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The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2013

4.01  ·  Rating details ·  644 ratings  ·  72 reviews
Pulitzer Prize–winning author Siddhartha Mukherjee, a leading cancer physician and researcher, selects the year’s top science and nature writing from journalists who dive into their fields with curiosity and passion, delivering must-read articles from a wide array of fields.
Paperback, 368 pages
Published October 8th 2013 by Mariner Books (first published January 1st 2013)
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Oct 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: environment
The Best American Science and Nature Writing of 2013.

This collection of twenty-seven articles was edited by Siddhartha Mukherjee, a scientist and author of the runaway bestseller “The Emperor of Maladies: A Biography of Cancer”. He did a great job of choosing which ones to include here.

There are six articles that I loved and they are still just as relevant some five years later.

1. False Idyll by J.B. McKinnon

In this short reflection of what humans have done to the planet McKinnon proposes mor
Dov Zeller
I'm a few years behind on this anthology and trying to catch up. 2013's is edited by Siddhartha Mukherjee, writer of the much praised Emperor of All Maladies (which I have not yet read).

I found the book to be pretty engaging. I wasn't drawn to all the essays, but I learned something from most of them. Essays ranging from 'rewilding' landscapes to jittering space time (?) to hydrogen-based fuel to zoonoses to supposed distinctions between human and other animals (and idiot scientists who think hu
Nov 23, 2014 rated it really liked it
Thanks regional library for buying this anthology. Several essays appreciated. The wildland project east of Amsterdam, the autism piece ...

Quote from "Polar Express"

"Around midmorning we reached the easternmost edge of Russia, which is also the easternmost edge of the Eurasian landmass: Cape Dezhnev. It is a sheer rock cliff, as dramatic and definitive as Cape St. Vincent in Portugal, the southwesternmost point of Eurasia. In 1728 Vitus Bering had come through the strait from the south, rounded
Elizabeth A
Jan 04, 2014 marked it as put_aside_pickup_later
Shelves: non-fiction, essays
I dip in and out of this collection as the mood strikes.

Autism Inc. - In which the error of assuming that autistic people are not intelligent is rectified. "The concept of socially mandated dishonesty would mystify him, ..., so the other employees will just have to deal with it."

The Deadliest Virus - "Once you create a virus that could kill millions of people, what should you do with it? And how should you handle the knowledge that made it possible?"

False Idyll - Nature is wild people. Stop roma
Mar 16, 2014 rated it it was ok
Disappointing. The editor explains why he chose the essays he did for this collection, saying that he looked for articles that focused on the "science of science", or something of that nature. He compiled writings that he felt were more "technical", and you certainly get that sense when reading these.
Though I finished the entire collection, only one or two stood out enough that I can recall them these almost two weeks later. Most I had happily forgotten the moment I started the next.
The essay
Rift Vegan
Jul 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
As usual, all these articles are fascinating! And this book seemed to have much more variety than the 2004 edition that I just finished reading. I enjoyed the animal and nature articles best, of course, but the human, physics and mathematics articles caught my interest as well.

A couple of stand outs... The Larch - oh my gosh, a beautiful tribute to a loved one! The Last Distinction - the abandonment of Nim the chimp is devastating. Recall of the Wild - about re-wilding places previously destroye
Apr 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-14, science
My 13th year to read this collection. 27 articles range widely through science and nature. None are extremely difficult. The writers are the best at putting into clear sentences difficult thoughts, sometimes dismantling firmly held beliefs, to replace them with new explanations.
Billie Pritchett
Jan 10, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: basnw
The Best American Science and Nature Writing is at its best (1) a collection of very well well-written collection of popular science essays and (2) a compendium of the latest scientific research in a palatable form. Some years it is better than others. This year, 2013, the collection was okay: a little of (1) and (2). Here are some of what I thought were strong essays, though:
"The Measured Man" by Mark Bowden is about a man with Crohn's disease who is also a scientist who makes computer models o
Wonderful! The editor of the 2013 edition is the cancer physician and researcher who wrote the Pulitzer-winning book The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer, recently made into a 3-part documentary by Ken Burns, and his interests as shown in the essays he chose for this book include all aspects of human health but go far beyond it.
The authors of the selections in this collection present as many questions as answers on subjects ranging from cosmology to the nature of intelligence and c
Eleanor With Cats
[Review in progress, author list will expand as I read their essays.]

