MixedThe Wall Street JournalA book about breathing woes has an uncomfortable resonance right now—as if we need more stories about people gasping and wheezing. But Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art strives to be bigger than the current pandemic. Rather than focus on respiratory illnesses, James Nestor investigates the chronic, everyday breathing problems that, he argues, have devastated the health of modern humans. And while grounded in science, the book is also something of a spiritual quest, although ultimately a debatable one ... To be sure, Mr. Nestor slaps down the more outlandish claims, such as curing cancer. But then a few pages later we’re inevitably off to purge a schizophrenic woman’s hallucinations by teaching her to breathe through her right, “ ‘logical’ nostril.\' ... And while there’s no reason to doubt Mr. Nestor when he says that breathing exercises improved his life, the real question is why they improved his life so much. One big lacuna in the book is the placebo effect ... Other evidence looks dicey as well ... Breathing properly would no doubt boost the health of many people—as would sitting up straight and exercising regularly and getting better sleep. We do lots of crummy things to our bodies nowadays. There’s a good foundation here, but Mr. Nestor’s, well, breathless account would have benefited from more skepticism.
PositiveThe Wall Street Journal... illuminating ... Despite the title, there’s little astronomy here. Rather, Ms. Geddes focuses on the human relationship with the sun. The result is partly a compilation of scientific studies on circadian rhythm and chronobiology, and partly a practical guide to overcoming scourges of modern life such as poor sleep and jet lag ... the book does contain practical advice as well.
Timothy C. Winegard
PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewWinegard marches forward from antiquity to the modern day, showing how mosquitoes have repeatedly upended history ... Winegard isn’t afraid of sweeping explanations, but his enthusiasm sometimes gets the better of him ... Not every last event in history traces back to bugs ... Winegard’s enthusiasm trips up his prose sometimes, too ... Still, The Mosquito is one of those (compound-) eye-opening books that permanently shift your worldview. Every time I read about ancient battles from now on, I’ll always wonder how much credit the generals deserve and how much the mosquitoes do. This isn’t a flattering view of history — reducing our Great Men and Women to secondary roles. But it’s probably more accurate.
PositiveThe New York Times Book Review\"... absorbing ... Hager... dissects how the rise of giant drug companies has changed medicine. His critique is no screed: He acknowledges, rightly, what they do well. As late as the 1930s, doctors had just a dozen drugs in their armory to fight diseases; today, they have thousands. He even admits a grudging admiration for drug marketing, which is extraordinarily effective.\
MixedThe Wall Street JournalExhaustive...Mr. Bunker keeps veering off into minor skirmishes and long-forgotten eccentrics. One can’t fault the impressive research, but one is occasionally impatient to get back to Franklin himself, to see what new trouble the youth would stumble into next...a useful corrective to the self-hagiography of Franklin’s memoirs.
Richard O. Prum
PositiveThe Wall Street JournalAside from challenging the supremacy of adaptation theory, The Evolution of Beauty poses some unsettling philosophical questions ... Unfortunately, while Mr. Prum makes an excellent basic case for aesthetic evolution, the details can get muddy ... All the same, my disagreements are really signs of engagement: The Evolution of Beauty should be widely read, as it will provoke readers, shaking them (as reading Hume did to Kant) from their dogmatic slumbers. The author hews largely to the animals he knows best, birds and people, with only passing mention of how aesthetic evolution might shape other species. But I don’t see how any biologist could read this book and not walk away at least questioning the idea that adaptation must explain every last trait. Survival of the fittest might not be enough to explain nature. We might need survival of the prettiest, too.
PositiveThe Wall Street JournalIt’s a discursive book, full of literary references, bizarre scientific studies and personal anecdotes about Mr. Burdick’s twin baby boys, whose never-ending care reduces him at the book’s outset to a groggy fugue state ... One problem with studying psychological time is that it’s such a slippery concept ... Mr. Burdick has a talent for summing up several paragraphs of thought with pithy one-liners ... Confusion nevertheless seems inescapable in studying time, and readers expecting definitive solutions to longstanding mysteries may come away disappointed: Inside our minds, the cosmic debate between rigid and fluid time continues. But those who value rich questions more than easy answers, and can tolerate some uncertainty, will find Why Time Flies rewarding.
PositiveThe Wall Street JournalAbove all...The Hunt for Vulcan is simply a charming tale about an all-but-forgotten episode in science history. It might document a planetary snipe hunt, but the delights found along the way are real enough.