October 21, 2006

Best Science Writing of 2006

At the SFO Books, Inc last week I picked up a couple pieces of airplane reading that I enjoyed....

42nd President And Book Promoter

The first book has nothing to do with science; I bought it because I saw it on TV.

After Clinton's very-public book pitch on FOX a few weeks ago, I couldn't resist picking up a copy of Richard Clarke's Against All Enemies. It was better than I expected. Of course it was interesting to get an insider's view of four administrations, but it was surprising in how it read like a Tom Clancy novel. Lots of action scenes interleaved with insider quips: it is basically the classic story of a spy who was wronged by his political masters.

I was also surprised that after Clinton's pitch, the book was basically absent at most bookstores. Regardless of your political leanings, I think you would agree that Simon & Schuster's Free Press missed a unique marketing opportunity. Instead at most bookstores Bill O'Reilly's Culture Warrior was plastered on full-wall displays (is that the fourth or fifth cloned book from him?) - yawn.

Twenty-One Cool Essays for $10

But, speaking of yawning and cloning, the book I really enjoyed on the plane was a more contemplative compilation: The Best Science Writing of 2006. This year's selection is really great.

The 21 essays, chosen by editor Atul Gawande (the surgeon who wrote Complications) are all "cool," in Gawande's words. They cover interesting and current work, ranging from speculation on the psychological underpinnings of religion to the curious digital-cognitive world inhabited by the programming teams that rank at the top of modern computer chess.

As you would expect, the 2006 essays draw back the curtain on a range of in-the-news science topics such as cloning, intelligent design, and climate change. But some of the essays are enjoyable simply because they are good writing. One of my favorites was "Yawning," by laugh-and-yawn researcher Robert Provine. You might not have been able able to tell I was enjoying myself while reading it, because the contagion of the topic had me yawning nonstop until I put it down. I challenge you to read it without yawning yourself.

Posted by David at October 21, 2006 03:49 PM

I think George I was the 41st... http://www.ask.com/web?q=41st+president&qsrc=0&o=0&l=dir

Posted by: roger at October 22, 2006 02:27 AM

Yes, you're right, Roger!

Posted by: David at October 22, 2006 08:33 AM

Well, it depends how you want to count Grover Cleveland.

Posted by: David Maymudes at October 23, 2006 12:36 AM
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