Science & Technology Reviews, September 15, 2012

Flannery, Tim. Among the Islands: Adventures in the Pacific. Atlantic Monthly. Nov. 2012. c.288p. index. ISBN 9780802120403. $25. SCI

Australian scientist and conservationist Flannery (Here on Earth: A Natural History of the Planet) offers a behind-the-scenes account of his research on remote islands of the South Pacific. A masterful prose writer, Flannery weaves the tale of his search for rare marsupials with histories of the South Pacific and stories about quirky colleagues (including a taxidermist who re-created a complete baroque orchestra using stuffed cane toads), little-known animals (such as monkey-faced bats and giant crocodile skinks), and close calls (including snakes, leprosy, and bat droppings). Though packed with tales of adventure, ranging from the light-hearted to the terrifying, this book also touches on important scientific questions about the evolution of island-bound species and the ecological policies necessary for the preservation of diverse animal life. VERDICT This colorful narrative will appeal to a variety of readers—scientist and laypeople alike—conveying Flannery’s passion for conserving rare and beautiful wildlife throughout the world.—Talea Anderson, Ellensburg, WA

Jacobson, Nora. Dignity and Health. Vanderbilt Univ. Sept. 2012. c.232p. index. ISBN 9780826518613. $59.95; pap. ISBN 9780826518620. $27.95. HEALTH
Jacobson (In Recovery: The Making of Mental Health Policy) describes human dignity as an individual right, though one both intangible and open to interpretation. The book begins with a substantial, detailed list of violations of human dignity with examples, such as rudeness, disregard, contempt, labeling, and intrusion. Jacobson believes that detailing these violations will help shape changes and spur a much needed transformation in the field of health care. She combines a thorough survey of relevant scholarly literature on dignity with the opinions of international experts in related fields and personal anecdotes from 55 interviewees. The interviewees’ contributions are the standout aspect; their voices add legitimacy and human scale to otherwise abstract concepts. VERDICT Jacobson shows a keen awareness of the world of health care. She convincingly argues that providers should work to rectify their failures by fostering a culture of dignity, drawing a “virtuous circle” instead of a vicious one. Her book will be important reading for health-care policy-makers, sociologists, and human rights advocates.—Elizabeth J. Eastwood, Los Alamos Cty. P.L. Syst., NM

Ubel, Peter A. Critical Decisions: How You and Your Doctor Can Make the Right Medical Choices Together. HarperOne: HarperCollins. Sept. 2012. c.368p. bibliog. ISBN 9780062103826. $26.99. HEALTH

As Ubel (business administration & medicine, Duke Univ.; Free Market Madness: Why Human Nature Is at Odds with Economics—and Why It Matters) explains, while doctors are trained to diagnosis symptoms and recommend treatment, many are not trained in communication. This fact is at odds with a growing movement to encourage patients to work proactively with their physicians to determine their options. Ubel, a behavioral scientist and physician, uses examples, case studies, and personal accounts to explore the patient/doctor relationship. The process of making medical decisions is considered from the perspective of the patient and the physician. A doctor may believe he or she is explaining a condition or treatment option clearly, notes Ubel, but may nevertheless be unconsciously giving a biased opinion or using terminology the patient does not understand. Meanwhile, the patient may be too overwhelmed to ask for clarification. The section “Eight Tips To Help You and Your Doctor Make Better Decisions Together” consolidates the author’s advice and makes for a helpful review before a visit to the doctor. VERDICT Written with clarity and a touch of humor, this is a quick and thoughtful read, a good choice for patients, and a must for medical professionals.—Susanne Caro, Univ. of Montana Lib., Missoula

The following titles are reviewed in the September 15 print issue. Visit Book Verdict for the full reviews.


Mash, Holly. The Holistic Dog: A Complete Guide to Natural Health Care. Crowood, dist. by Trafalgar Square. 2012. c.176p. bibliog. ISBN 9781847972675. $24.95. PETS


Comfort, Nathaniel. The Science of Human Perfection: How Genes Became the Heart of American Medicine. Yale Univ. Sept. 2012. c.320p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780300169911. $35. MED

Hasegawa, Guy R. Mending Broken Soldiers: The Union and Confederate Programs To Supply Artificial Limbs. Southern Illinois Univ. Oct. 2012. c.160p. illus. bibliog. ISBN 9780809331307. $24.95. MED

Jacobson, Nora. Dignity and Health. Vanderbilt Univ. Sept. 2012. c.232p. index. ISBN 9780826518613. $59.95; pap. ISBN 9780826518620. $27.95. HEALTH

Pickover, Clifford A. The Medical Book: From Witch Doctors to Robot Surgeons, 250 Milestones in the History of Medicine. Sterling. Sept. 2012. c.528p. photogs. bibliog. ISBN 9781402785856. $29.95. MED

Velasquez-Manoff, Moises. An Epidemic of Absence: A New Way of Understanding Allergies and Autoimmune Diseases. Scribner. Sept. 2012. c.400p. ISBN 9781439199381. $28. MED


Min, Janice. How To Look Hot in a Minivan: A Real Woman’s Guide to Losing Weight, Looking Great, and Dressing Chic in the Age of the Celebrity Mom. St. Martin’s. Sept. 2012. c.240p. photogs. ISBN 9780312658977. $26.99. PERSONAL GROOMING


Lemonick, Michael D. Mirror Earth: The Search for Our Planet’s Twin. Walker. Oct. 2012. c.336p. illus. ISBN 9780802779007. $26. SCI