PositiveThe Wall Street JournalThe son of a Scottish physician, Dr. Ashley displays an infectious enthusiasm for medicine throughout his chronicle, and he delights in side-journeys into the history of technologies like the electrocardiogram and the defibrillator ... Dr. Ashley’s ardent positivity propels his story though at times threatens to overtake it ... Still, as a physician at the cutting edge of the genomics revolution, Dr. Ashley is aware—more acutely than most—of the limitations of science. He shares the stories of brave patients like Bertrand Might, whose parents worked heroically to establish a diagnosis, cultivate a community and search for a cure ... As much as Dr. Ashley cheers the remarkable progress of genetic medicine over the past two decades, and believes more wondrous advances are on the way, the patients at the center of his world keep him grounded, reminding him—and us—how far genetics still has to go.
PositiveThe Wall Street JournalMr. Harford, a British economist and journalist, hopes to persuade us not to give up on data, urging us to embrace thoughtful skepticism and avoid easy cynicism. As he expertly guides us through the many ways in which data can trick us, we see how difficult such an effort can be.
RaveThe Wall Street JournalBrian Christian, an accomplished technology writer, offers a nuanced and captivating exploration of this white-hot topic, giving us along the way a survey of the state of machine learning and of the challenges it faces ... Mr. Christian reminds us, we must attend to \'the things that are not easily quantified or do not easily admit themselves into our models.\' He adds that the \'ineffable need not cede entirely to the explicit\'—a timely reminder that even in our age of big data and deep learning, there will always be more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in our algorithms.
Lee Vinsel and Andrew L. Russell
MixedThe Wall Street JournalWhile the authors stubbornly dispute former Harvard President Larry Summers’s (reasonable) assertion that \'a great nation can walk and chew gum at the same time\'—can both innovate and maintain—they do manage to make at least a few encouraging observations ... Impassioned do-it-yourself advocates, the authors applaud the proliferation of repair-focused websites and instructional videos. Their affectionate description of the zen of home repair will connect with many readers. They celebrate community skill-sharing clinics, where tools and advice are exchanged, and criticize tech companies like Apple for making product repair difficult and expensive. They even find some kind words for venture-backed startups that tackle maintenance, even if these companies couch their mission in the language of disruption ... While the authors’ emphasis on maintenance resonates, and their take-down of innovation theater feels well-deserved, they may be preaching to the choir. Leading technology companies may talk innovation, but they already compete (as the writers themselves acknowledge) on reliability and uptime ... The authors describe three phases to innovation cycles—invention, maintenance and decay—but they omit perhaps the most important step: implementation, the process of figuring out how a raw but promising advance might be put to use. New technologies really can make the world better, though how they will deliver their benefits can be hard for the originator to perceive.
PositiveThe Wall Street Journal...an engaging survey of the science of buildings and a reported account of the quest to improve life by deliberate design ... Ms. Anthes astutely distinguishes between design’s anticipated potential and demonstrated benefit ... Of course, astute architectural choices won’t solve complex social problems, but they can nudge us in the right direction, Ms. Anthes says, and help us lead \'healthier, happier, more productive lives.\' It’s a compelling, science-based argument for the wisdom of intelligent design.
Muhammad H. Zaman
PositiveThe Wall Street JournalWhile Mr. Zaman, a professor of biomedical engineering and international health at Boston University, covers some of the same ground that Paul de Kruif did in his lapidary Microbe Hunters (1926), de Kruif was hagiographic, and Mr. Zaman often points to feet of clay ... Even so, more than a few of Mr. Zaman’s portraits are admiring ... Antibiotic resistance is a global problem—a disease present in Karachi one day may arrive in Reno, Nev., the next—yet the same connectivity that has spread resistance has eased collaboration across borders. Mr. Zaman’s optimism...is welcome, though not always easy to share. Still, his sense of urgency is irresistible.
MixedThe Wall Street JournalRather than focus on corporate culture like so many other analysts, Mr. Bahcall, who trained as a physicist and management consultant before becoming a biotech entrepreneur, urges us to consider organizational structure ... Mr. Bahcall has particularly deep insight into drug development ... As valuable as \'loonshots\'—and their champions—can be, it should be said that most innovative ideas don’t work out ... Organizations seeking to cultivate the creativity Mr. Bahcall admires will need to make peace with vexing uncertainty as well.
Daniel M. Davis
RaveThe Wall Street JournalThe Beautiful Cure, by biologist Daniel Davis, focuses on the science of immunology itself, taking us through the evolution of the discipline and the stories behind key advances in the field. Though evincing a scientist’s disdain of emotion,...he conveys a visceral appreciation for how messy, and how human, medical science can be ... In Mr. Graeber’s hands, the evolution of immuno-oncology is both captivating and heartbreaking. Exotic-sounding medicines take a turn in the spotlight before slinking off the stage, unable to live up to expectations. We are immersed in the stories of the brave, desperate patients who try emerging therapies: Sometimes they are cured, often they are not. We can’t fail to see ourselves, our friends and our families in these stories.
RaveThe Wall Street JournalIn Mr. Graeber’s hands, the evolution of immuno-oncology is both captivating and heartbreaking. Exotic-sounding medicines take a turn in the spotlight before slinking off the stage, unable to live up to expectations. We are immersed in the stories of the brave, desperate patients who try emerging therapies: Sometimes they are cured, often they are not. We can’t fail to see ourselves, our friends and our families in these stories.
PositiveThe Wall Street JournalMr. Johnson starts to lose steam toward the end of Farsighted as he discusses the challenges of making high-stakes global decisions ... But it’s also in this final gasp that Mr. Johnson seems to speak from the heart, revealing his passion for literature—in particular, George Eliot’s Middlemarch ... Mr. Johnson reminds us that, fundamentally, choices concern competing narratives, and we’re likely to make better choices if we have richer stories, with more fleshed-out characters, a more nuanced understanding of motives, and a deeper appreciation of how decisions are likely to reverberate and resound.