LJ Best Books 2016

A jury of our peers discussed, debated, disagreed, and finally declared LJ’s annual Top Ten Best Books of the year, selected by our editors, as well as Top Five lists for genre fiction, nonfiction, poetry, graphic novels, and SELF-e titles. VISIT THE WEBSITE

Science & Technology Reviews, June 15, 2012

starred review starMontgomery, David R. The Rocks Don’t Lie: A Geologist Investigates Noah’s Flood. Norton. Aug. 2012. c.288p. illus. index. ISBN 9780393082395. $26.95. SCI

Many recent books have sought to reconcile (or tear apart) the relationship between religion and science, usually written by scientists or Christian leaders. Usually, the scientists depricate religious views as myths and fairy tales, while the religious writers bash opponents as godless manipulators of the evidence. Montgomery (geomorphology, Univ. of Washington; Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations ) offers a thorough critique of creationist worldviews (including Noah’s flood) while treating his opponents with respect, reflecting on both ancient and modern debates and demonstrating that Christians have been arguing among themselves about these subjects for millennia. He admits that geologists have often stifled dissent and stubbornly rejected the idea that massive floods could have ever occurred, discounting such ideas as myths though there have, in fact, been many throughout human history. These catastrophic events likely inspired the famous stories of floods found around the globe, Montgomery concedes. VERDICT The combination of historical study and humility on behalf of geology makes for an extremely persuasive work. Highly recommended. ‚ John M. Kistler, Washington, PA

starred review starDufty, David F. How To Build an Android: The True Story of Philip K. Dick’s Robotic Resurrection. Holt. Jun. 2012. c.288p. illus. ISBN 9780805095517. $26. TECH

In the early 2000s, an android replica of sf legend Philip K. Dick became a sensation in artificial intelligence circles. Its human face and exceptional programming, along with a database of Dick’s writings and interviews, allowed people to converse with it. It made the rounds of conferences, attracting huge crowds, until December 2005 when its head was lost on an airline flight en route to a meeting at Google headquarters. The head has never been found. Dufty (senior research officer, Australian Bureau of Statistics), who worked on the project, tells the story of the conception, planning, and building of the android. An android of this complexity faced constant problems and technical difficulties, but the team met these challenges with creative thinking and novel approaches. Duffy here interviews many of the people involved in the project, adding depth to his own personal experience. VERDICT An enjoyable book that reads more like a memoir than a history; highly recommended to anyone with an interest in robotics or modern technology.‚ Betty Galbraith, Washington State Univ. Lib., Pullman

Clegg, Brian. Gravity: How the Weakest Force in the Universe Shaped Our Lives. St. Martin’s. 2012. c.336p. index. ISBN 9780312616298. $25.99. SCI

Clegg (How To Build a Time Machine: The Real Science of Time Travel) acquaints readers with a very familiar force in their lives: gravity. To most people, gravity seems awfully powerful since it keeps them (and everything else) attached to Earth. As Clegg explains, however, gravity is, in fact, one of the weakest forces of nature, as he indicates in his subtitle. He takes readers on a delightful conversational tour of how gravity works and how humanity came to understand it. He brings to life household names like Newton and Einstein and the scientific circles in which they worked and lived. Explanations of giant stars and atomic nuclei demonstrate aspects of gravity most people don’t think about, which makes this book all the more fascinating. VERDICT Lovers of science who are not well versed in its mechanics will find this book absorbing. Recommended.‚ Margaret Dominy, Drexel Univ. Lib., Philadelphia

The following titles are reviewed in the June 15 print issue. Visit our Reviews Center (Beta) for the full reviews.


Martin, Tovah with Kindra Clineff (photogs.). The Unexpected Houseplant: 220 Extraordinary Choices for Every Spot in Your Home. Timber. Sept. 2012. c.256p. photogs. index. ISBN 9781604692433. pap. $22.95. GARDENING

Starr, Gregg. Agaves: Living Sculptures for Landscapes and Containers. Timber. 2012. 344p. photogs. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781604691986. $39.95. GARDENING

Health & Medicine

Bate, Roger. Phake: The Deadly World of Dangerous Minds. Rowman & Littlefield. 2012. c.400p. illus. index. ISBN 9780844772325. $49.95. MED

Belluck, Pam. Island Practice: Cobblestone Rash, Underground Tom, and Other Adventures of a Nantucket Doctor. PublicAffairs: Perseus. 2012. c.272p. ISBN 9781586487515. $25.99. HEALTH

Dormandy, Thomas. Opium: Reality’s Dark Dream. Yale Univ. 2012. c.352p. illus. bibliog. ISBN 9780300175325. $40. MED

Piot, Peter. No Time To Lose: A Life in Pursuit of Deadly Viruses. Norton. 2012. c.304p. ISBN 9780393063165. $27.95. MED

Home Economics

Stelzer, Howard & Ashley Stelzer. Beer Cocktails: 50 Superbly Crafted Cocktails That Liven Up Your Lagers and Ales. Harvard Common, dist. by Houghton Harcourt. Jun. 2012. 104p. photogs. index. ISBN 9781558327313. $12.95. BEVERAGES


Adam, John A. X and the City: Modeling Aspects of Urban Life. Princeton Univ. Jun. 2012. c.336p. illus. ISBN 9780691154640. $27.95. MATH

Marzluff, John M. & Tony Angell. Gifts of the Crow: How Perception, Emotion, and Thought Allow Smart Birds To Behave Like Humans. Free Pr: S. & S. Jun. 2012. c.304p.illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781439198735. $25. NAT HIST

Meyers, Morton, M.D. Prize Fight: The Race and the Rivalry To Be the First in Science. Palgrave Macmillan. Jun. 2012. c.256p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780230338906. $27. SCI

Saini, Angela. Geek Nation: How Indian Science Is Taking Over the World. Hodder & Stoughton, dist. by Trafalgar Square. Jul. 2012. c.288p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781444710168. pap. $14.95. SCI


Ceruzzi, Paul E. Computing: A Concise History. MIT. Jun. 2012. c.175p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780262517676. pap. $11.95. tech