The Best in Books

For those people fascinated by Einstein or the grandeur of a redwood forest

Monday, May 07, 2007

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Einstein by Walter Isaacson
(Simon & Schuster, $32)

Last year’srelease of Albert Einstein’s love letters proved that we still don’tknow everything about the celebrated physicist. Isaacson incorporatesthese letters—as well as more familiar bits of Einstein lore—into amasterful portrait of the man behind the science. From the teenageatheist who renounced his German citizenship to the peace-activistseptuagenarian who pursued an “equation of everything” on his deathbed,the Einstein in this page-turner is inventive and fallible, with hisaccomplishments intimately linked to his nonconformity. Anecdotes fromEinstein’s life slide seamlessly into accounts of his science; histriumphs appear not as isolated and inexplicable bursts of genius, butas carefully cultivated blooms from a hardworking—ifunorthodox—gardener. With such rich raw material, so carefully mined,there is reason to welcome another Einstein biography.

wild-trees-150
wild-trees-150


The Wild Trees by Richard Preston
(Random House, $25.95)

Giantredwood trees shared the planet with the dinosaurs, yet somehowsurvived the asteroid impact. Today the 380-foot titans of NorthernCalifornia are the tallest trees on Earth, and as old as the Parthenon.Until recently their unexplored crowns were thought to be largelydevoid of life. Preston introduces a small band of climbers andscientists obsessed with seeing for themselves. Amidst a jungle gym oftrunks and branches, they discover fruiting berry bushes, hanging ferngardens, dwarf oak trees—even tiny crustaceans. Preston joins thepioneers as they sky-walk hundreds of feet above the ground. Hiscomplete immersion in his subject makes for a superlative work ofnarrative nonfiction.

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