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The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2007 Paperback – October 10, 2007

4.2 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Provocative and thoroughly enjoyable from start to finish."

About the Author

TIM FOLGER is a contributing editor at Discover and writes about science for several magazines.

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"The Underground Railroad" by Colson Whitehead is a magnificent novel chronicling a young slave's adventures as she makes a desperate bid for freedom in the antebellum South. See more

Product Details

  • Series: Best American (Book 2007)
  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books; 2007 ed. edition (October 10, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0618722319
  • ISBN-13: 978-0618722310
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #527,608 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By The Spinozanator VINE VOICE on November 3, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Our guest editor this year, Richard Preston, thinks the best essays are written by authors who have a personal obsession with the subject matter. It shows in this collection - there is not a single article that does not resonate from an author's passion. There are 28 essays from 20 different periodicals. "Smithsonian" is best represented with four articles. The articles are generally light on hard science, heavy on nature and ecology, and heavy on memoirs. I go out of my way to get this excellent yearly and am never disappointed in it, or in its competitor of a similar name, "Best of American Science Writing." I have asterisked my personal favorites among these brief summaries:

Paul Bennett - Rome is a paradise for archeology, where an archeologist is present anytime a construction project involves excavation. Backhoe operators must stop immediately if something of interest is unearthed, making for constant work slowdowns. Recently a two foot marble head of Constantine was found blocking a sewer drain under the Roman Forum.

Susan Casey - In the northern Pacific, air and water currents create doldrum areas twice the size of Texas where plastic accumulates. This area contains six times as much plastic as it does plankton and there are four more ocean sites like it around the world. Every bit of plastic ever made still exists, and each year we churn out another 60 billion tons of it.

Richard Conniff - A memoir about Patricia Wright, the Jane Goodall of lemurs. An extinct lemur the size of a gorilla roamed Madagascar 350 years ago and the island still has 50 species left. Wright is responsible for preventing much deforestation in Madagascar and the creation of thousands of acres of national parks.
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Format: Paperback
I always enjoy these collections of science and nature writing: The Best American Science and Nature Writing, and The Best American Science Writing. I assume these two books compete for the best articles. That means neither one can be "the best", but there are so many nonfiction science and nature writers that each volume has plenty to choose from.

This volume, with selections made by Richard Preston (The Hot Zone, The Demon in the Freezer), has a wide range of articles. The science essays clearly were the winners here (my favorites: Susan Casey's article on oceanic plastics, and Patricia Gadsby's on the chemistry of food... I've got to start experimenting with eggs). I was less enthused about Brian Doyle's essay on seeing a fisher, and Bill Sherwonit's bear story.

What I really like about this series is that all the articles are short and enlightening. I always feel smarter having read them. So I thank the authors for taking these complex topics and, through the magic of science writing, putting them into a language that even I can understand... like the mutation in the FOX2P gene, and what that means for humanity.

These are great books for trips, and for gifts.
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Format: Paperback
Depending on your viewpoint, the volumes in this series are either treasure houses or minefields. The jewels are essays providing new topics and information to consider. That's also the danger. Most of these articles present the reader with a challenge - "Should I be concerned about this? Should I take some action?" It's almost wearying to turning the pages and be confronted with the need for a decision. Yet, those prompts are not artificial.

Preston, author of "The Demon in the Freezer" and "The Wild Trees" demonstrates his editorial skills with this engaging collection. Covering such diverse topics as the human threats to the seas, the nature of violence and looking for the oldest light, this series of over two dozen articles - with more than four dozen hovering in the wings - conveys how deeply science is penetrating Nature's mysteries. The editor's own writing skills provide a fine standard for assessment and there is nothing either dull or arcane to make the reader stumble. Interests vary, and Preston's choices will meet everybody's requirements. More to the point the subjects chosen and the information provided will stir interest in new areas readers might wish to pursue further.

Each reader - and reviewer - will have particular articles to favour as they wend their way through the anthology. To this reviewer, "Plastic Ocean" by Susan Casey is a foremost choice. Not only is it a fine piece of writing, but the subject - how our plastic products are being gathered into a great oceanic dump, known as the Pacific Garbage Patch - is one of universal concern. Casey interviews yachting captain Charles Moore to understand the immensity of the problem.
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This is one of my favorite in the series on annual Best American Science & Nature Writing. Preston not only is one of the very best science writers, this book shows how well he can edit and find other authors with a clear voice. Highly recommended.
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Great stuff on science and nature contained in twenty-eight selections, of which I liked most: Plastic Ocean, Notes on the Space We Take, Health Secrets From the Morgue, and the Introduction (by Robert Preston) and least: The Rabbit on Mars, The Final Frontier, and How to Get a Nuclear Bomb. Without necessarily agreeing with all of them, I found the following facts, statements, and/or opinions especially interesting (Pp 12, 47, 57, 96, 100-101, 120, 173, 261, 278 respectively):

"...by weight, [the North Pacific subtropical gyre] contains six times as much plastic as it does plankton;" "...a 65-degree egg cooked for an hour should be quite safe.)" and soft boiling eggs at this temperature "...is becoming the rage with chefs in France;" "A twiffler...is a plate of intermediate in size between a dinner plate and a bread plate;" "...perhaps the thing that should worry you the least [should you wish to get a nuclear bomb] is the American government's war on terror;" "Given the pervasive presence of homosexuality throughout the animal kingdom, same-sex partnering must be an adaptive trait that's been carefully preserved by natural selection;" "A globule of yellow-streaked fat oozed through the gaping wound [of a gryllacridid]. It then curled its head down toward the leaking viscera and proceeded to consume its own entrails;" "The duck is the Trojan horse..." [of the bird flu virus], "...a car driven 10,000 miles a year with a fuel efficiency of 30 miles per gallon (mpg) emits close to 1 ton of carbon annually;" "...what you eat or smoke today could affect the health and behavior of your great-grandchildren."

Great writings on a large variety of science and nature related topics.
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