Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Best of the "Best Of"

The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2008
edited by Jerome Groopman

A couple of years ago I became interested in science writing, largely because my understanding of some of the hard sciences, such as physics, is so pitiful. In school I always liked life sciences like biology but ran from things like chemistry and physics - mostly because they involve math and I never had any confidence in math. I love science writing, though. I feel like I can read something from almost any of the many branches of science and (even if I do not fully understand it) have a slightly more complete grasp of how this whole marvelous that world that God gave us fits together.

This "Best of..." series is a really helpful resource. A friend gave me The Best American Spiritual Writing a couple of years ago and now I buy it every year. There is no way I have the money to subscribe to all those magazines, let alone the time to read them all, but the "Best of..." compilations (which are edited by a different person each year) pull out the top 20 or so articles from a wide variety of magazines. It's like sitting down to a 20 course meal and every course is good - no junk. I also have given E., at various times, The Best American Food Writing and The Best American Non-Required Reading. Great books to read an article or two, put aside, and come back to it another time.

Did you know that some scientists think that as many as 1/2 the deaths in the whole world, since the beginning of time, have been caused by malaria? Did you know that linguists are coming close to cracking an ancient language that was not written, but consisted of various colors and sizes of knots tied in different colors of string? There is also a language currently used by a tribe in northern Brazil that has only three vowels and eight consonants. There is a whole Internet community developing of "scam-busters" - people who scam the scammers. These are just a few of the interesting things I learned from The Best American Science and Nature Writing.

Magazines represented in this compilation include The New Yorker, Outside, and Discover, just to name a few. I was completely absorbed in the book while reading it. Each essay was fascinating - the topics were diverse, yet some thought and attention revealed many connections between the seemingly unrelated subjects. I'm definitely going to put The Best American Science and Nature Writing on my January shopping list each year.

Reverent Reader


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