PositiveChristian Science MonitorIn Fossil Men, Pattison weaves the multiple intrigues of science, politics, and personalities into a masterly structured tale. It’s no easy task to write compellingly of the sort of minute details that absorb those who study, say, the same tiny foot bone for years on end ... Through Pattison’s skillful rendering, readers get a sense of being in on the investigation and finally recognizing the clues in plain sight that begin to solve the mystery ... And this mystery is sprawling. In the quest to understand Ardi, scientists explore – and argue about – myriad theories that frame human evolution, from the idea that our ancestors evolved in savanna grasslands to the different possible reasons for why our predecessors started walking on two legs. Fossil Men shows the intricate science underlying these debates, from interpretations of carbon dating to genetic research ... In his recounting of the characters and science involved in Ardi’s discovery and the controversies that followed it, Pattison reveals the imperfect, all-too-human nature of science itself.
Jonathan C. Slaght
PositiveThe Christian Science MonitorIndeed, in Slaght’s capable hands, the scientist-as-adventurer narrative brings readers into a strange land ... Slaght’s book does not end in any great dramatic revelation or climax. But readers will appreciate the dedication that such research takes, the kind of single-mindedness that once led a graduate student to spend months in a frigid sleeping bag, watching a tree where he believed there might be an owl.
RaveThe Christian Science MonitorDial’s memoir of this quest – but also of a remarkable family, one that eschewed the \'safe and boring\' for something different; something intense, sparkling, and wild ... It’s no surprise that Dial ends up doubling down on his chosen life of wilderness and nature. But the quandary he expresses, of whether to urge one’s children to experience the world, with all its beauty and danger, or to keep them safe, is familiar, even to those parents sitting at the sports complex rather than in a tropical treehouse ... [Dial] manages to avoid despair, or even negativity, while faced with the most heartrending of subjects ... energized by spectacular descriptions of nature and by the narrative action of a father’s fight to find a beloved son. But it is its universality, this question of how to live and why, of how to understand nature, that gives it resonance and beauty.
PositiveThe Christian Science Monitor... fascinating ... part theology and philosophy, and part science and culture journalism. Louv’s writing most shines when he is focused on the latter; his reporting from reptile shows and scientific labs give as much insight as any philosophical musings. But the larger picture also comes through as essential. Our Wild Calling makes one see the world differently; as a place more interconnected, personal, and full.
RaveThe Christian Science Monitor... [an] engrossing new book ... scientific mysteries and discoveries become, in Gertner’s hands, part of a geological detective story. Facts are hard-won prizes that fascinate and dismay, and often point to further intrigue. By writing this sort of adventure-history, Gertner sidesteps the political debates and polemics that have come to characterize current conversations about a changing climate. The Ice of the End of the World is still devastatingly clear in describing how Greenland’s ice sheet is melting, and the broader implications of that change.
Heath Hardage Lee
MixedThe Christian Science Monitor...intriguing ... Although the text is occasionally overly detailed, with a battalion’s worth of names and the inside-baseball intricacies of who formed which League of Wives chapter when, the slog of new women joining the \'reluctant sorority\' of POW and Missing In Action wives is a testimony to the hopeless march of the Vietnam War. And despite Lee’s attempts to show the power of this group of increasingly emancipated women, what seems most clear reading The League of Wives is the complete futility not only of the war itself, but also of anyone trying to achieve goals in a wartime environment ... Lee’s work—although in need of more editing to avoid writing mishaps such as repeated phrases and unnecessary cliffhangers—gives a fresh lens, not only into a group long ignored, but also into the seeds of some of today’s deep political and social divide ... As imperfect as the writing might be, one cannot read The League of Wives and view POWs or MIAs in the same way ... The ripples of the Vietnam War, Lee shows us, are lasting, and they are personal and political.
