Secrets and Stories from the American Museum of Natural History

My photo of the American Museum of Natural History in New York, the last time I visited in December 2016. I don’t know why I took the picture from that angle with the tree barging in, it looks spooky. This magnificent granite pile, this Museum on the west side of Central Park, between two rivers, in the New World, holds between its walls perhaps the … Continue reading Secrets and Stories from the American Museum of Natural History

A Braided History of Two Killers in 1952 London

Book review: Death in the Air, by Kate Winkler Dawson In 1952, two killers stalked postwar London. One was a serial killer: an average-looking, mostly unremarkable, middle-aged invoice clerk operating out of a grungy, now-notorious apartment building; the other was far more insidious and claimed many more victims: a suffocating, polluting smog that killed around 12,000 people. Maybe you can guess which got more media attention. Kate Winkler Dawson’s new history … Continue reading A Braided History of Two Killers in 1952 London

A Sampler From the Best American Series 2017

Book review: The Best American Series 2017 The Best American Series is an excellent anthology collection, if it’s not already on your radar. An editor chosen for their own standout contributions to each genre curates selections from the year’s best previously published works across websites, journals, and magazines. Plenty are fiction, like Mystery, Science Fiction/Fantasy, and Short Stories, but I find their nonfiction selections to usually be … Continue reading A Sampler From the Best American Series 2017

Put Down the Perfume

Book review: The Case Against Fragrance, by Kate Grenville Australian novelist Kate Grenville had a problem. On book tours, she began suffering crippling headaches and other intense symptoms that she eventually deduced were connected to scents. She realized she was highly intolerant to artificial scents and fragranced products. Scent is certainly everywhere. Even if we choose to use little of it ourselves, we’re still breathing … Continue reading Put Down the Perfume

Life Lessons Learned in the Service of Death

Book review: The Education of a Coroner, by John Bateson “When it comes to county government, the coroner’s office often is the forgotten stepchild. People don’t want to think about it, and they definitely don’t want to know any details of how it operates.” Longtime Marin County, California coroner Ken Holmes tells tales from his line of work and a long, experienced career, and disproves … Continue reading Life Lessons Learned in the Service of Death

The Life and Science of the Physicist Who Changed Quantum Theory

Book review: Erwin Schrödinger and the Quantum Revolution, by John Gribbin In honor of the 130th anniversary of Erwin Schrödinger’s birth on August 12, I’m posting a previously published review I wrote on a pop biography of his life and work. The intricacies of a life are woven inextricably into the weave of work and the professional world. In Erwin Schrödinger and the Quantum Revolution, biographer John Gribbin … Continue reading The Life and Science of the Physicist Who Changed Quantum Theory

The Bones of Bioarchaeology

Book review: Built on Bones, by Brenna Hassett Brenna Hassett is a bioarchaeologist. If, like me, you have no idea what that is, it means she studies human bones and remains, such as teeth found in archaeological sites, looking for clues to understanding more about human existence and how it’s evolved through the ages. Her book focuses especially on cities, or our earliest iterations of urban developments, asking … Continue reading The Bones of Bioarchaeology

From Idaho to St. Petersburg, Across Eons, Resurrecting a Saw Tooth

Book review: Resurrecting the Shark, by Lisa Ewing Think of what a shark looks like. Think of the teeth, that unmistakable sign from nature: here is a predator. Now imagine those sharp, self-replacing teeth arranged not in rows but on a buzz-saw whorl, jutting from the shark’s open mouth. The extinct shark Helicoprion had just that, and yes, it was scary as hell. “But was it just jammed … Continue reading From Idaho to St. Petersburg, Across Eons, Resurrecting a Saw Tooth

Looking Beyond

Book review: Surviving Death, by Leslie Kean “The boundaries which divide Life from Death are at best shadowy and vague. Who shall say where the one ends, and where the other begins?” This Edgar Allan Poe quote, a chapter opener in Surviving Death, is fitting for the book as a whole. It’s a question many wonder about their entire lives, and one that isn’t easily resolved for a plethora of … Continue reading Looking Beyond

Tigers in the Wild: Observations from Siberia

Book review: Great Soul of Siberia, by Sooyong Park Back in 2010, I read a book so good that even while I was reading it I knew it was going to be hard to top. It was around the time I was shifting to reading primarily nonfiction, and John Vaillant’s The Tiger was influential in my making that shift. I remember staying home on a Friday night, so caught … Continue reading Tigers in the Wild: Observations from Siberia