Books

Year In Science

Sunday, January 13, 2002

Smart, Smarter, Smartest

The science books every self-taught genius should have read this year:


Photograph by Matt Ducklo
Atom: An Odyssey From the Big Bang to Life on Earth . . . and Beyond,Lawrence M. Krauss (Little, Brown)
A physicist tracks the mind-bending journey of an oxygen atom.

Body Bazaar: The Market for Human Tissue in the Biotechnology Age, Lori Andrews and Dorothy Nelkin (Crown)
Your DNA, cells, and tissue are viewed by biotechnologists as resources ripe for harvesting.

The Botany of Desire: A Plant's-Eye View of the World, Michael Pollan (Random House)
A gardener with a literary bent explores how four plants—the tulip, the apple, the potato, and marijuana—coevolved with humans.

Dr. Folkman's War: Angiogenesis and the Struggle to Defeat Cancer, Robert Cooke (Random House)
Judah Folkman is convinced the best way to kill tumors is to cut off their blood supply. This biography traces his path of discovery.

Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities, and Software, Steven Johnson (Scribner)
An Internet visionary reveals what slime molds and software developers have in common.

Flatterland: Like Flatland Only More So, Ian Stewart (Perseus)
Cosmic strings and multiple universes are woven into this sequel to an 1884 novel about a two-dimensional world in which women were lines and men were polygons.

The Invention of Clouds: How an Amateur Meteorologist Forged the Language of the Skies, Richard Hamblyn
(Farrar, Straus & Giroux) The words roll off the tongue: cirrus, cumulus, stratus, nimbus. In 1802, Luke Howard, a Quaker Englishman, devised a naming system for clouds, inspiring scientists and poets alike.

The Language of Cells: Life as Seen Under the Microscope, Spencer Nadler (Random House)
Nadler ventures out of his pathology lab to meet patients and ruminates on the interplay between flawed biology and radiant humanity.

The Map That Changed the World: William Smith and the Birth of Modern Geology, Simon Winchester (Harper-Collins)
A former Oxford geologist reconstructs the life of a canal digger whose startling 1793 discovery that fossils are arranged in layers laid the foundation of modern geology.

The Riddle of the Compass: The Invention That Changed the World, Amir D. Aczel (Harcourt)
Aczel chronicles how one of the most revolutionary inventions since the wheel ushered in an age of exploration.

Scourge: The Once and Future Threat of Smallpox, Jonathan B. Tucker (Atlantic Monthly Press)
A bioweapons expert examines the history of smallpox and the threat it poses in a new era of terror.

The Splendid Feast of Reason, S. Jonathan Singer (University of California Press)
Singer, a biologist, argues that religious dogma must make way in the coming century for methodical, reasoned ideas.

Uncle Tungsten: Memories of a Chemical Boyhood, Oliver Sacks (Knopf)
The renowned neurologist recalls his childhood in wartime England, when an uncle introduced him to the stinks, bangs, and wonders of chemistry.
— Maia Weinstock


Protean Friends
Discover contributors produced a literary trove in 2001:

The Best American Science and Nature Writing, Edward O. Wilson, editor; Burkhard Bilger, series editor (Houghton Mifflin)
A collection of superb magazine articles, including several from Discover.

Evolution: The Triumph of an Idea, Carl Zimmer (Harper- Collins)
An illustrated survey of Darwin's landmark theory.

The Irritable Heart: The Medical Mystery of the Gulf War, Jeff Wheelwright (W.W. Norton)
Gulf War syndrome, its causes, and the medical system's failure to understand it.

The Mummy Congress: Science, Obsession, and the Everlasting Dead, Heather Pringle (Hyperion)
Behind the scenes with the obsessed scientists who study death incarnate.

Rivers in Time: The Search for Clues to Earth's Mass Extinctions, Peter D. Ward (Columbia University Press)
A geological inquiry into past and future cataclysms.

The Secret Life of Dust: From the Cosmos to the Kitchen Counter, the Big Consequences of Little Things, Hannah Holmes (John Wiley & Sons)
An eye-opening plunge into a fascinating, nearly invisible world.

The Tapir's Morning Bath, Elizabeth Royte (Houghton Mifflin)
The tribulations of ecologists on a tropical isle in the Panama Canal.

Wild Minds: What Animals Really Think, Marc D. Hauser (Owl Books)
A clearheaded examination of the intellectual and emotional lives of animals.

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