Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2007

The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2007
by Tim Folger (Editor), Richard Preston (Editor)
Trade paperback, 300 pages
Houghton Mifflin, 2007
ISBN-13: 978-0618722310
highly recommended

From cover:
The Best American series is the premier annual showcase for the country's finest short fiction and nonfiction. Each volume's series editor selects notable works from hundreds of periodicals. A special guest editor, a leading writer in the field, then chooses the very best twenty or so pieces to publish. This unique system has made the Best American series the most respected - and most popular - of its kind.
My Thoughts:

The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2007 features 28 essays from 20 different periodicals. The essays chosen reflect a wide range of topics, from the sewers of Rome to video games to DNA. You can tell that all of the articles were chosen with care to represent the best essays from that year. I enjoyed most of the essays very much - a few less than the majority. All in all this was a good anthology and I'm going to check out others in the series.
Highly Recommended

Foreword, Tim Folger
Introduction, Richard Preston
In Rome's Basement: from National Geographic, Paul Bennett
Plastic Ocean: from Best Life, Susan Casey
For the Love of Lemurs: from Smithsonian, Richard Conniff
The Rabbit on Mars: from Isotope, Alison Hawthorne Deming
Fishering: from Ecotone, Brian Doyle
Dinosaur Shocker!: from Smithsonian, Helen Fields
Cooking for Eggheads: from Discover, Patricia Gadsby
Cyber-Neologoliferation: from The New York Times Magazine, James Gleick
The Final Frontier: from Discover, John Horgan
How to Get a Nuclear Bomb: from The Atlantic Monthly, William Langewiesche
The Effeminate Sheep: from Seed, Jonah Lehrer
Let There Be Light: from Time, Michael Lemonick
The Nature of Violence: from Orion, Jeffrey Lockwood
The Germs of Life: from Orion, Lynn Margulis & Emily Case
Neanderthal Man: from Smithsonian, Steve Olson
Health Secrets from the Morgue: from Men's Health, Michael Perry
Hitler's Willing Archaeologists: from Archaeology, Heather Pringle
Sex, Lies, and Video Games: from The Atlantic Monthly, Jonathan Rauch
The Flu Hunter: from Smithsonian , Michael Rosenwald
Notes on the Space We Take: from Ninth Letter, Bonnie Rough
The Olfactory Lives of Primates: from The Virginia Quarterly Review, Robert Sapolsky
Ruffled Feathers: from The New Yorker, John Seabrook
In the Company of Bears: from Anchorage Press, Bill Sherwonit
The Rape of Appalachia: from Vanity Fair, Michael Shnayerson
First Soldier of the Gene Wars: from Archaeology, Meredith Small
A Plan to Keep Carbon in Check: from Scientific American, Robert Socolow and Stephen Pacala
Delusions of Space Enthusiasts: from Natural History, Neil DeGrasse Tyson
DNA Is Not Destiny: from Discover, Ethan Watters
Contributors' Notes
Other Notable Science and Nature Writing of 2006


One of the joys of reading a collection like this is the opportunity to share the perspective of writers who take little for granted, who remind us that there is nothing ordinary about our world and that there is perhaps no better means for uncovering the unexpected than science. Tim Folger, foreword, pg. xi

I confess, I've been attracted to pieces in which the author displays a hint of obsession, especially if it involves a topic that's fresh, little known, or offbeat. Richard Preston, introduction, pg. xiii

Science is about not knowing and wanting badly to know. Science is about flawed and complicated human beings trying to use whatever tools they've got, along with their minds, to see something strange and new. In that sense, writing about science is just another way of writing about the human condition. Richard Preston, introduction, pg. xxii

Luca pushes his head into the sewer, inhales, and grins. "It doesn't smell so bad in the cloaca today," he says, dropping himself feet first into a dark hole in the middle of the Forum of Nerva. Paul Bennett, pg.1

Moore could not believe his eyes, Out here in this desolate place, the water was a stew of plastic crap. It was as though someone had taken the pristine seascape of his youth and swapped it for a landfill. Susan Casey, pg. 10

This is the head of the molecular gastronomy group in the College de France's Laboratory for the Chemistry of Molecular Interactions. That's a mouthful to describe a lab that studies something simple: how the process of cooking changes the structure and taste of food. Patricia Gadsby, pg. 43

But I was unprepared for the unmitigated ferocity of the Gryllacrididae - insects that look like a cross between a cricket and a grasshopper. Jeffrey Lockwood, pg. 115

Fear of bacteria has reached a feverish pitch recently, thanks in large part to the work of ever-industrious advertisers. In our efforts to eliminate there "germs" we have had devastating effects - not on the bacteria, but on ourselves. Lynn Margulis & Emily Case, pg.123

I've been invited to watch someone pull the guts from a dead man. The man has died, as they say, before his time. He was in his forties. Michael Perry, pg. 135

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