cover image The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2009

The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2009

, , series editor Tim Folger. . Mariner, $14 (328pp) ISBN 978-0-547-00259-0

With 26 essays collected from 15 publications, New Yorker contributor Kolbert (Field Notes from a Catastrophe ) has pulled together a magnificent display of writing. There's not a weak piece in the bunch. Kolbert's choices provide a sense of major themes in science today, with five pieces focused on evolution and seven on environmental topics. As Kolbert notes, “Darwin's ideas seem ever more central to our culture, even as their implications continue to challenge us.” As Benjamin Phelan shows, there's controversy even among biologists about some aspects of evolution, such as whether humans are still evolving today; Phelan presents the evidence that we are. John Broome discusses the ethics of climate change while Michael Specter is insightful on the difficulties of measuring one's carbon footprint; he concludes counterintuitively that, in many cases, it may make more environmental sense to purchase imported food than to buy locally. Other entries show what might have been prior to the Big Bang, the use of virtual reality games to quell post-traumatic stress disorder in Iraqi War veterans and much more. The collection is a joy to read and one to savor. (Oct. 8)