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The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2002 (Best American (TM)) Hardcover – October 15, 2002

ISBN-13: 004-6442082976 ISBN-10: 0618082972
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Science writers weigh in on a number of hot-button issues in this eloquent, accessible and often illuminating anthology. Culled from periodicals like the New Yorker, Discover, Harper's, Scientific American and the Atlantic Monthly, these 27 articles tackle everything from conservation and cancer to artificial intelligence and the origins of life. "Welcome to Cancerland," Barbara Ehrenreich's blistering review of our commercial breast cancer culture-which, she argues, celebrates "survivorhood by downplaying mortality" and infantilizes the afflicted in order to promote obedience-is the boldest and most controversial of these offerings. A close second is Frederick C. Crews's "Saving Us from Darwin," a lengthy but erudite consideration of the evolution vs. creationism debate. Several of the remaining entries offer eye-opening perspectives on humankind's impact on wildlife and the environment. In "Wall Street Losses, Wall Street Gains," Anne Matthews describes how songbirds, fixated and confused by the twinkling lights atop New York's tallest skyscrapers, circle the buildings until they fall to their death from exhaustion; H. Bruce Franklin ("The Most Important Fish in the Sea") focuses on the familiar topic of overfishing, which has led to an increased number of "dead zones" in the Atlantic; and Gordon Grice's "Is That a Mountain Lion in Your Backyard?" ponders the return of displaced mountain lions in the Western states. In her introduction to this collection, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Angier writes, "[S]cience writing has matured and is seated comfortably at the literary dining table." These fine works more than prove her point.--cience writing has matured and is seated comfortably at the literary dining table." These fine works more than prove her point.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Tim Folger, series editor for this meritorious annual, notes that the only drawback to having Pulitzer Prize-winning science writer Angier, author of the vibrant and utterly trustworthy Woman: An Intimate Geography (1998), serve as this year's guest editor is the disqualification of her own essays. But Angier's personal and reflective introduction is every bit as lucid and arresting as the outstanding essays she's selected, evincing as it does her signature wit, glory in language, and passion for science. Clarity is the quality Angier looks for first, and she has found 27 prime examples in science and nature essays as consistent in excellence as they are wildly diverse in subject. Frederick C. Crews dissects the newest, most insidious form of creationism. H. Bruce Franklin explains the importance of the "foul" fish menhaden. Blaine Harden chronicles Congo's illegal coltan mining, and other superb writers discuss everything from french fries to urban wildlife, the Bhutan yeti, the SAT, brain death, and dark energy, and the reader's mind expands and fills with light, just as Angier intended. Donna Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Series: Best American (TM)
  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin (October 15, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0618082972
  • ISBN-13: 978-0618082971
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.7 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #840,832 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By adead_poet@hotmail.com on February 25, 2003
Format: Paperback
The Best American Science and Nature Writing series is always a great joy to pick up. This is the way to keep up with general science without spending hundreds of dollars on magazines and journals (well, not really, but it is a good series of books to read). This year Natalie Angier, the Pulitzer Prize winning author of _Woman: An Intimate Geography_ is the guest editor. None of the essays stand out as newborn classics, but they are good essays. And they cover the range of fields.
Anthropology - Sarah Blaffer Hrdy's "Mothers and Others"
Biology - Frederick C. Crews' "Saving Us from Darwin" originally published in The New York Review of Books (Crews attacks every form of creationism and the blending of science and religion, including Gould, but offers us no alternative idea or solution-that's what kept this essay from being an instant classic); H. Bruce Franklin's "The Most Important Fish in the Sea" (ecology/conservation science); Gordon Grice's "Is That a Mountain Lion in Your Backyard?"; "The Dirt in the New Machine" by Blaine Harden (which is both an ecology and technology essays); "Life's Rocky Start", an essay on the origin of life on earth and the importance of minerals, by Robert M.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Robert Kall VINE VOICE on February 12, 2003
Format: Paperback
As a longtime science and health writer, when I saw this title, it leaped out at me. What a good way to see the articles that are considered the best-- to see what kinds of articles mainstream magazines are buying, in terms of topic, style, approach, etc.

It's been a delightful surprise to discover that this book is just loaded with brilliantly written, fascinating articles covering an incredible range of topics. If you enjoy the world of science-- if you read Discover, Scientific American, New Scientist, Science News, Nature-- then you'll love this book.
Actually, I could just as easily mention magazines like The New Yorker, Atlantic, Smithsonian.... because the writing is certainly good enough to make into their pages.. and has.
Some of the articles are just fun to read. Some have been wonderfully helpful in filling in some ideas I've been working on. For example, the article on child rearing, which reports an anthropological approach which studied humans and other primates gave me ideas that plug in beautifully with the ideas on the prefrontal lobes, affect regulation and parent child interaction that Allan Schore writes about. It actually ties that together with Thom Hartmann's hunter farmer model of ADHD. But that's just one article. I've been amazed how, as I'd start out each article with the intent to browse, I'd shift gears to reading each and every one in depth.
Turning someone on to this book will be a real gift. it's a gem.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Stephen Balbach on April 5, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
2002 saw another solid edition of BASNW, edited by Natalie Angier, who brought a more distinctly female oriented perspective in her selections. There are a total of 27 essays, 12 of which I found outstanding, with the remainder well worth reading as well.

In "Violent Pride" (Scientific American), Roy Baumeister skillfully re-examines the prevailing myth that violent offenders are that way because of low self-esteem - instead they are the exact opposite with hyper-inflated egos. Burkhard Bilger in "Braised Shank of Free-Range Possum" (Outside) takes on a familiar topic - eating odd wild meats like possum and raccoon - but does so with a wit and style that sets it above the norm. Funny, educational. In "Welcome to Cancerland" (Harper's Magazine), Barbara Ehrenreich writes about her experiences as a breast cancer survivor, and the politics behind it. This powerful essay touches on many interesting topics: the gender politics of the breast cancer movement, the social pressures to conform to devastating chemo therapy treatments (applicable to all health care).

In H. Bruce Franklin's "The Most Important Fish in the Sea" (Discover) we learn that the menhaden - a small oily fish not eaten by humans - stands close to collapse due to overfishing for animal feed protein, bringing down with it entire ecosystems like a key domino. In Malcolm Gladwell's "Examined Life" (The New Yorker) he tells the story of Stanley Kaplan, the man who beat the SAT tests by training students how to master it - and along the way reveals that IQ is partly genetic, but largely hard work, a product of study and practice. Blaine Harden's "The Dirt in the New Machine" (New York Times Magazine) is an interesting look at the Congo and its natural resource a metal called "coltan" used in electronics.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Michael J. Edelman TOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 24, 2005
Format: Paperback
The writing in this collection is uniformly good, but there's precious little science. Most of the articles are dominated by a kind of gossipy tone about the people involved without ever actually touching on the science. For example, one of the longest pieces in the book is a review of the Intelligent Design debate from the New York Review of Books. It talks a lot about the politics and supposed motivations of the players, with a long discourse on Stephen J. Gould's atheistic approach to theology- but not once does the author touch on the scientific aspects of the debate. I assume the reader is expected to accept the anti-ID position simply as a consequence of being a Review reader.

No doubt the selection of articles was highly influenced by the editor's particular tastes and skills. Natalie Angier is a skilled writer, and her New Yorker pieces are always well crafted, but when it comes to science she's a lightweight. You won't see an equation, or even a number in any of her pieces, and the same is true, for the most part, of the pieces selected for this anthology.

As a collection of casual readings for the person with no scientific background at all, I'd give this volume a B; for the reader looking for some depth, some explanation of current issues in science- D.
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