Monday, February 1, 2010

Warning: geek book talk ahead

It's funny, I used to almost exclusively read fiction. Is it common in middle age to turn to more non-fiction? Maybe during our educational years there are just too many facts and too little immersing oneself in alternate worlds. I have every copy of the Best American Short Stories from 1985 to the present. But more and more I'm enjoying the non-fiction side of this series, such as The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2009. This one was fantastic! The 26 selections came from 16 magazines including Harper's, National Geographic, Discover, and New Yorker.

Here's a short description of my favorites.

Andrew Curry - the Stasi, the East German secret police, and how they tried to destroy a staggeringly enormous amount of paper as the Wall was beginning to fall.

Frederick Kaufman - the story of POOP and how it is dealt with daily in New York City. Processing, decontaminating, and profiting from human waste. An amazing story, although I'm sure you wouldn't necessarily agree until you read this. I bet you didn't know that NYC has the world's 4th largest navy. For moving around human waste.

Virginia Morell - Understanding animal intelligence. I always love a good Alex the Parrot story, and this article contains so much more.

David Quammen - All about an infectious cancer in Tasmanian devils. And what it means when a cancer evolves like this.

Oliver Sacks - Covers what Darwin did other than write "Origin of the Species". A great guy, that Darwin.

Mark A. Smith - A beautiful piece on the wonders of little animalcules in pond water as seen under a microscope. My favorite bit is: "When Arcella divides, it first makes a second shell, into which the daughter cell is born. These are single cells making snug little homes for themselves and providing the same for their offspring. I smile at how utterly ingrained and universal these domestic activities turn out to be."

Michael Specter - A thought-provoking article on Tesco's attempt to label all the foods they sell with a carbon label, explaining the carbon footprint to get that food from seed to production to the supermarket shelf. It's a lot more difficult to define than you'd think.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for that great book report.
Will read it too.

Kate said...

Oliver Sacks is no slouch himself. I have a nerd crush on him.