PositiveThe Financial TimesEklöf expresses his fears with cogent clarity ... Eklöf is at his best when writing about wildlife, in a style that is sometimes elegiac and often urgent. (Plaudits to his translator Elizabeth DeNoma).
Sarah Gilbert and Catherine Green
RaveFinancial Times (UK)Vaxxers is an excellent and readable account of lab life, describing not only the Covid-19 vaccine research itself but issues such as obtaining supplies and publishing results, which apply to science more generally—though rarely under such pressure as Gilbert and Green describe ... Green writes movingly about the difficult intersection between work and home life as the single mother of nine-year-old Ellie, including her occasional feelings of exhausted misery. This is inevitably a selective account of the Oxford vaccine effort. The most regrettable omission is the business angle. There is little discussion of the dealings with AstraZeneca and a host of smaller companies involved in commercialising the vaccine ... But what is included in Vaxxers is so good that the book will be read for long after the pandemic is over, as a vivid account of research in action and the way individuals respond in the face of a scientific emergency.
PositiveThe Financial Times... with perfect timing, a good guide has arrived to pull together scientific knowledge about the way things spread and how to block (or encourage) their transmission ... [Kucharski\'s] book prepares the ground comprehensively for readers to make sense of what is happening today, by distilling the wisdom gathered by studying previous epidemics over more than a century.
Jonathan Safran Foer
PositiveThe Financial Times... remarkable ... Yet contains little actual analysis of the contribution of animal agriculture to global warming ... Foer is an innovative writer whose skills are deployed here most effectively in analysing what motivates people to sacrifice short-term comfort and convenience for the sake of salvation in the longer term — and what makes them believe a crisis is real at an emotional level rather than acknowledging it intellectually and carrying on regardless ... Sadly, Foer’s rather disjointed jumble of brilliance does not conclude with a sparkling idea for how to engage everyone emotionally in the world war against warming. There has been some progress since Foer finished writing his book, with the emergence of Extinction Rebellion and climate strikes inspired by Greta Thunberg. But the majority of people who accept the idea that human activity is causing climate change will need to do far more on the home front than forsaking meat and milk until dinner.
RaveFinancial TimesWriting a sparkling scientific study about a routine transatlantic flight on British Airways sounds like an improbable proposition. But it is a feat achieved by the celebrated materials scientist Mark Miodownik with his latest book ... Miodownik’s appeal comes not only from his ability to explain the complexities of science and engineering but also from his acute social observations ... Building the book around the experiences that most readers will have experienced during long-distance flights is an original and entertaining way of structuring the narrative.
RaveFinancial Times\"Chris McGreal... explains in horrifying detail how this vision of a pain-free America — pharmacologically unrealistic to begin with — was subverted by a greedy combination of pharmaceutical companies, drug distributors, doctors and pharmacists, aided and abetted by complacent regulators and politicians ... McGreal has written an interview-based book, with especially vivid reporting from West Virginia, the state hit hardest by the epidemic ... the book is excellent at documenting the failure of the US regulatory and law enforcement system either to curb overenthusiastic marketing campaigns by Purdue [Pharma] and other manufacturers or to intervene as evidence of gross overprescribing emerged.\
PositiveThe Financial TimesThe overall scientific message of the book is that Darwinian evolution — adaptation to changing environmental circumstances through natural selection — can take place far more rapidly than Charles Darwin realised. After his ideas became accepted wisdom in the late 19th century, people generally saw evolution of plants and animals as a very slow process ... Darwin Comes to Town is packed with examples of species evolving to thrive in cities ... No one really knows why some species are, as Schilthuizen says it, \'pre-adapted\' to take advantage of an urban niche through rapid evolution ... Answers may emerge as the efforts of enthusiastic pioneers such as Schilthuizen drive forward research in urban ecology.
