cover image The Best American Science Writing 2011

The Best American Science Writing 2011

Edited by Rebecca Skloot and Floyd Skloot, series edited by Jesse Cohen. Ecco, $14.99 trade paper (352p) ISBN 978-0-06-209124-6

As guest editors, father (Cream of Kohlrabi) and daughter (The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks) Skloot adhered to a wide definition of "science" when choosing these 21 previously published pieces. To that end, their selections focus not only on the verity of science, but also on the emotions it elicits: Katy Butler chronicles the role of pacemakers in extending the life of late-stage dementia patients in the gut-wrenching "What Broke My Father's Heart;" John Colapinto profiles a woman fighting to find a cure for the rare form of muscular dystrophy that claimed her two sons in the equally aching "Mother Courage;" and Michael S. Rosenwald forces readers to ask, "Am I a hoarder?" Other stories explore the proliferation of the Conficker computer worm and why an overwhelming number of television weather personalities reject global warming. An occasional dud sneaks in, such as John Brenkus' choppy piece about the science of hitting home runs, and because these articles were written in 2010, they seem less urgent. However, by drawing from a wide variety of sources, mainstream (The New York Times, Playboy, Vanity Fair) and niche (Discover, Columbia Journalism Review, and science blogs), the anthology both provokes and inspires. (Sept.)