Wizards, Aliens, and Starships: Physics and Math in Fantasy and Science Fiction. Charles L. Adler. 378 pages. Princeton University Press.
Beautiful Geometry. Eli Maor and Eugen Jost. 187 pages. Princeton University Press.
Dreams of Other Worlds: The Amazing Story of Unmanned Space Exploration. Chris Impey and Holly Henry. 472 pages. Princeton University Press.
The Raptors of Iowa. Paintings by James F. Landenberger. Essays by Dean M. Roosa, Jon W. Stravers, Bruce Ehresman and Rich Patterson. 103 pages. University of Iowa Press.
Touching a Nerve: The Self as Brain. Patricia Churchland. 304 pages. W. W. Norton.
A Very Short Tour of the Mind: 21 Short Walks Around the Human Brain. Michael Corballis. 106 pages. Overlook Press.
A Piece of the Sun: The Quest for Fusion Energy. Daniel Clery. 320 pages. Overlook Press.
Fungal Biology in the Origin and Emergence of Life. David Moore. 236 pages. Cambridge University Press. (Paper.)
The Kingdom of Fungi. Jens H. Petersen. 272 pages. Princeton University Press.
Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much. Sendhil Mullainathan and Eldar Shafir. 304 pages. Times Books.
21 October 2015
The simple message of The Secret Lives of Bats (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt): Humankind should praise these seed-spreading, pollinating, insect-pest-munching flying mammals rather than kill them. Unfortunately, we have been more successful at the latter, and in alarming numbers worldwide, as author Merlin Tuttle tells the tale, subtitled My Adventures with the World’s Most Misunderstood Mammals. Tuttle, a bat researcher since boyhood who founded Bat Conservation International, has spent the past 50 years in the field (and the cave) setting the record straight. Spinning engaging stories that star moonshiners, farmers and other bat-curious, Tuttle is a personable and plainspoken guide through a world inaccessible to most.
21 September 2015
Steven Pinker’s The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century isn’t just a good writing guide. It’s one of the best books published in the past year. Wise, funny, practical and, as of this writing, ranked in the top 20 of three Amazon writing-guide categories, it will find an even wider audience after its Penguin-paperback debut this week. Pinker isn’t a scold who ascribes bad writing to laziness or ill will. He explains why otherwise well-intended writers fail. For example, are scientists and other jargon-drenched writers trying to shut the rest of us out? No, he says. In the subtitle of a chapter called “The Curse of Knowledge,” Pinker nails it: “The main cause of incomprehensible prose is the difficulty of imagining what it’s like for someone else not to know something that you know.” He’s also strategic, preparing readers before laying a serious but fascinating grammar lesson on them unlike anything you’ll find in The Elements of Style, in print for 56 years. May Pinker’s words on writing enjoy a similar run.