Week ending September 28, 2012
The Best Science Writing Online 2012. Scientific American: Farrar. 2012. c.384p. ed. by Bora Zivkovic & Jennifer Ouellette. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780374533342. pap. $16. SCI
Since 2006, series editor Zivkovic (blog editor, Scientific American) has helped gather the best of science writing that is available online from bloggers, teachers, programmers, and scientists. Here, volume editor Ouellette (The Calculus Diaries: How Math Can Help You Lose Weight, Win in Vegas, and Survive a Zombie Apocalypse) has compiled a collection chock-full of short essays on a gloriously broad range of science topics, touching on biology, chemistry, physics, astronomy, engineering, geology, biochemistry, ecology, psychology, sociology—often in the context of culture, art, and/or history. The book also notes at the end of each piece where more of that particular author’s writing can be found. Among such a broad array of essays and blog posts, readers will be able to pick and choose their subject matter and still find plenty to read.
Verdict Anyone interested in science, especially those looking for a gateway to more great science writing online, should be thrilled with this engaging and accessible volume. Highly recommended. [See Prepub Alert, 4/15/12.]—Marcia R. Franklin, St. Paul
Hugo-Bader, Jacek. White Fever: A Journey to the Frozen Heart of Siberia. Counterpoint, dist. by PGW. Oct. 2012. c.336p. ISBN 9781619020115. $26. TRAV
Driving from Moscow to Vladivostok, a city on the Sea of Japan, over the winter of 2007 and 2008, Polish journalist Hugo-Bader attempts to see for himself what changes the fall of the Communist regime have brought to Russia. He could have written a careful treatise on wide-ranging social issues that affect the former USSR, but instead the author goes out of his way to meet and describe odd characters, from Miss HIV and the Kalashnikov rifle’s patriotic inventor to a person claiming to be Christ reincarnated and a shaman who claims she can eliminate white fever, a vodka-induced hallucinogenic state, from drunkards. Only in the last chapter do readers get a glimpse of the poverty, prostitution, bureaucracy, and procrastination that plague contemporary Russia. Though Hugo-Bader is often clever, his style is so glib that it runs the risk of not being taken seriously.
Verdict In the guise of a travelog, this book is really a vehicle to introduce readers to a kaleidoscope of eccentric and colorful Russian characters.—Victor Or, Surrey Libs., BC
Klancher, Lee with Phil Freeman. The Adventurous Motorcyclists’ Guide to Alaska: Routes, Strategies, Road Food, Dive Bars, Off-Beat Destinations, and More. Octane. 2012. 256p. ISBN 9780982913123. pap. $29.95. TRAV
Writer Klancher (How To Build Your Dream Garage) and guide Freeman, who leads motorcycle tours in Alaska, strike a perfect balance of enthusiasm tempered with the practical realities that this kind of adventurous travel involves. The amount of information they present here is staggering. The contrast between the cover image, a cyclist on a paved road, and the frontispiece, a cyclist on a dirt track, sets the stage for a guide that covers the entire network of travel conditions throughout the 50th state. Klancher and Freeman divide Alaska into ten regions, from the Kenai Peninsula to the infamous Alaska Highway. Each section includes useful maps, road conditions, routes, accommodation and restaurant recommendations, campground listings, local color, fuel, and warnings (flagged with a skull-and-crossbones icon). Even weather and riding gear are considered. The guide is enhanced by plenty of color photos that express the beauty of Alaska, many from the perspective of a motorcyclist.
Verdict Nonmotorcyclists would do well to include this guide in their Alaska travel plans, while motorcyclists will consider it their Bible.—Janet N. Ross, formerly with Washoe Cty. Lib. Syst., Sparks, NV