Articles by:
Natalie Angier
Mark Bowden
Kevin Dutton
Katherine Harmon
J.B. MacKinnon
Stephen Marche
Nathaniel Rich
Robert Sapolsky

Excellent essays on a possibly immortal hydrozoan (Nathaniel Rich); a scientist who invented the treatment that let him live until 3 days before he won the Nobel (Katherine Harmon); science (really curiosity) as a natural human quality and therefore part of evolution (Robert Sapolsky); an eloquent descriptio
Nov 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Mukherjee presents a collection of deftly written essays covering topics on physics, genetics, psychology, evolution, and more that celebrates the best science has to offer. There is so much to love in each piece's exploration of the theory and practice (the actual DOING) of science. I look forward to next year's collection and have a new, profound appreciation for the "tenderness" (see author's opening chapter) scientists exhibit for their work. ...more
David Saslav
Jun 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science-writing
Am now a huge fan of this series. Have only read 2008 and 2013 editions so far. Both are incredibly enlightening. And apparently this one was well below average for the seekers of scientific enlightenment!
Julie M
Nov 26, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: own-this-book
I've read about 3/4 of these essays and each one has taught me something I didn't know. From math/cellular biology/technology/medicine and psychology--these annual collections are a must-read for me. ...more
Becky Johnson
Dec 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book had a lot of interesting essays, but my favorite was the one on immortal jellyfish.
Nov 02, 2014 rated it liked it
The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2013 edited by Siddhartha Mukherjee and Tim Folger

“The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2013” is a solid but anthology that covers the best essays in various fields of science. Pulitzer Prize winning author and leading cancer physician Siddhartha Mukherjee makes the selection for the best work of 2013. His focus is on essays that describe how science happens. This 368-page includes twenty-seven essays that cover the spectrum of science from ob
Oct 05, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
These notes are just for my memory (earlier ones I read a while ago so I can’t remember as much about those):

False Idyll: Nature is wild and can be truly destructive. It is only recently that we feel protected from it on a daily basis. It is less romantic than we perceive it to be now.

The Last Distinction: Is language the last distinction between human and animals? Talks about several occasions where humans taught animals some language.

Talk to Me: About a woman who is trying to establish commu
Brad Hodges
Jan 11, 2014 rated it really liked it
I am not one who has a scientific bent, but I am fascinated by science. I just can never get too deeply into it, because I don't understand high concepts of math, and because I don't have the patience for the scientific method. But I did enjoy many of the essays in the latest volume of The Best American Science and Nature Writing.

The volume was edited by Siddhartha Mukherjee, who wrote the excellent The Emperor of All Maladies. He notes in his introduction that science is under attack: "The fail
Jun 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Once again, another fine edition in this series, which celebrates the best writing of the year while offering up-to-date science and nature. The 2013 edition seems to include more nature stories than previous volumes. Twenty-seven essays in the current edition. Eleven highlights:

4 stars
— Autism Inc, from The New York Times Magazine. About a new employment agency for autistic adults — 50,000 turn 18 every year. Apparent weakness (bluntness and obsession) can become marketable skills (directness,
Feb 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I love this yearly anthology and I missed the 2013 edition, so I picked it up because it featured so many of my favorite science writers - Alan Lightman (physics), Jerome Groopman (medicine), Oliver Sacks (neurology/psychology), Steven Weinberg (physics), Natalie Angier (science journalist), and David Deutsch (physics). Many magazines carry science articles - The New Yorker, Scientific American, The Atlantic, Harpers, National Geographic... - but I don't like to buy magazines. Instead I love thi ...more
Oct 06, 2014 rated it liked it
As always in this series, each individual essay will likely find an audience for it that declares it the best. For me, I found it a little more hit and miss than those published in previous years. It is the first issue in this series that I have not read from cover to cover (the theoretical physics articles were hard for me to get into --and usually that's not the case). I like to read these collections when flying across the country---the articles are just long enough to occupy one's time durin ...more
Maurynne  Maxwell
Oct 05, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
As always, a wonderful journey. Though technically I would title it The Best Science and Nature Essays 2013.

