This worthwhile little tome packs a wallop consisting of equal portions of healthy education and pertinent entertainment.



A breezy yet highly informative trek through our plasticized world coupled with tips for reducing plastic from your life.

Ecologist and journalist SanClements, the associate director of the Hydrolic Sciences graduate program at the University of Colorado, provides an accessible starting point for improving personal and planetary health. His journey into the realities of our plastic environment began with a simple plan, as he started documenting each plastic item he encountered during a typical day. Next, the author and his partner embarked on a larger experiment: to not purchase or create plastic waste for two weeks. SanClements blogged about his experience on an environmental website and was deluged with responses requesting information. “When you start to dig into the effects of our plastic consumption, they go far beyond the obvious and visible,” he writes. “There are environmental and health-related effects that you’ve never considered, and there is plastic in places you never expected it to be.” SanClements divides the narrative into four digestible sections. The first is a review of the history of plastics. Next, the author wades into the science of plastic usage, then moves on to his classification of plastics: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly. The author concludes with a remarkably helpful guide to “help you reduce plastic consumption, keep toxins out of your body, and spare Mother Nature the excess waste.” Thankfully, SanClements is never self-righteous or heavy-handed. The author understands that not all plastics are bad, and its uses have ensured that contemporary life is safer, easier and more efficient. The author also examines modern medical and scientific equipment, energy-saving home building materials and food safety. Nevertheless, he writes, “at some point, we got lazy, lost our way, or were seduced by the convenience of plastic, and now we find ourselves as a society on that plastic dark side.”

This worthwhile little tome packs a wallop consisting of equal portions of healthy education and pertinent entertainment.

Pub Date: April 8, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-250-02939-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin

Review Posted Online: Feb. 13, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2014

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Loads of good explaining, with reminders, time and again, of how much remains unknown, neatly putting the death of science...


Bryson (I'm a Stranger Here Myself, 1999, etc.), a man who knows how to track down an explanation and make it confess, asks the hard questions of science—e.g., how did things get to be the way they are?—and, when possible, provides answers.

As he once went about making English intelligible, Bryson now attempts the same with the great moments of science, both the ideas themselves and their genesis, to resounding success. Piqued by his own ignorance on these matters, he’s egged on even more so by the people who’ve figured out—or think they’ve figured out—such things as what is in the center of the Earth. So he goes exploring, in the library and in company with scientists at work today, to get a grip on a range of topics from subatomic particles to cosmology. The aim is to deliver reports on these subjects in terms anyone can understand, and for the most part, it works. The most difficult is the nonintuitive material—time as part of space, say, or proteins inventing themselves spontaneously, without direction—and the quantum leaps unusual minds have made: as J.B.S. Haldane once put it, “The universe is not only queerer than we suppose; it is queerer than we can suppose.” Mostly, though, Bryson renders clear the evolution of continental drift, atomic structure, singularity, the extinction of the dinosaur, and a mighty host of other subjects in self-contained chapters that can be taken at a bite, rather than read wholesale. He delivers the human-interest angle on the scientists, and he keeps the reader laughing and willing to forge ahead, even over their heads: the human body, for instance, harboring enough energy “to explode with the force of thirty very large hydrogen bombs, assuming you knew how to liberate it and really wished to make a point.”

Loads of good explaining, with reminders, time and again, of how much remains unknown, neatly putting the death of science into perspective.

Pub Date: May 6, 2003

ISBN: 0-7679-0817-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Broadway

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2003

Did you like this book?

A quirky wonder of a book.



A Peabody Award–winning NPR science reporter chronicles the life of a turn-of-the-century scientist and how her quest led to significant revelations about the meaning of order, chaos, and her own existence.

Miller began doing research on David Starr Jordan (1851-1931) to understand how he had managed to carry on after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake destroyed his work. A taxonomist who is credited with discovering “a full fifth of fish known to man in his day,” Jordan had amassed an unparalleled collection of ichthyological specimens. Gathering up all the fish he could save, Jordan sewed the nameplates that had been on the destroyed jars directly onto the fish. His perseverance intrigued the author, who also discusses the struggles she underwent after her affair with a woman ended a heterosexual relationship. Born into an upstate New York farm family, Jordan attended Cornell and then became an itinerant scholar and field researcher until he landed at Indiana University, where his first ichthyological collection was destroyed by lightning. In between this catastrophe and others involving family members’ deaths, he reconstructed his collection. Later, he was appointed as the founding president of Stanford, where he evolved into a Machiavellian figure who trampled on colleagues and sang the praises of eugenics. Miller concludes that Jordan displayed the characteristics of someone who relied on “positive illusions” to rebound from disaster and that his stand on eugenics came from a belief in “a divine hierarchy from bacteria to humans that point[ed]…toward better.” Considering recent research that negates biological hierarchies, the author then suggests that Jordan’s beloved taxonomic category—fish—does not exist. Part biography, part science report, and part meditation on how the chaos that caused Miller’s existential misery could also bring self-acceptance and a loving wife, this unique book is an ingenious celebration of diversity and the mysterious order that underlies all existence.

A quirky wonder of a book.

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5011-6027-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

Did you like this book?