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 | October 1, 2012

Quammen, David. Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic. Norton. Oct. 2012. c.592p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780393066807. $28.95. MED

Zoonoses, most simply described as diseases transmitted from animals to humans, include exotic horrors like Ebola and far more common ailments such as influenza, HIV, and Lyme disease. Vividly describing the work of field biologists and laboratory scientists, Quammen (The Reluctant Mr. Darwin: An Intimate Portrait of Charles Darwin and the Making of His Theory of Evolution) takes readers on a series of journeys, including tracking gorillas in the jungles of Gabon and catching bats on the roof of a Bangladeshi warehouse. The researchers he interviews note that as human populations continue to grow, they will inevitably move into habitats with unfamiliar, dangerous microorganisms, and as international travel becomes more popular and more efficient, those microorganisms can be transmitted faster and farther than ever before. ­VERDICT For a shorter, more humorous consideration of some of the same issues (and diseases), consider The Chickens Fight Back: Pandemic Panics and Deadly Diseases That Jump from Animals to Humans by David Waltner-Toews. Quammen’s is a compelling and quietly alarming book; recommended for readers interested in biology, medicine, or veterinary science. [See Prepub Alert, 4/16/12.]—Nancy R. Curtis, Univ. of Maine Lib., Orono

Senechal, Marjorie. I Died for Beauty: Dorothy Wrinch and the Cultures of Science. Oxford Univ. Dec. 2012. c.304p. bibliog. illus. index. ISBN 9780199732593. $34.95. SCI

Senechal (mathematics, emerita, Smith Coll.; coeditor, The Mathematical Intelligencer) brings intrigue and pathos to her biography of Dorothy Wrinch (1894–1976), a trailblazer in mathematics and science of the early and mid-20th century. Her struggles in the academy and her feud with chemist Linus Pauling are well documented here, as are her turbulent personal life and her work at Smith College and Cold Spring Harbor. Senechal’s personal connection to Wrinch shows in her sympathetic portrait, providing insights into Wrinch’s intellectual brilliance and contributions to protein structure theory and crystallography. The layperson not familiar with Wrinch’s work may be confused at times, as Senechal assumes the reader is aware of many of the book’s events. ­VERDICT This book complements similar biographies of lesser-known and overlooked scientists, such as Brenda Maddox’s Rosalind Franklin: The Dark Lady of DNA and Paul Hoffman’s The Man Who Loved Only Numbers: The Story of Paul Erdos and the Search for Mathematical Truth. For those who wish to hear Pauling’s side of the story there is Thomas Hager’s Force of Nature: The Life of Linus Pauling. Strongly recommended for all readers interested in mathematics and science history.—Elizabeth Brown, Binghamton Univ. Libs., NY

Stanford, Craig B. Planet Without Apes. Belknap: Harvard Univ. Nov. 2012. c.261p. ISBN 9780674067042. $25.95. SCI

Anyone looking for a single book summarizing the current status of great apes and their prospects for survival in the coming decades need look no further than this short but heartbreaking title. Chimpanzee expert Stanford (codirector, Jane Goodall Research Ctr.; biology & anthropology, Univ. of Southern California; The Last Tortoise: A Tale of Extinction in Our Lifetime) paints a brutally honest picture of the numerous factors driving all the great ape species into extinction, particularly the accelerated rate of habitat loss in Africa and Indonesia. This catastrophic threat, plus other serious pressures, has produced an almost unstoppable momentum of eradication. Stanford convincingly demonstrates that this human-caused extinction crisis is due to a decades-long campaign of extermination in which chimps, gorillas, and orangutans have been sacrificed for agricultural development (e.g., palm oil plantations) and natural resource extraction (e.g., timber). VERDICT Stanford has brilliantly distilled scientific research, African and Asian economic issues, and ethical concerns surrounding the exploitation of these intelligent, highly social creatures into a powerful plea for primate protection. The breadth and depth of this superb work makes it an excellent choice for all readers interested in science and natural history.—Cynthia Knight, formerly with Hunterdon Cty. Lib., Flemington, NJ

The following titles are reviewed in the October 1 print issue. Visit Book Verdict for the full reviews.


Perry, Kate & Yvonne Conza. Training for Both Ends of the Leash: A Guide to Cooperation Training for You and Your Dog. Avery: Penguin Group (USA). Oct. 2012. c.304p. illus. index. ISBN 9781583334515. pap. $18. PETS

Satran, Pamela Redmond. Rabid: Are You Crazy About Your Dog or Just Crazy? Bloomsbury, dist. by Macmillan. Oct. 2012. c.176p. illus. ISBN 9781608198375. $18. SCI


Aziz, Erica Palmcrantz. Fabulous Raw Food: Detox, Lose Weight, and Feel Great in Just Three Weeks! Skyhorse, dist. by Norton. Oct. 2012. c.144p. ISBN 9781620872017. pap. $16.95. HEALTH

Brigham, Kenneth & Michael M.E. Johns. Predictive Health: How We Can Reinvent Medicine To Extend Our Best Years. Basic Bks: Perseus. Oct. 2012. c.272p. illus. index. ISBN 9780465023127. $26.99. MED

Kahn, Jonathan. Race in a Bottle: The Story of BiDil and Racialized Medicine in a Post-Genomic Age. Columbia Univ. Dec. 2012. c.336p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780231162982. $35. MED

Korth, Christie A. The IBD Healing Plan and Recipe Book: Using Whole Foods To Relieve Crohn’s Disease and Colitis. Hunter House. 2012. c.264p. illus. ISBN 9780897936125. pap. $16.95. HEALTH

Young, John K. Hunger, Thirst, Sex, and Sleep: How the Brain Controls Our Passions. Rowman & Littlefield. 2012. c.175p. ISBN 9781442218239. $39.95. HEALTH

Home economics

Birkby, Evelyn. Always Put in a Recipe and Other Tips for Living from Iowa’s Best Known Homemaker. Univ. of Iowa. 2012. c.203p. photos. ISBN 9781609381158. pap. $19.95. home econ


Gray, Jeremy. Henri Poincaré: A Scientific Biography. Princeton Univ. Dec. 2012. c.616p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780691152714. $35. MATH

Kessler, Elizabeth A. Picturing the Cosmos: Hubble Space Telescope Images and the Astronomical Sublime. Univ. of Minnesota. Dec. 2012. c.280p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780816679577. $29.95. SCI

Lovegrove , Roger. Islands Beyond the Horizon: The Life of Twenty of the World’s Most Remote Places. Oxford Univ. Nov. 2012. c.224p. illus. ISBN 9780199606498. $29.95. TRAV

National Geographic Bird-Watcher’s Bible: A Complete Treasury. National Geographic, dist. by Random. Oct. 2012. c.416p. ed. by Jonathan Alderfer. photogs. illus. index. maps. ISBN 9781426209642. $40. NAT HIST

Saulitis, Eva. Into Great Silence: A Memoir of Discovery and Loss Among Vanishing Orcas. Beacon. Jan. 2013. c.272p. bibliog. photog. maps. ISBN 9780807014356. $26.95. SCI

Walker, Gabrielle. Antarctica: An Intimate Portrait of a Mysterious Continent. Houghton Harcourt. Jan. 2013. c.416p. maps. ISBN 9780151015207. $27. NAT HIST