No dead woman has done more for the living . . . a fascinating, harrowing, necessary book.” —Hilary Mantel, THE GUARDIAN (UK)

“Skloot’s engaging, suspenseful book is an incredibly welcome addition for non-science wonks.” NEWSWEEK

“Extraordinary . . . If science has exploited Henrietta Lacks, [Skloot] is determined not to. This biography ensures that she will never again be reduced to cells in a petri dish: she will always be Henrietta as well as HeLa.” THE TELEGRAPH (UK), Best Read of the Year

“Brings the Lacks family alive . . . gives Henrietta Lacks another kind of immortality—this one through the discipline of good writing.” BALTIMORE SUN

“In this gripping, vibrant book, Rebecca Skloot looks beyond the scientific marvels to explore the ethical issues behind a discovery that may have saved your life.” MOTHER JONES

“More than ten years in the making, it feels like the book Ms. Skloot was born to write . . . Skloot, a young science journalist and an indefatigable researcher, writes about Henrietta Lacks and her impact on modern medicine from almost every conceivable angle and manages to make all of them fascinating . . . a searching moral inquiry into greed and blinkered lives . . . packed with memorable characters.” —Dwight Garner, NEW YORK TIMES, Top Ten Book of 2010

“Astonishing . . . No matter how much you may know about basic biology, you will be amazed by this book.” JOURNAL OF CLINICAL INVESTIGATION

“Rebecca Skloot did her job, and she did it expertly . . . A riveting narrative that is wholly original.” THEROOT.COM

“Moving . . .” THE ECONOMIST

“Journalist Rebecca Skloot’s history of the miraculous cells reveals deep injustices in U.S. medical research.” TIME

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is a fascinating look at the woman whose cultured cells—the first to grow and survive indefinitely, harvested without compensation or consent—have become essential to modern medicine.” VOGUE

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is a remarkable feat of investigative journalism and a moving work of narrative nonfiction that reads with the vividness and urgency of fiction. It also raises sometimes uncomfortable questions with no clear-cut answers about whether people should be remunerated for their physical, genetic contributions to research and about the role of profit in science.” —NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO

“An indelible, marvelous story as powerful as those cells.” PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, Best Book of the Year

“As much an act of justice as one of journalism.” SEATTLE TIMES, Best Book of the Year

“A stunning book . . . surely the definitive work on the subject.” THE INDEPENDENT (UK), Best Book of the Year

“Graceful . . . I can’t think of a better way to capture the corrosive effects of ethical transgressions in medical research. It’s a heartbreaking story, beautifully rendered.” THE LANCET

“Read this . . . By letting the Lackses be people, and by putting them in the center of the history, Skloot turns just another tale about the march of progress into a complicated portrait of the interaction between science and human lives.” BOINGBOING.NET

“[A] remarkable and moving book . . . a vivid portrait of Lacks that should be as abiding as her cells.” THE TIMES (UK), Best Book of the Year

“I can’t imagine a better tale. A detective story that’s at once mythically large and painfully intimate. I highly recommend this book.” —Jad Abumrad, RADIOLAB

“Skloot is a terrific popularizer of medical science, guiding readers through this dense material with a light and entertaining touch.” GLOBE AND MAIL (Canada), Best Book of the Year

“A rare and powerful combination of race, class, gender, medicine, bioethics, and intellectual property; far more rare is the writer that can so clearly fuse those disparate threads into a personal story so rich and compelling.” SEED

“Powerful story . . . I feel moved even to say on behalf of the thousands of anonymous black men and women who’ve been experimented on for medical purposes, thank you. Thank you for writing this important book.” —Kali-AhsetAmen, RADIO DIASPORA

“Skloot has written an important work of immersive nonfiction that brings not only the stories of Henrietta Lacks and HeLa once more into line, but also catharsis to a family in sore need of it.” THE TIMES LITERARY SUPPLEMENT

A masterful work of nonfiction . . . a real page turner . . . I read it in one night.” —HANNA ROSIN, Slate (listen to Slate’s critics book club discussion)

“Skloot explores human consequences of the intersection of science and business, rescuing one of modern medicine’s inadvertent pioneers from an unmarked grave.” U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT

“Remarkably balanced and nonjudgmental . . . The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks will leave readers reeling, plain and simple. It has a power and resonance rarely found in any genre, and is a subject that touches each of us, whether or not we are aware of our connection to Henrietta’s gift.” OREGONIAN

“This is the perfect book. It reads like a novel but has the intellectual substance of a science textbook or a historical biography.” DAILY NEBRASKAN

“Illuminates what happens when medical research is conducted within an unequal health-care system and delivers an American narrative fraught with intrigue, tragedy, triumph, pathos, and redemption.” MS.

“A tremendous accomplishment—a tale of important science history that reads like a terrific novel.” KANSAS CITY STAR, Best Book of the Year

“Stripped bare of scientific mind, of political and ideological counsel, of celestial advisement and legal consideration, of professional belonging and identity—I would have to say that the book tells a remarkably simple story infused with a very old theme. In essence, the story is a fiercely human tale about the importance of seeing one another in the clarifying light of each other’s unique and radiant mortal being.” —Kate Scannell, JOURNAL OF LEGAL MEDICINE

“Good science writing isn’t easy, but Skloot makes it appear so.” WICHITA EAGLE, Best Book of the Year

“Encompasses nearly every hot-button issue currently surrounding the practice of medicine.” MADISON CAPITAL TIMES

“Defies easy categorization . . . as unpredictable as any pulp mystery and as strange as any science fiction.” WILLAMETTE WEEK

“An achievement . . . navigates both the technical and deeply personal sides of the HeLa story with clarity and care.” PORTLAND MERCURY

“[A] remarkable book.” LONDON REVIEW OF BOOKS

“An essential reminder that all human cells grown in labs across the world, HeLa or otherwise, came from individuals with fears, desires, and stories to tell.” CHEMICAL & ENGINEERING NEWS

“Blows away the notion that science writing must be the literary equivalent to Ambien.” CHICAGO TRIBUNE

“Seldom do you read a book that is science, social history, and a page turner.” BRITISH MEDICAL JOURNAL

“Thrilling and original nonfiction that refuses to be shoehorned into anything as trivial as a genre. It is equal parts popular science, historical biography, and detective novel.” —Ed Yong, DISCOVER.COM

“Best book I’ve read in years.” —Brian Sullivan, FOX BUSINESS NETWORK

“Thanks to Rebecca Skloot, we may now remember Henrietta—who she was, how she lived, how she died.” THE NEW REPUBLIC

“But this book isn’t just about science; it’s about gender, race, and life itself.” TORONTO SUN

“We need more writers like Rebecca Skloot.” —E. O. WILSON

“Extraordinary…breathtaking…Riveting, beautifully written, and, yes, educational.” —NICK HORNBY, The Believer

“With a sensitive heart, a knowledge of science, an investigative reporter’s zeal, and a novelist’s skill, Skloot combines biography, medicine, science, detective thriller, social critique, and medicolegal inquiry. This layered approach is at once moving, sad, funny, and deeply unsettling…an irresistible read.” —JAMA, The Journal of the American Medical Association

More Praise For The Immortal Life

Named by more than 60 critics as one of the best books of 2010

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The Henrietta Lacks Foundation

The Henrietta Lacks Foundation strives to provide financial assistance to needy individuals who have made important contributions to scientific research without their knowledge or consent.