MixedThe Christian Science Monitor...[an] uneven novel ... It is to Michael King’s credit that he manages to wrangle all this busyness. He connects the threads, and keeps readers eager to understand more about the plot twists and the individuals involved. At the same time, though, there is a gnawing sense of a book not quite there ... Perhaps this is, in some way, Mr. King’s point—that history repeats and repeats, not in any revelatory, progressive way, but in the manner of life-cycles; predictable, circular, at once beautiful and mundane ... Still, one can’t help but feel that the gnawing dissatisfaction with Briarwood also stems from the contrast between King’s often exquisite writing and a cast of characters that are never fully developed. And King’s writing is, indeed, gorgeous. The influence of the best of southern novels comes through in his work; those dripping details of place that somehow capture the leaf-filtered light, the organic decay, the heavy weight of unsaid words and unsaid past ... But within this well-crafted set piece even King’s main characters remain only beautiful caricatures.
PositiveThe Christian Science MonitorIn the new book If You Ask Me: Essential Advice from Eleanor Roosevelt, Mary Jo Binker...has sifted through the former First Lady’s columns to create a surprisingly modern compilation ... Binker divides the book topically, with Roosevelt’s writing categorized under chapters such as \'politics and economics,\' \'youth, popular culture, and education,\' and \'etiquette,\' with short explanatory essays to explain the historical context of Roosevelt’s writing. These introductions serve as useful history lessons for those who might be unfamiliar with Roosevelt’s substantial roles in the White House, Democratic politics, the civil rights movement, or the United Nations. But Binker quickly and effectively gets out of the way for Roosevelt’s own writing—and that of Roosevelt\'s readers—to take center stage, and it is those words that give the most insight into the United States of the 1940s and 50s ... Her answers are consistently straight-forward and patient ... they offer a calming, and inspirational, salve for the churning, and often short-sighted, public discourse we hear today ... The question and answer format, and varying topics, make it too choppy to form a real narrative. But it is a book to read periodically, and regularly. If nothing else, Roosevelt’s words from decades ago offer the sort of support and motivation to stay engaged with the present day.
RaveThe Christian Science MonitorTangier Island, a dwindling pancake of land surrounded by the unruly waters of the Chesapeake Bay, has long existed as a curiosity for mainlanders ... Swift not only weaves a masterful narrative of place, people, and nature, supported by the best sort of on-the-ground, in-depth journalistic reporting. He goes further, bringing to the fore the nuance and ambiguity of Tangier, and the environmental crisis it confronts. In his hands, the erosion tearing at Tangier takes on more than its ecological meaning and becomes, as imperceptibly and definitely as the waves eating into the shoreline, a story about all of us ... Swift does what only the best environmental writers can do. He reveals the complications and multiple storylines that underly an environmental crisis. And he builds compassion and connection, if not complete understanding, between readers and those who see the world quite differently.
PositiveThe Christian Science MonitorThis relationship with the daughter who didn’t exist offers both structure and dreamlike quality to Smarsh’s new book ... But it is her family that takes center stage in this bleak yet compelling portrait of white poverty in America ... her stories are occasionally difficult to follow, given chronological jumps in what is already a complicated family tree ... It is far too easy to stereotype the poor, the Midwest, or those who live in the country, Smarsh tells us. The reality is much more nuanced, and all the more heartbreaking ... As accurate as they may be, the real power of Heartland lies less in Smarsh’s explicit sociological arguments, which can veer toward jargon or read as somewhat tired liberal tropes, but in her startlingly vivid scenes of an impoverished childhood. Many of these narratives are painful. There is insight ... And while Heartland has its flaws – a structure that sometimes feels forced, a narrative that does not smoothly transition between storytelling and sociological claims – overall the book is an absorbing, important work in a country that needs to know more about itself.
RaveThe Christian Science MonitorLively begins by exploring the garden’s place in art and literature (perhaps veering a tad too close now and then toward a book report) and then explores the changing fashions of gardening and what gardens may show about class distinctions. But glimpses of her own life appear throughout the book, often anchored by matter-of-fact juxtapositions of beauty and loss ... And so it seems in this mosaic of musings and memoir, art history and social commentary ... the book falls together beautifully, organically and carefully, like the English gardens Lively loves.
PositiveThe Christian Science MonitorWith his skill at dramatizing nonfiction, Mezrich brings readers along on this rollercoaster quest for the past and future ... Woolly is by no means a textbook; those looking for the nitty-gritty details of modern genetics will find them elsewhere. But Mezrich’s ability to weave the details of DNA science into an easily accessible narrative does much to broaden the lay reader’s understanding of the tremendous developments and awe-inspiring capabilities of some of today’s most groundbreaking science.