The Art Forger: a Novel, by B. A. Shapiro. Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2012

A bold plot to copy art works stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner art museum and sell them as originals ... it could have been a standard-issue novel, but in fact, it is much more. In addition to the forgery plot, there are a couple of romantic sub-plots, and a great deal of information about how paintings were made long ago, and - more surprisingly - about techniques used to artificially age forgeries and make them pass all the tests normally used to detect them.

This novel is based on a real incident - the still-unsolved theft of works from the Gardner museum - and adds an interesting side-story of Mrs. Gardner's "relationship" with the painter Degas. I was less interested in the stories of the characters than in the processes of painting, forging, and antiquing art.
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot. Crown Publishers, 2010.

In 1950s Baltimore, Henrietta Lacks knows there's something wrong inside her. Poor, and facing racist laws regulating medical care, the cancer grows and finally kills her. Unbeknownst to her or her family, cancerous cells from her cervix were harvested, cultured, and sold to researchers. They were unusual in that they didn't die after 3 generations, as all other harvested cells had done. Due to their genetic uniformity, longevity, and aggressive growth, researchers were able to use Henrietta's cells, known as "HeLa," to study polio vaccine, as well as in AIDS and cancer research, effects of radiation and toxic substances, gene mapping, parvovirus, distemper, and papillomavirus research, and much more.

The author uses interviews with family members to highlight the story of the exploitation of Henrietta's family and the HeLa cells. I listened to the audio edition, and was simply astounded by the two-pronged investigation into the privacy and rights of the family, vs. the benefits that came from using HeLa cells in medical research. The research is ongoing.