Once again gathered from trade publications as widely varied as the New Yorker, Outside, Playboy, Scientific American, Harper's, The Virginia Quarterly Review, and filtered by a highly qualified guest editor, in this case Siddartha Mukherjee, cancer physician and researcher and author of The Emperor of Maladies: A Biography of Cancer, the 2011 Pulitzer Prize winner for general nonfiction.
Angie Reisetter
Oct 08, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science-related
This is an interesting collection of science writing. It's not so much about science as it is about scientists. In the forward, the guest editor Mukherjee talks about tenderness, the quality so many scientists hold for their research subjects or data (his example is Mendel tending his plants). And so there is little science but much scientist in the essays. I guess I was hoping for more science, but it was an interesting collection in any case.

Some of the essays seemed more relevant than others
Mar 18, 2014 rated it really liked it
I first read about the Best American Science and Nature Writing 2012. I instantly enjoyed how it puts a wide collection of science/nature in one book. So I made it a yearly thing. What's better is that I can find it in the library for free (some of the articles in the book are from paid subscription science journals) Although the selection does not cover ALL the best writing, it gives me a chance to expose to a wide range of science/nature topics: biology, physics, medicine, environmental issues ...more
Oct 28, 2014 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed the breadth and approachability of the subjects in this collection. This was my first time reading The Best American Science and Nature Writing volume. The works were often comical, quirky, relevant, humanistic, and informative. It is an incredibly narrow line to maintain the depth, complexity, technical detail of science and still make it approachable to someone outside of a given discipline. This collection highlighted some of the best writing in this regard. Physics and math writing ...more
Phil Scovis
Nov 08, 2013 rated it liked it
Good and bad. A lot of recent science and nature writing is more correctly described as "science history" and "science biography", and this anthology showcases both.

I was enlightened by J.B. McKinnon's criticism of the idolization of Nature, and Benjamin Hale's criticism of sign-language experiments on primates. And I am always enlightened by anything from David Deutsch, even when it is unfortunately only a few pages.

I like these "Best American" books because I can feel free to skip anything bo
Apr 30, 2014 rated it really liked it
one of the things I usually like best about this series is the variety of articles they choose, and I felt like this edition wasn't as varied as they usually are. There were some real standouts though - authors I felt like I really must start following.

My hands-down favorite piece was "The Larch." It's hard to convey the beautiful lyrical writing in this piece and the amazing way the author makes connections between his beloved larch tree and so many other things. I never would have expected a
Nov 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A delicious book. Starts of really well with some interesting insights on science and the enivronment. And then in the middle there are some really ordinary pieces of writings which make me wonder at the title. The topics span accross a diverse range and not all of them are enjoyable.
But there is a beautiful underlying theme to it (or atleast I observed)- whenver science is intertwined with the lives of people, specific or unspecific, then those pieces of article really touch your heart deeply.
Mar 18, 2014 rated it really liked it
Of the twenty-seven articles in this collection, there were about six or seven that were a struggle to finish (and most of those were about quantum physics and really just way over my head). All of the rest, however, were very interesting and informative, and if the subject matter was over my head they were written in a way that I could understand and appreciate. Most interesting to me were the articles on zoonotic diseases, endangered species, how Facebook is making us lonely, immortal jellyfis ...more
Apr 26, 2014 rated it liked it
Here's the articles I enjoyed most: Shattered Genius (Playboy) about a reclusive mathematical genius who is a little crazy. The T-Cell Army (The New Yorker) about possible avenues of research and treatment for cancer. The Artificial Leaf (The New Yorker) about the future of sustainable solar energy. The Deadliest Virus (The New Yorker) about a particularly problematic strain of viruses which gives rise to all of our deadliest communicable diseases. Scary stuff! Our Place in the Universe (Harper' ...more
Emma Roulette
Jul 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Fascinating read! Not only does this book abound with golden nuggets of interesting information, but it emphasizes a certain "tenderness" one must have toward the natural world in order to be a good scientist. I learned about jellyfish that seem to live indefinitely, ships that transport cargo through the arctic circle, DNA viruses that can capture and incorporate genes from the host, current philosophical dilemmas in conservation biology.... But most importantly this book instills a sense of in ...more
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Siddhartha Mukherjee is a cancer physician and researcher. He is an assistant professor of medicine at Columbia University and a staff cancer physician at Columbia University Medical Center. A Rhodes scholar, he graduated from Stanford University, University of Oxford, Harvard Medical School. He has published articles in Nature, The New England Journal of Medicine, The New York Times, and The New ...more

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