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The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2003 (The Best American Series) Paperback – October 10, 2003


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books (October 10, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0618178929
  • ISBN-13: 978-0618178926
  • Product Dimensions: 1.1 x 5.2 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,054,375 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Dawkins (A Devil's Chaplain), the Cambridge University evolutionary biologist, has selected 29 pieces from a broad array of sources to demonstrate the health and vitality of American science writing. His introduction, presenting his defense of science as a way of knowing what is true about the world, is as engaging as any essay in the collection. Given his long-standing defense of evolutionary theory against attack by creationists, it's not surprising that many of the articles he has opted to include have strong political overtones. Explaining his most controversial selection, an essay by space scientists Clark Chapman and Alan Harris, which uses statistics to argue that our reaction to September 11 was out of proportion to the actual loss, Dawkins argues that their piece is "an example of how the scientific way of thinking might influence our lives for the better." Among his fine choices, a number stand out, such as Gary Taubes's much-talked-about article (originally in the New York Times Magazine) calling into question all we have been told about diet and nutrition; one by Daniel Lazare, reprinted from Harper's, asks readers to reconsider what we know about the origins of Judeo-Christian culture; and a column by Audubon's Ted Williams reassesses the logic offered for killing coyotes in Maine. The anthology is provocative and thoroughly enjoyable from start to finish.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Famed evolutionist Dawkins gives a second wind to recent magazine articles on science and nature reflecting matters of topical interest as well as those that stay with us from year to year. In the latter category, he selects physicist Steven Weinberg's examination of antiballistic missile defense arguments pro and con, which aren't much different from those in the 1960s when Weinberg worked the technology. For currency, Dawkins picks several pieces dealing with security against terrorists and computer hackers, the authors of which tend to be skeptical of the bandwagon mentality demanding and expecting defense against every conceivable threat. So the volume captures the nervousness of the times, but it calms down in spots with less worrisome, more positive subjects. Readers will delight in a son's tribute to his mother's tenacity to succeed in the male-dominated world of science; they may be inspired to read Silent Spring (1962) by one writer's commemoration of its author, Rachel Carson; and they'll relax with the always amiable Oliver Sacks. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

35 of 42 people found the following review helpful By Godfrey T. Degamo on October 19, 2003
Format: Paperback
Just to give you my viewpoint, I am a science junky. I have several subscriptions to science magazines, including the three layperson's magazines: American Scientist, Scientific American, and Discover. In addition, I also read two journals of mathematics.
This book contains the same sort of writings seen in Discover. So readers of the other two magazines, the writings will be a few `step down' in terms of science. This book contains more science than the other `brand', The Best American Science Writings XXXX by Ecco Publishing. If you are on a tight budget, I recommend this book over Ecco's book. There are only about 3 articles that came from the magazines that I've listed above. So, you don't have to worry so much about rereading the same writings.
I have the same complaints every year against this book and of Ecco's books. That is, it's too fashionable, it lacks the illustrations that came with the original publication, and there is a complete omission of the Queen of Science, mathematics. When you finish this book, you will not be left with a `feeling' that you just read a great book. Naturally, it's just a collection of magazine articles. So if you are a science fan, then it's a marginal purchase. If you are from the "literary camp" then this is a good buy.
Now, let me discuss some of the contents of the book. (Also read further for some articles that should have made these books.) Because the articles are fashionable, we can already guess what the contents of the book will be. A great deal of pages are devoted to articles on global warming. There are a few articles on the archaeology of the middle east. And we have an article on dieting.
By far, the most memorable article in the book is an essay about the September 11th terrorist attack.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Stephen A. Haines HALL OF FAME on November 7, 2003
Format: Paperback
Opening an essay collection is rather like breaking the Christmas pinata - there's bound to be something to please everyone. If you hope to discover whether "royal" blood trickles in your veins, skip right to Steve Olson's account of tracing his ancestors and the surprises he reveals about all of us. For a more practical, if more disturbing, application of gene research, sit in the Sequenom waiting room with David Duncan while he ponders the results of a DNA test. He's not hoping for claimant-to-the-throne status. He wants to know whether some quirk in his genetic makeup might indicate heart problems. If you wish to enjoy the life extended age might grant you, you may wish to peruse one of several articles on the environment and the changes it's undergoing. Residents of coastal cities or islands may consider moving to higher ground after Ian Frazier's revelations about retreating glaciers and their watery residue.
"Science and Nature Writing" allows many subject options. Dawkins has chosen well and in a timely fashion for this anthology. It would be redundant to assess the writing styles - all of these pieces are compelling, informative and presented in a highly readable style. The subjects may have a scientific or technical foundation, but the information offered isn't buried in arcane terminology. For some of the articles, the style is designed to catch your attention over the destination of your tax dollars. Is the response to the 11 September World Trade Centre attacks rational? Is money being diverted to programs that might find better use and offer better security elsewhere? Clark Chapman and Alan Harris address the first part of the question, while Steven Weinberg in one article and Charles Mann in another look at the second part.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Stephen Foster VINE VOICE on May 29, 2004
Format: Paperback
The best thing about a collection of essays like this is that you get to read articles by writers you've never heard of, on topics you never realized could be at least interesting and sometimes even compelling. The writing ranges from dry and technical to almost purely emotional. I can't think of a single dud, which is little surprise, given the editor.

So, read it for elucidation or inspiration. You will come away with a few previously-unfamiliar names firmly lodged in your head for future reference, like Ian Frazier. The end of his (quite literally sensual) ode to icebergs is so beautiful it almost hurts. Here it is in full:

"A lot of what is exciting about being alive can't be felt, because it's beyond the power of the senses. Just being on the planet, we are moving around the sun at 67,000 miles an hour; it would be great if somehow we could climb up to an impossible vantage point and actually feel that speed.

"All this data we've got piling up is interesting, but short on thrills. Time, which we have only so much of, runs out on us, and as we get older we learn that anything and everything will go by. And since it will all go by anyway, why doesn't it all go right now, in a flash, and get it over with? For mysterious reasons, it doesn't, and the pace at which it proceeds instead reveals itself in icebergs.

"In the passing of the seconds, in the one-thing-after-another, I take comfort in icebergs. They are time solidified and time erased again. They pass by and vanish, quickly or slowly, regular inhabitants of a world we just happened to end up on. The glow that comes from them is the glow of more truth than we can stand."
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