RaveThe Financial TimesPeople love to read about human origins, so many recent findings of ancient DNA research have been reported extensively in the media. But David Reich, professor of genetics at Harvard, is the first leading practitioner to pull everything together into a popular book. Who We Are and How We Got Here provides a marvellous synthesis of the field: the technology for purifying and decoding DNA from old bones; what the findings tell us about the origins and movements of people on every inhabited continent; and the ethical and political implications of the research. The overall conclusion is that there has been far more mobility and mixing of populations around the world, through migration and interbreeding, than palaeontologists had ever imagined.
Matthew Walker, PhD
PositiveThe Financial TimesWhy We Sleep has an unemotive title that makes it sound like a neutral exposition of the latest research into sleep and dreams — and it is indeed richly packed with science — but the book is far more than that. Walker has written an angry polemic about what he sees as the blindness of individuals and society as a whole to an unfolding public health disaster ... All this evidence for the harmful effects of inadequate sleep, which Walker outlines in clear and readable terms, is indisputable ... The weak link in his argument concerns how much people actually sleep in the real world, rather than their behaviour in scientific studies ... This is a stimulating and important book which you should read in the knowledge that the author is, as he puts it, 'in love with everything that sleep is and does.'
PositiveThe Financial TimesAlthough AI is drawing many scientists into its web, his background in cosmology gives him a special perspective, as he examines the constraints that the natural universe and the laws of physics would place on a super-intelligent civilisation seeking to expand out into the galaxy and beyond ... While I do not accept Tegmark’s argument about our likely uniqueness, I still warm to his scenario of AI-driven intelligence that originated on Earth eventually pervading the universe. I like the idea of our successors spreading through the galaxy, their journey enriched by peaceful encounters with other supercivilisations ... 'I view this conversation about the future of AI as the most important one of our time,' he writes. Life 3.0 might convince even those who believe that AI is overhyped to join in.
PositiveThe Financial Times...an erratic but exhilarating scientific voyage that starts with the natural history of the atmosphere from Earth’s formation 4.5bn years ago, moves on to the way people have used gases for industrial and other purposes over the last few centuries, and finishes with the impact of human activity on the atmosphere itself, from climate change to nuclear fallout. Kean packs Caesar’s Last Breath with personalities and human interest to ease the reader through the hard chemistry and physics ... Kean’s ultra-casual language, such as discussing whether Pujol was 'scarfing broccoli or chugging raw milk,' may not appeal to certain readers. And some may wonder about his relish for describing violent and bizarre human deaths, which pervade the book ... More seriously, Kean is sometimes too casual with the science ... However, there is no denying the pleasure and indeed the wealth of scientific information to be obtained from reading Caesar’s Last Breath.
RaveThe Financial Times\"O’Connell dissects the practices and beliefs of transhumanism with extraordinary exuberance and wit. He writes in the \'gonzo\' tradition of Hunter S Thompson — a first-person account of meeting, eating, drinking and travelling with transhumanists in their California heartland, elsewhere in the US and on the cult’s European periphery. To Be a Machine is sometimes hilarious but even as O’Connell mocks the more absurd manifestations of transhumanism he shows sympathy and understanding for its adherents ... no one could hope for a better chronicle of contemporary strangeness than To Be a Machine.\
RaveThe Financial TimesHis exhaustive archival investigation, supplemented by extensive interviews with health experts, has crystallised into a devastating critique of the way the sugar industry has shaped nutritional science in its favour for more than a century ... Taubes takes his readers down some fascinating byways. One is the little-known story of 'the marriage of tobacco and sugar that made possible both the astounding success of American cigarettes worldwide and the lung cancer epidemics that followed' ... Taubes is a serious science writer who refrains from exaggerating the evidence. Indeed he could have taken his argument further by making more of the dental damage done by sugar, which receives relatively little attention here.
RaveThe Financial TimesIn Pinpoint the US journalist Greg Milner explains brilliantly the American military heritage and management of GPS, as well as its essential role underpinning the world’s communications and transport infrastructures ... It is a joy to read, not only for the central story about GPS but also for side excursions, for example into the ancient navigation systems that guided Polynesians around the Pacific islands and into the effects on the human brain of overdependence on satnav. It will be a strong contender for my science book of 2016.