cover image The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2015

The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2015

Edited by Rebecca Skloot. HMH/Mariner, $14.95 trade paper (352p) ISBN 978-0-544-28674-0

Guest editor Skloot (The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks) gleans this year's stellar compendium of essays from established print publications, including Audubon, the New Yorker, and Orion, as well as newer online magazines such as Matter. In her introduction, Skloot invites readers to engage with moments that are "spurred by the novel, the complex, the ambiguous, the uncertain, and the surprising," such as those described in Kim Todd's exploration of curiosity, Amy Maxmen's story on how tool use by humans may be 800,000 years older than previously thought, Elizabeth Kolbert's profile of some New Zealand conservationists' drive to kill all of the island nation's mammals, and Lisa M. Hamilton's appraisal of a proposal that open-source programming protocols be applied to plants. These pieces also probe the humanity inextricably entwined with scientific research, including Leslie Jamison's inner dialogue about her own medical procedures as a mock patient, Eli Kintisch's examination of the relationship between politics and global warming research, Matthew Power's account of turtle conservation's deadly dance with poachers, and Seth Mnookin's profile of children suffering from a previously unknown disease who find hope through a combination of new tools and old-fashioned stubbornness. These essays are delightful to read in the moment, but what sticks is the way they evoke wonder and offer thoughtful challenges to the reader. (Oct.)