Oliver W. Sacks, Editor, Jesse Cohen, Editor . Ecco $27.50 (272p) ISBN 978-0-06-621163-3 ISBN 978-0-06-093651-8

Award winning author and neurobiologist Sacks (Uncle Tungsten, etc.) has done a fabulous job of selecting 25 diverse pieces for this thoroughly enjoyable collection. Sacks's choices represent most of the sciences, from botany to physics, cognition to evolutionary biology, and originally appeared in large-circulation outlets (Harper's, Atlantic Monthly, New York Times Magazine) and small ones (Southwest Review, Wings, Monthly Review). What they all have in common is their uncanny ability to engage the reader from the very first sentence and present complex material in an accessible form. Sacks claims that the best science writing "has a swiftness and naturalness, a transparency and clarity, not clogged with pretentiousness or literary artifice." All of his selections meet this high standard. In the book's longest essay, Peter Canby writes of joining an English zoologist on his trek across the Congo studying elephants, and the reader is there with them for every step. Brendan Koerner discusses how drug companies market new diseases—like compulsive shopping—as a way of creating niches for their older drugs. And Lawrence Osborne describes a start-up biotech company's desire to create silk by inserting the silk-producing gene from a golden orb-weaving spider into a goat and harvesting the silk from the milk produced. Additional highlights include reports on fraud in physics, the problems associated with chimpanzees "retired" from serving as medical research subjects, and the possibility and problems of long-term space travel. The book is perfect for browsing and is almost impossible to put down. (Sept. 5)

Reviewed on: 06/30/2003
Release date: 09/01/2003
Paperback - 272 pages - 978-0-06-093651-8
Prebound-Sewn - 978-1-4177-0211-4
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