cover image The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2006

The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2006

, . . Houghton Mifflin, $28 (320pp) ISBN 978-0-618-72222-8

While a competing collection (Reviews, July 31) found the majority of its articles in mainstream publications like the New Yorker , guest editor Greene (The Elegant Universe ) sticks to the fundamentals in the seventh volume of Houghton's science anthology. In line with his belief that scientific literacy is increasingly vital to full participation in contemporary culture, Greene draws heavily from the scientific press—six selections come from Scientific American alone. These articles lay out the facts about topics like lupus and the nature of mass with admirable clarity, but can fall short of the excitement level in other pieces that have a more personal touch. John Hockenberry, for example, shows how blogging technology has radically changed the way U.S. soldiers fighting in Iraq communicate with friends, family and even total strangers, while Mark Dowie thoughtfully considers how environmentalist zeal threatens to disrupt indigenous communities. Other writers focus on the compelling stories of individual scientists, from Drake Bennett's profile of "the godfather of Ecstasy" to Oliver Sacks's memories of his lively correspondence with Francis Crick, the co-discoverer of DNA. (Oct. 11)