David's Reviews > The Best American Science Writing 2008

The Best American Science Writing 2008 by Sylvia Nasar
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's review
Oct 06, 2008

liked it
bookshelves: read-in-2008, disappointing
Read in November, 2008

In a series that's usually reliably interesting and intellectually stimulating, this year's collection was somewhat disappointing, due to an unusually narrow focus. In her introduction, Sylvia Nasar tells us that she gravitated to the stories that "people were talking about". An idiosyncratic interpretation of the criterion "best", and it shows. The articles in this book come from -

The New York Times : 9
The New Yorker : 6
The Wall Street Journal : 1
Wired : 1
Scientific American : 1
Policy Review : 1

Biomedical research : 15
The environment : 4

Based on this collection, one would be led to believe that there was nothing of note during the past year in - for example - astronomy, physics, chemistry, mathematics, computer science, oceanography, marine biology, economics, game theory, artificial intelligence, or nanotechnology.

One can only wish that Ms Nasar had cast a broader net in deciding what to include in this volume.

That said, the articles, by such established science writers as Jerome Groopman, Oliver Sacks, Stephen S. Hall, Richard Preston, Amy Harmon, Carl Zimmer, and Tara Parker-Pope, are interesting and well-written. Ms Harmon's piece on living life with the gene for Huntington's disease is exceptional. One might argue that, with four articles beating up on the pharmaceutical industry, coverage in that area could have been a little more balanced.

In summary, the articles included in this anthology are interesting and worth reading. However, anyone who subscribes to The New Yorker and The New York Times will find little new in this disappointingly narrow selection.

Three stars, because the articles included are generally pretty good; no more because of the unfulfilled potential.

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