November 30, 2010
This has been a truly excellent year in science books, and I’ve written about five of them: Rebecca Skloot’s The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, which seems to be on the top of everyone’s “Best of 2010″ list; Shell Games by Craig Welch, who delved into the hidden world of wildlife trafficking in the Pacific Northwest; Bonobo Handshake by Vanessa Woods, who introduced readers to our lesser known primate cousins; Sam Kean’s The Disappearing Spoon, full of fabulous tales of the Periodic Table; and The Calculus Diaries by Jennifer Ouellette, who made calculus so interesting, I wanted sit down and figure out the equations for myself.
But I have a pile of books sitting on my desk that I haven’t had time for yet. Here are nine I wish I’d gotten to:
* Packing for Mars, by Mary Roach: Roach visited research facilities around the world to learn how we prepare for space exploration, from the miseries of isolation to how NASA designs space toilets.
* Pink Brain Blue Brain, by Lise Eliot: Eliot, a neuroscientist at the Chicago Medical School examines how the differences between boys and girls emerge, arguing that small differences present at birth become amplified over time as we reinforce stereotypes.
* Proofiness: The Dark Arts of Mathematical Deception, by Charles Seife: Mathematical misinformation pervades our world, making falsehoods seem to be true. Seife shows the dangers in this and how “proofiness” is undermining our democracy.
* The Species Seekers, by Richard Conniff: In his most recent book, Conniff, a frequent contributor to Smithsonian, looks at the history of natural history, back to the 18th century. “It was the great age of discovery,” he told Smithsonian.com recently.
* Selling the Fountain of Youth, by Arlene Weintraub: The anti-aging industry is making a killing off of people who are trying to stay young. But many of these treatments aren’t just doing damage to our pocketbooks; Weintraub discovered that some are downright dangerous.
* The World in 2050, by Laurence C. Smith: Geoscientist Smith uses global modeling research to predict what our world will be like in 2050. This should be a nice companion to Smithsonian‘s 40th anniversary issue, “40 Things You Need to Know About the Next 40 Years.”
* On Second Thought: Outsmarting Your Mind’s Hardwired Habits, by Wray Herbert: The mental tricks and biases that help us get through life quickly and easily may also be leading us into unwise decisions, Herbert writes.
* Solar, by Ian McEwan: Good fiction books with a science bent are rare. Here’s a story about greed, deception and climate change.
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