The Best American Science Writing 2009

The Best American Science Writing 2009

by Natalie Angier, Jesse Cohen


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Edited by Natalie Angier, the Pulitzer Prize–winning New York Times columnist and bestselling author of Woman: An Intimate Geography, Best American Science Writing 2009 is the ninth edition of the popular annual series hailed as “superb brain candy” (Kirkus) and dedicated to collecting the most crucial, thought-provoking and engaging science writing of the year. Provocative and engaging, the Best American Science Writing 2009 as edited by Angier covers the full spectrum of scientific inquiry—from biochemistry, physics, and astronomy to genetics, evolutionary theory, and cognition.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780061431661
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 09/15/2009
Series: Best American Science Writing Series
Pages: 346
Product dimensions: 5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.82(d)

About the Author

Natalie Angier is a bestselling author and a Pulitzer Prize-winning science columnist for the New York Times. She is the author of four books: Natural Obsessions; The Beauty of the Beastly; Woman: An Intimate Geography; and, most recently, The Canon: A Whirligig Tour of the Beautiful Basics of Science. She lives in Takoma Park, Maryland, with her husband, Rick Weiss, a science reporter for the Washington Post, and her daughter.

Jesse Cohen is a writer and freelance editor. He lives in New York City.

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The Best American Science Writing 2009 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
lyzadanger on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Houghton Mifflin's annual 'Best American' series is getting far-flung. In 1915, the first Best American Short Stories anthology was published. These days, you can get a yearly dose of Best Comics, Best Crime Reporting, Best Medical Writing, Best Short Plays, et cetera. Last year I read The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2008 and was pleased. This year, I just finished reading The Best American Science Writing 2009.This is not to be confused with The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2009. What the difference actually is between the two (Science versus Science and Nature) is not clear to me. The Science collection I just finished included articles on biology and animal behavior, two topics I'd say slot firmly in the nature camp. But, all right, I'm not one to deny Houghton Mifflin its god-given right to publish a lot of things.As in all of the Best American books, this year's science compendium includes a couple dozen short pieces in the indicated genre. These collections make for quick reading; the diversity of the selections usually keeps things interesting, by dint of variety if nothing else. This book starts off deeply grim. It opens with a horrifying New Yorker article about a woman whose pathological, endless itching causes her to scratch right through her skull into her brain. You're not done being totally freaked out about that when you're hit with a follow-up sucker punch of oncology nurse/extreme anxiety/dental procedures, and then the coup de grace: a piece from The New York Times Magazine that not only postulates about fetuses experiencing extreme pain but reminds us that, just a couple of decades ago, emergency surgery on premature newborns was routinely executed without any anesthesia. The good news is, if you've made it this far, you have smoother sailing ahead. There's Jennifer Khan's brilliant article about the death of a 9/11 first responder that leaves a gorgeous ambivalence about relative truths and the meaning of heroism. Alex Kotlowitz's story about the treatment of violence in Chicago like a virus—quarantining it and soothing would-be assailants with palliative, panacea counseling from peers—is intriguing, and an offbeat piece from Wired about an eccentric, slightly misanthropic Polish entrepreneur obsessed with systematically remembering everything he learns is, well, offbeat. Be warned though, because you're about to get blindsided again. The penultimate chapter is an essay, again from an oncology nurse. 'My patient died looking like one of the flesh-eating zombies from 28 Weeks Later,' writes Theresa Brown, right after describing the causal traumatic scene in spurting, nightmarish detail. I made the mistake of reading this at night. I recommend against it.Like any anthology, this one has its ups and downs. It made for a quick read and a couple of ah-ha moments, but if you miss out on it, you won't be hopelessly left behind.
Nickelini on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a collection of 24 science-related articles that appeared in publications such as The New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic, and Harpers. As with any anthology, there are stronger pieces and weaker. Overall, I really liked this collection--there was only one article (about monkeys) that I found too boring to finish.My favourite was "The Itch," by Atul Gawande, which was originally published in the New Yorker. where the author talks about not just itching, but also why people with missing limbs still feel them, and most shockingly, about a woman who scratched through her skull into her brain (I told my daughter about it and she has had me retell it to all of her friends--it's a story that never fails to fascinate!). There was also a chilling article by Gregg Easterbrook titled "The Sky is Falling" that explains how NASA's messed up priorities may be jeopardizing the future of the planet. If I lived in the US I'd certainly be contacting my elected representatives and drawing their attention to it. The other article that stood out for me was "Looking Up," by Jennifer Margulis (from Smithsonian), and which is about an endangered breed of giraffes in west Africa. (Although I've been a big giraffe fan since childhood, I had no idea about their interesting mating habits. Hmmm).Recommended for: People who like to learn interesting things about our world.
bezoar44 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
While other years in this series are usually interesting, this collection is searing. The volume editor, Natalie Angier, appears to have a high threshold for vicarious pain. Several essays appear in both this volume and in the Best American Science and Nature Writing 2009: Atul Gawande, 'the Itch' (about a woman who scratches her head until she exposes her brain); J. Madelaine Nash, 'Back to the Future'; and David Quammen, 'Contagious Cancer'. Standouts unique to this volume include Annie Murphy Paul, 'the First Ache', on the question of how early fetuses can feel pain; Oliver Sacks, 'A Journey Inside the Brain', reviewing the memoir of a brilliant Hungarian artist who survived a brain tumor (and brain surgery while he was conscious) in the 1930s; and Jina Moore, 'Reading the Wounds', on a couple of doctors who examine immigrants fleeing torture to help them bolster their petitions for asylum in the US. Jennifer Kahn's 'A Cloud of Smoke' considers the life and death of a 9/11 first responder who died of lung disease in 2006; the essay implies that the stress of responding to the terrorist attack indirectly killed the responder if exposure to toxics in the air at Ground Zero didn't. I found Greg Easterbrook, 'the Sky is Falling', on civilization's vulnerability to large meteor strikes, unexpectedly scary - sure, it's not likely to happen often, but to know that we're making no effort to manage this risk is disturbing. Of course, anthropogenic global warming is already happening, and the US is doing little enough about that. Dennis Overbye, 'Big Brain Theory', I think was intended to be playful, but instead struck me as a kind of existential horror story: what if everything we perceive is a momentary ordering of chaotic reality, and all our memories are false? Theresa Brown, 'Perhaps Death is Proud', a three-page essay recounting the bloody death of a cancer patient, was only slightly lightened by its placement next to a tongue-in-cheek satire from the Onion, 'Evolutionists Flock to Darwin-Shaped Wall Stain'.Overall, it's a solid and provocative collection of essays, but don't read it when you're feeling squeamish or really down.
Jellyn on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Some very good writing and lots of stories about current science. Or at least recently current science.
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