Scientists' Nightstand, Vol. 1 No. 3

For this edition of the Scientists' Nightstand e-newsletter, in addition to the latest book reviews published in American Scientist, we're sharing some of the staff's favorite books from the past year—as well as a few book projects that were particularly meaningful to us and that we hope will be of interest to Scientists' Nightstand readers, too.

As always, we welcome your letters and comments. You’ll find us at Thank you for reading!

Reviews from American Scientist, JanuaryFebruary 2014

Love and Math: The Heart of Hidden Reality
by Edward Frankel
This blend of memoir and math tutorial describes the anti-Semitism Frankel faced inside the Soviet education system and takes the intrepid reader on an enlightening tour of his life's work to find, as Frankel calls it, "a Grand Unified Theory of Mathematics." Review by Brian Hayes.

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
Hadfield's unconventional perspective has opened doors throughout his career, some of them to spacewalks. A born storyteller, his depictions of astronaut training are just as intriguing as those of space travel itself. Review by Corey S. Powell.

The Scientific Sherlock Holmes: Cracking the Case with Science and Forensics
by James O'Brien
Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes
by Maria Konnikova
A look at two recent books focusing on complementary aspects of the famed fictional detective: O'Brien examines the science in the Holmes stories, taking special note of historical context and the literary importance of science to the tales. Konnikova teases apart the mental constructs behind Holmes's thinking, using examples from the stories to demonstrate how readers may apply the detective's methods to sharpen their own cognitive skills. Review by Dianne Timblin.

It's a Wonderful Book: American Scientist Staff Picks for 2013 (in Brief)

With the year drawing to a close, American Scientist staffers took a moment amid the writing, editing, planning, interviewing, telephoning, e-mailing, and spreadsheeting (not to mention the holiday list making—as usual, we were hoping for a hadron collider this year) to recall favorite science-related books they'd savored during the past twelve months. To save you time and space as you're compiling your own reading list for the coming year, we've kept our reviews of these titles, published (mostly) in 2012 and 2013, short and sweet: just five words each.

How We Do It: The Evolution and Future of Human Reproduction, by Robert Martin
     Frogs in pants, page 2!
     —Katie L. Burke, associate editor

The Wild Life of Our Bodies: Predators, Parasites, and Partners that Shape Who We Are Today, by Rob Dunn
     Dunn never fails to delight.
     —Annette deFerrari, artist and designer

Smarter Than You Think: How Technology Is Changing Our Minds for the Better, by Clive Thompson
     Techno-optimistic response to Alone Together.
     —Robert Frederick, online managing editor

The Bonobo and the Atheist, by Frans de Waal
     Religion's backseat to morality evolution.
     —Katie Lord, associate publisher

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
     Launched. Learned life lessons. Landed.
     —Corey S. Powell, interim editor

Turing's Cathedral: The Origins of the Digital Universe, by George Dyson
     Wow, IAS missed the boat!
     —Fenella Saunders, managing editor

Humanity's Burden: The Global History of Malaria, by James L. A. Webb Jr.
     Learn what coevolution actually means.
     —David Schoonmaker, contributing editor

Floating Gold: A Natural (and Unnatural) History of Ambergris, by Christopher Kemp
     Sniff for cash, ye beachcombers!
     —Dianne Timblin, Scientists' Nightstand editor

Staff Workshop: What Some of the Elves Have Been Up To

What do American Scientist writers and editors do during nights and weekends? Write and edit! This year brought current and former staffers all kinds of interesting book projects, some of which will carry over into the first half of 2014. We're excited to see our colleagues' projects come to fruition and thought you might be interested in checking them out too.

Available Now

The Science Writers' Handbook: Everything You Need to Know to Pitch, Publish, and Prosper in the Digital Age, eds. Thomas Hayden and Michelle Nijhuis.
"Multilancing," ch. 10, by American Scientist online managing editor Robert Frederick.

Futility Closet: An Idler's Miscellany of Compendious Amusements, by past online managing editor Greg Ross.

Firebird, a novel by columnist Tony Rothman.

Coming Soon

Ecology textbook Life on Earth, by the E. O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation, for which past managing editor Morgan Ryan is project director and contributing editor Catherine Clabby is senior editor. The textbook is designed for use on the iPad and is due in March 2014.

The House with Sixteen Handmade Doors: A Tale of Architectural Choice and Craftsmanship, by columnist Henry Petroski, with photographs by Catherine Petroski, forthcoming from W. W. Norton in May 2014.

'Tis the Season to Thank Our Readers!

Many thanks, dear bookworms, for reading right along with us during 2013, which has shown itself to be a fine year for science books. We're grateful for your companionship and wish you the very best in the year ahead. Here's to the terrific and intriguing reads we'll dig into together in 2014!


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