A compelling call to action demanding that governments and scientists rise to the challenge.




A vivid portrayal of our fight against an opponent that has been around for more than 3 billion years.

Zaman, a professor of biomedical engineering and international health, portrays a conflict—between humans and harmful strains of bacteria—that has played out in plagues and epidemics over millennia. That drama has now taken a turn for the worse with the rise of antibiotic resistance. In the U.S. alone, writes the author, more than 35,000 people die every year from drug-resistant infections. One of the primary causes is the overprescription of antibiotics and widespread use in industrial agriculture and livestock for prophylaxis and growth promotion. Bacteria mutate rapidly, and those that survive an antibiotic can pass their resistant genes to progeny as well as to other bacteria species. Indeed, one of Zaman’s main points is that bacterial resistance is not new. Bacteria have been engaged in a Darwinian evolutionary competition among themselves since their origin. Samples of bacteria from a newly unearthed deep cave in the U.S.—and from the guts of an isolated tribe in Venezuela—contained bacteria that were resistant to a slew of contemporary antibiotics. The practice of modern medicine has upset a balanced equilibrium. Outside the U.S., antibiotic resistance is occurring where the drugs are available without a prescription and frequently used. They may also be adulterated or substandard and so further encourage antibiotic resistance to infections that are themselves the result of poor hygiene and sanitation. Using firsthand observations from around the world, the author presents many examples of disease outbreaks and the experts and efforts used to resolve them. These vignettes follow chapters that capture the history of bacteriology and the scientists working to fight bacterial resistance, highlighting the usual suspects—and not sparing the moral shortcomings of some. So what next? Despite continued antibiotic resistance and few drugs in the pipeline, Zaman is optimistic, citing new interest in phage therapy and experimental research funded by private foundations and other ventures.

A compelling call to action demanding that governments and scientists rise to the challenge.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-286297-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Harper Wave/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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A tiny book, not much bigger than a pamphlet, with huge potential impact.

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A collection of articulate, forceful speeches made from September 2018 to September 2019 by the Swedish climate activist who was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

Speaking in such venues as the European and British Parliaments, the French National Assembly, the Austrian World Summit, and the U.N. General Assembly, Thunberg has always been refreshingly—and necessarily—blunt in her demands for action from world leaders who refuse to address climate change. With clarity and unbridled passion, she presents her message that climate change is an emergency that must be addressed immediately, and she fills her speeches with punchy sound bites delivered in her characteristic pull-no-punches style: “I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act.” In speech after speech, to persuade her listeners, she cites uncomfortable, even alarming statistics about global temperature rise and carbon dioxide emissions. Although this inevitably makes the text rather repetitive, the repetition itself has an impact, driving home her point so that no one can fail to understand its importance. Thunberg varies her style for different audiences. Sometimes it is the rousing “our house is on fire” approach; other times she speaks more quietly about herself and her hopes and her dreams. When addressing the U.S. Congress, she knowingly calls to mind the words and deeds of Martin Luther King Jr. and John F. Kennedy. The last speech in the book ends on a note that is both challenging and upbeat: “We are the change and change is coming.” The edition published in Britain earlier this year contained 11 speeches; this updated edition has 16, all worth reading.

A tiny book, not much bigger than a pamphlet, with huge potential impact.

Pub Date: Nov. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-14-313356-8

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Penguin

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2019

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As much a work of philosophy as of physics and full of insights for readers willing to work hard.


Undeterred by a subject difficult to pin down, Italian theoretical physicist Rovelli (Reality Is Not What It Seems: The Journey to Quantum Gravity, 2017, etc.) explains his thoughts on time.

Other scientists have written primers on the concept of time for a general audience, but Rovelli, who also wrote the bestseller Seven Brief Lessons on Physics, adds his personal musings, which are astute and rewarding but do not make for an easy read. “We conventionally think of time,” he writes, “as something simple and fundamental that flows uniformly, independently from everything else, uniformly from the past to the future, measured by clocks and watches. In the course of time, the events of the universe succeed each other in an orderly way: pasts, presents, futures. The past is fixed, the future open….And yet all of this has turned out to be false.” Rovelli returns again and again to the ideas of three legendary men. Aristotle wrote that things change continually. What we call “time” is the measurement of that change. If nothing changed, time would not exist. Newton disagreed. While admitting the existence of a time that measures events, he insisted that there is an absolute “true time” that passes relentlessly. If the universe froze, time would roll on. To laymen, this may seem like common sense, but most philosophers are not convinced. Einstein asserted that both are right. Aristotle correctly explained that time flows in relation to something else. Educated laymen know that clocks register different times when they move or experience gravity. Newton’s absolute exists, but as a special case in Einstein’s curved space-time. According to Rovelli, our notion of time dissolves as our knowledge grows; complex features swell and then retreat and perhaps vanish entirely. Furthermore, equations describing many fundamental physical phenomena don’t require time.

As much a work of philosophy as of physics and full of insights for readers willing to work hard.

Pub Date: May 18, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7352-1610-5

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: April 3, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2018

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