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Given the bounty of great science books this year, we at American Scientist couldn’t resist sharing a few more of them with you—hence, this special holiday edition of the Scientists’ Nightstand newsletter. Plus, we’ve put together an online-exclusive gift guide to help you round out your list.

As always, we welcome your letters and comments. You’ll find us at nightstand 'at' amscionline 'dot' org. Thanks for reading!

New Online: Science Books Gift Guide

ChildrenBookGifts14 What researcher, science buff, or budding scientist wouldn’t enjoy receiving a fantastic new book? We’ve selected more than two dozen books we think grown-up and kid scientists will love and describe why we enjoyed each book ourselves. Whether you’re seeking a gift for a family member, friend, or yourself (we won’t tell), you’ll find some intriguing options here.

Nightstand Workshop: Books by American Scientist Staff

What do American Scientist writers and editors do during nights and weekends? Write and edit, of course! We’re excited to see our colleagues’ projects come to fruition and thought you might be interested in checking them out too.


Undeniable: Evolution and the Science of Creation, by Bill Nye. Edited by Corey S. Powell, American Scientist’s senior consulting editor. St. Martin’s Press, 2014. $25.99.

Infrastructure cover

Infrastructure: A Guide to the Industrial Landscape, by Brian Hayes, American Scientist’s Computing Science columnist. Revised and updated. W. W. Norton, 2014. $35.00.
EXTRA: Check out Brian’s NPR interview about the book’s first edition.

APocketBookOfForms cover

A Pocket Book of Forms, by Anna Lena Phillips, American Scientist contributing editor. Letterpress-printed, pamphlet-stitched book. 2014. $12–$20 (sliding scale).


The House with Sixteen Handmade Doors: A Tale of Architectural Choice and Craftsmanship, by Engineering columnist Henry Petroski, with photographs by Catherine Petroski. W. W. Norton, 2014. $27.95.

forgive design cover

To Forgive Design: Understanding Failure, by Engineering columnist Henry Petroski. Belknap, 2012. New in paperback, Nov. 2014. $18.95.

New Books for the New Year

Thanks, fellow bookworms, for reading along with us in 2014!

Just to make sure you’re not starved for reading over the holidays, here are a few free science e-books that have come to our attention recently:

Swordfish_bookcover Until the end of December, University of Chicago Press is offering the e-book version of Swordfish: A Biography of the Ocean Gladiator, by Richard Ellis, for free.

americanforests cover Douglas W. MacCleery’s classic American Forests: A History of Resiliency and Recovery, part of the Forest History Society’s issues series, is free in PDF form.


Trafficking Materials and Gendered Experimental Practices: Radium Research in Early 20th Century Vienna, by Maria Rentetzi, presents a cultural biography of radium and examines the relationship between politics, radioactivity research, and “women’s work” in physics in Vienna a century ago. Check out the free e-book here (Web-based, with chapters downloadable as PDFs).

Wishing you the very best in the year ahead. We can hardly wait to learn which books make it onto your nightstands next—and to share with you the books piled up on our own.


The Scientists’ Nightstand welcomes your letters and comments. Please write to us at: nightstand 'at' amscionline 'dot' org. If you prefer real mail (we like it too) you can write to: Scientists’ Nightstand, American Scientist, 3106 E NC Hwy 54, PO Box 13975, Research Triangle Park, NC 27709-3975.

If you’re having difficulty with your e-news subscription, you can write to: enews 'at' sigmaxi 'dot' org.

American Scientist, the magazine of Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society • americanscientist.orgSigmaxi.org

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It’s a Wonderful Book: American Scientist Staff Picks

Like servings of eggnog, these staff reviews are short and sweet: just five words each!

"Artful space adventure. Fantastic feline."
—Barbara Aulicino
Professor Astro Cat’s Frontiers of Space, written by Dominic Walliman and illustrated by Ben Newman

"Bunglers chart Pacific, discover Antarctica."
—Richard Wiggins
Sea of Glory: America’s Voyage of Discovery, the U.S. Exploring Expedition 1838–1842, by Nathaniel Philbrick

"Definitely modestly titled, I’d say."
—Brian Hayes
Probably Approximately Correct, by Leslie Valiant

"Heroic astronauts rescue space telescope."
—Corey S. Powell
Infinite Worlds: The People and Places of Space Exploration, written by Michael Soluri, forward by John H. Glenn Jr.

"His kingdom for a carpark."
—Dianne Timblin
Digging for Richard III: The Search for the Lost King, by Mike Pitts

"Life changed by Earth, space."
—James G. Lewis
An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth: What Going into Space Taught Me about Ingenuity, Determination, and Being Prepared for Anything, by Chris Hadfield

"Lucid, helpful, and (yes!) funny."
—Sandra Ackerman
Naked Statistics, by Charles Wheelan

"Pentagon launched environmental movement. Surprise!"
—James G. Lewis
Arming Mother Nature: The Birth of Catastrophic Environmentalism, Jacob Darwin Hamblin

"War, healing, occult—1950s–80s Vietnam."
—Katie L. Burke
Fourth Uncle in the Mountain, by Marjorie Pivar and Quang Van Nguyen

"Why spoons don't have taste."
—Fenella Saunders
Stuff Matters, by Mark Miodownik

"Worldwide trek photographing multi-millennial life."
—Katie L. Burke
The Oldest Living Things in the World, by Rachel Sussman


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