Science & Technology Book Reviews

THE MOST WANTED MAN IN CHINA by Fang Lizhi
BIOGRAPHY & MEMOIR
Released: Feb. 2, 2016

"A wonderfully crafted memoir, shimmering with intellectual honesty."
A dissident astrophysicist who died in 2012 offers rare, revealing glimpses inside the opaque Chinese communist system. Read full book review >
LIGHT by Bruce Watson
HISTORY
Released: Feb. 2, 2016

"An ingenious combination of science and art history."
The usual popular-science history of light begins with the ancient Greeks and peters out soon after Einstein, but this fine account by Smithsonian contributing writer Watson (Freedom Summer: The Savage Season of 1964 that Made Mississippi Burn and Made America a Democracy, 2010, etc.) paints with a broader brush.Read full book review >

A CANCER IN THE FAMILY by Theodora Ross
HEALTH & MEDICINE
Released: Feb. 2, 2016

"Highly recommended: an exceptionally well-organized, authoritative, and readable resource book."
A valuable resource for those wondering whether there is a chance that cancer runs in their family. Read full book review >
INVENTOLOGY by Pagan Kennedy
PSYCHOLOGY
Released: Jan. 26, 2016

"A delightful account of how inventors do what they do."
A journalist delivers an enthusiastic overview of inventions and the researchers that study them. Read full book review >
HISTORY
Released: Jan. 11, 2016

"An unusual and vastly entertaining journey into the world of mysterious plant life as experienced by a gifted nature writer."
A prolific and talented British nature writer explores 40 plant species and how they have influenced the human imagination over the centuries. Read full book review >

HISTORY
Released: Dec. 8, 2015

"A superbly lucid examination of a dramatic revolution in human thought that deserves a place on the shelf with Thomas Kuhn and David Deutsch."
Not exactly a history of science but of our idea of science: a shrewd, thoughtful analysis of how our view of finding truth held steady throughout history and then, over a century, changed and produced the dazzling progress we often take for granted.Read full book review >
THE EVOLUTION OF EVERYTHING by Matt Ridley
SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY
Released: Nov. 3, 2015

"Like Malcolm Gladwell, Ridley's taste for counterintuitive arguments often oversimplifies and ignores contradictory evidence, but he provides a wild ride, almost too thought-provoking to read for long stretches but difficult to put down."
Evolution, a phenomenon without an underlying plan that explains life's development, has convinced scientists, if not the general public, but authorities still debate whether Darwin's theory applies to human society. Veteran science writer Ridley (The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves, 2010) investigates.Read full book review >
SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY
Released: Nov. 3, 2015

"An endlessly surprising foray into the current mother of physics' many knotty mysteries, the solving of which may unveil the weirdness of quantum particles, black holes, and the essential unity of nature."
Two particles behave identically and instantaneously though separated by great space and with no force passing between them. How? Award-winning Scientific American contributing editor Musser (The Complete Idiot's Guide to String Theory, 2008) probes the riddle.Read full book review >
BIOGRAPHY & MEMOIR
Released: Nov. 3, 2015

"One of the most absorbing and empowering science histories to hit the shelves in recent years."
One of the world's most renowned and forward-thinking oncologists recounts 35 years of cancer research and tells us why we should be optimistic about the future. Read full book review >
SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY
Released: Nov. 3, 2015

"A scintillating popular account of the interplay between mathematical physics and astronomical observations."
Levenson (Science Writing/MIT; Newton and the Counterfeiter: The Unknown Detective Career of the World's Greatest Scientist, 2009, etc.) connects Albert Einstein's theory of general relativity to Isaac Newton's Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy. In their day, each provided "a radical new picture of gravity" that ultimately depended on astronomical confirmation.Read full book review >
THE PLANET REMADE by Oliver Morton
CURRENT AFFAIRS
Released: Nov. 3, 2015

"An important account of cutting-edge research that will fascinate serious readers and demand the attention of policymakers."
Economist briefings editor Morton (Eating the Sun: How Plants Power the Planet, 2008, etc.) offers a calm, rational discussion of deliberate technological interventions to cool the planet's climate system.Read full book review >
SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY
Released: Oct. 27, 2015

"A top-notch science book from a leading researcher."
Randall (Theoretical Particle Physics and Cosmology/Harvard Univ.; Knocking on Heaven's Door: How Physics and Scientific Thinking Illuminate the Universe and the Modern World, 2011, etc.) explores the causes of the fifth major extinction event, which occurred 66 million years ago and wiped out terrestrial dinosaurs and three-quarters of all other species living on Earth.Read full book review >
Kirkus Interview
Michael Eric Dyson
February 2, 2016

In Michael Eric Dyson’s rich and nuanced book new book, The Black Presidency: Barack Obama and the Politics of Race in America, Dyson writes with passion and understanding about Barack Obama’s “sad and disappointing” performance regarding race and black concerns in his two terms in office. While race has defined his tenure, Obama has been “reluctant to take charge” and speak out candidly about the nation’s racial woes, determined to remain “not a black leader but a leader who is black.” Dyson cogently examines Obama’s speeches and statements on race, from his first presidential campaign through recent events—e.g., the Ferguson riots and the eulogy for the Rev. Clementa Pinckney in Charleston—noting that the president is careful not to raise the ire of whites and often chastises blacks for their moral failings. At his best, he spoke with “special urgency for black Americans” during the Ferguson crisis and was “at his blackest,” breaking free of constraints, in his “Amazing Grace” Charleston eulogy. Dyson writes here as a realistic, sometimes-angry supporter of the president. View video >