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The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2019

4.09  ·  Rating details ·  68 ratings  ·  17 reviews

Sy Montgomery, New York Times best-selling author and recipient of numerous awards, edits this year’svolume of the finestscience and nature writing.

“Science is important because this is how we seek to discover the truth about the world. And this is what makes excellent science and nature writing essential,” observes New York Times best-selling author
Paperback, 384 pages
Published October 1st 2019 by Mariner Books
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Dec 30, 2019 rated it liked it
The actual science writing is almost all pretty good.

Skip the extraordinarily political, and not even very well written or persuasive, introduction by the new series editor (how did they find someone even more annoying than the old one?). It nearly soured me on the book, and series, entirely. But you know, the science articles were actually really good, in most cases.
Dec 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I am a long time fan of this series. I wish more people believed in science and responded to the alarming trends made clear by research.
Dec 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
Thirty pieces, including a couple dozen stories.

Each article in this book tells the story about a slice of the Earth, writes Jaime Green in her foreword. Science writing is political because it shows us how to care for the world and other people. Green wants this book to celebrate the power of telling stories of research and discovery, of human ingenuity as well as hope, wonder and dedication. Reading these pieces keeps our eyes open, writes Green, the series editor.

Science seeks truth about
Oct 10, 2019 is currently reading it
First impression: a little disappointed. I like Sy Montgomery, so I was looking forward to this, but I read the first essay, which didn't do much to grab me. And then the second. They were fine essays, don't get me wrong, but I wasn't really sucked into the book. And then I realized that the pieces were simply sorted in alphabetical order. To me, who reads anthologies front to back rather than just dipping in, one of an anthologist's main tasks is organization. There's more to a good anthology ...more
Pearse Anderson
This is a great collection of mostly biology, ecology, or medical journalism! I didn't expect nearly as much medical stuff as there is here, and it's all terrifying. This collection has overlaps, like discussing underfunded federal programs, or the breeding campaign for the California condor, but I like that because I felt smarter when stuff was introduced twice. I read the collection in whatever order I wanted, and after being told it was arranged ALPHABETICALLY I think I made the right choice ...more
Oct 31, 2019 rated it really liked it
All the pieces Sy Montgomery included are phenomenally written but taken together many of the middle pieces blend together. I'm not sure if the Alphabetical-by-Author arrangement of articles worked for this volume. The balance of the book tips heavily toward pieces about nature and the environment (not surprising, given Montgomery's own writing choices, but it felt much less of a spectrum this year). The standout articles fall to the end of the volume - Linda Villarosa's "The Hidden Toll: Why ...more
Vera Brook
Jan 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Very good! Great stories and beautifully written. I read the collection back to back, and enjoyed every essay. Some of my favorites were:

A Compassionate Substance by Philip Ball
Brain, Reimagined by Douglas Fox
The Endling: Watching A Species Vanish in Real Time by Ben Goldfarb
The Fire at Eagle Creek by Apricot Irving
Deleting a Species by Rowan Jacobsen
How to Not Die in America by Molly Osberg
When the Next Plague Hits by Ed Yong

I look forward to the 2020 edition next year.
The emphasis here is on the somber, the horrific, the worst case scenarios. Welcome to Trump’s negative influence on science and nature and the corresponding despondent influence on writing conveying the scientific. The lack of any kind of optimism in these essays was so stark. Usually at least some would express joy. Instead it felt whether the topic was medical, about animals, or even about the universe, some sort sort of inequitable,unresolvable ending was at play and good news was tenuous at ...more
Nov 08, 2019 rated it liked it
Good "softer" nature pieces with interesting prose construction. Thematically pulling from history.

Theme of science is politics. Echos other writing such as Modern Food, Moral Food.


The Hidden Toll: Why Are Black Mothers in the United States Dying at More Than Double Rate of White Mothers and Babies

When the Next Plague Hits
Joe Cron
Jan 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
It's all extremely well-written and informative, but I couldn't give it five stars just because all of these issues are so maddening. It's actually a very depressing book to read. But I am significantly better educated for having done it.
Donna Luu
Nov 11, 2019 rated it liked it
Most of the entries are a little depressing, including The Endling (still a good article). Two of my other favorites were The Great Rhino Uturn and Welcome to the Center of the Universe.
Dec 13, 2019 rated it liked it
347 pages

Informative. Enjoyed.
Blair Emsick
Oct 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
Damn this series gets darker every year as nature becomes more imperiled and science more omniscient. Always excellent nonetheless..
Sara Crocoll Smith
A wonderful roundup of articles that starkly highlight current, dire issues.
Jul 27, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
For me, many of the nature pieces dragged the rating down (I would have given this 2.5 stars if I could). The maternal mortality in the Black community piece, as well as the essay about insurance and how not to die in America were two of the best pieces, IMO, as well as the essay on medical records. These have always been decent collections to read, and this is no different; some years are better than others.
Dec 04, 2019 rated it it was ok
Now that I've read several of these collections I can confidently say that the editor goes a very long way in contributing to my enjoyment of the readings. And yes, that should be beyond obvious from the beginning, but my appetite for current science-related writing can sometimes overtake common sense and a little extra work to check on the writing of the editor of said collection. Had I read more Sy Montgomery I would have been less likely to purchase the 2019 collection. I find her books for ...more
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Part Indiana Jones, part Emily Dickinson, as the Boston Globe describes her, Sy Montgomery is an author, naturalist, documentary scriptwriter, and radio commentator who has traveled to some of the worlds most remote wildernesses for her work. She has worked in a pit crawling with 18,000 snakes in Manitoba, been hunted by a tiger in India, swum with pink dolphins in the Amazon, and been undressed ...more
“A study published this year in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that if you look at the world’s mammals by weight, 96 percent of that biomass is humans and livestock; just 4 percent is wild animals.” 0 likes
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