cover image The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2023

The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2023

Edited by Carl Zimmer. Mariner, $18.99 trade paper (272p) ISBN 978-0-06-329321-2

New York Times columnist Zimmer (Life’s Edge) brings together 20 captivating pieces of science journalism that find reason for hope amid despair. One among several essays focusing on Covid-19, Elizabeth Svoboda’s “An Invisible Epidemic” discusses the guilt suffered by healthcare workers who feel they provided inadequate care for Covid patients as hospitals became overwhelmed. On the flip side, Maryn McKenna highlights a rare feel-good pandemic story, describing in “When COVID Came for Provincetown” how adherence to public health guidance and contact tracing curbed a July 2021 Covid wave in the Cape Cod town. Climate change also looms large among the entries, with Douglas Fox reporting in “The Coming Collapse” that the melting of Antarctica’s Thwaites Ice Shelf is likely more imminent than previously thought, putting “the homes of at least twenty million US people” at risk of falling below sea level. More uplifting essays describe the efforts of scientists working to save such endangered species as California’s marbled murrelets, the Poweshiek skipperling butterflies of the Midwest, and yellow-legged frogs in the Sierra Nevada. The contributors showcase science journalism’s capacity to educate while entertaining, and the timely bent of the selections gives the collection a sense of urgency, as in Annie Lowrey’s poignant reflection on suffering medical complications during her two pregnancies and the choices women and their doctors face in post-Roe America. Readers will be enthralled. (Oct.)