Science Genre Study

Genre Study 12/5/2013

Half the people who attended consider themselves Science nonfiction readers in general.

Science writers are often very enthusiastic about their subject matter and can convey the “wide-eyed” wonder that people may remember from childhood. Other times it can still be quite dense.

Five Types:

  1. Explanations
  2. Investigations
  3. Nature and Natural History
  4. Literary or Historical
  5. Biography and Memoir

BENCHMARK BOOKS

T-Rex and the Crater of Doom – What happened to the dinosaurs? Meteor impact explained and the science behind the discovery.

The Canon – Audio book version is excellent and makes it even more accessible. Reviews the basics of the hard sciences. Enjoyable and clever writing. Went into more detail than what some readers may enjoy.

I Have Landed: The End of a Beginning in Natural History  – Difficult collection of essays from the end of his career.

Stiff – There is some graphic gory content. Embalming, history of experiments in humans and animals. Author is very enthusiastic about the subject matter and she is witty.

The Disappearing Spoon – Nerdy! Chapter sections are a useful way to approach the book. Great read for the loved one of a chemistry nerd to connect with them. Witty and word play. Further Read: Elements of Murder

SECOND TITLES

Moonwalking with Einstein – Journalist reveals history and science behind the human memory. He then focuses on becoming the US Memory Champion utilizing the techniques of the greats. Witty, engaging, accessible

Physics on the Fringe by Margaret Whartholm  – Author became the go-to person for fringe physics theory. Book is collection of submitted fringe theories. Book focuses on author of one theory as well as the “scene”. Fringe, superficial, journalistic.

Dinosaurs, Dunes and Drifting Continents by Richard Little. Local retired GCC professor. History of the geology of the Pioneer Valley. Clever, local, enlightening.

House of Cards – A blast on psychology such as self-esteem in education, Rorschach tests, expert witnesses.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot – Woman in 1950’s who was being treated for aggressive cancer when she had a cell sample taken without her knowledge or permission. Her cells are “immortal” in that they will continually divide and have been used in many experiments. She was not identified for many years and her family had a hard time when they first found out. Accessible, human, honest.

Bonk by Mary Roach – History of the social research about the science writing of sex. Ironic, amusing, and fun.

I Died for Beauty: Dorothy Wrinch and the cultures of science by Marjorie Senechal – Senechal presents a sympathetic portrait of the life and work of a luminous but tragically flawed character. At the same time, she illuminates the subtler prejudices Wrinch faced as a feisty woman, profound culture clashes between scientific disciplines, ever-changing notions of symmetry and pattern in science, and the puzzling roles of beauty and truth. Engaging, insightful and well researched.

Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins – Updated Darwin’s theories based on a focus of genes. Selfish versus altruistic. Thought provoking. Well-written, dense, single-minded.

Magic of Reality by Richard Dawkins – Overview of the sciences. Excellent writer, more serious. Refutes many religious myths. Great chapter on probability. Faced-paced, opinionated, informative.

Revolutionary Medicine : the Founding Fathers and mothers in sickness and in health by Jeanne E. Abrams – Founding fathers personal health issues and attitudes as well as personal health versus national health. Discusses health policy and provided opinion on how government should take care of its people. Well-researched, thought provoking, historical.

Rabid – Historical review of how rabies has influenced our culture, language, etc. Horrifiying and reveals how it is an understated problem that is still very real. Horrifying, pertinent, well-edited.

Reading the Forested Landscape by Tom Wessels  –Author is able to read how the land was used and what happened to it. It is all about the local landscapes.

Inheritor’s Powder: a tale of arsenic, murder, and the new forensic science by Sandra Hempel – Explores the need to detect arsenic back in the early 19th century. Historic, well-written, interesting.

What Einstein Told His Cook – Funny and accessible with recipes. Could be used as a kitchen reference for scientific approach to questions. Covers topics like salt, sugar, microwaves. Great index. Conversational, youthful, hilarious.

The Particle at the End of the Universe – Just written. Very accessible.  Reveals personalities of some of the scientists in the field. Also discusses politics of funding. Current, accessible, characters.

Cosmos by Carl Sagan – Companion to the TV series in the 80s. Passionate although it does reveal his theories in text book fashion. Sagan believes in other life in the universe. Well-illustrated. Textbooky, passionate and historical.

Next meeting in March. Topic: Non-fiction humor.

Benchmarks:

When Will Jesus Bring the Porkchops

Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim

I feel bad about my neck : and other thoughts on being a woman by Ephron, Nora.

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