The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2016
4 stars out of 5
I first came across this addition to the Best American series a couple of years ago (other titles in the series cover mysteries, short stories, true crime, sports, etc.). I always look forward to the latest editions, and was excited to find a nearly new copy at a favorite thrift store for only $1, quite the steal!
The 2016 version offers 25 articles and essays covering a wide array of topics; from global warming and the illegal ivory trade to the dangers of working in a nail salon and the science behind the perfect sports bra. There is the story of Dame Janet Vaughan whose research and dedication helped create national blood banks in London (A Very Naughty Little Girl by Rose George). The Really Big One by Kathryn Schulz takes us into earthquake zones and is not necessarily pleasant reading for those of us living on large fault lines along the western U.S. coastline (I live in the Cascadia subduction zone in western Washington and thanks to Ms. Schulz I can now visualize the destruction a long-overdue 9.0 quake will produce, not something good dreams are made of).
As with any collection I’ve read over the years, there are always a few that I just can’t connect with (The Modern Moose by Amy Leach comes to mind), but several stories really stood out for me, including:
Rotten Ice by Gretel Ehrlich–A look at the effects of the melting Arctic ice on the native hunters of nothern Greenland.
They Helped Erase Ebola in Liberia. Now Liberia is Erasing Them by Helene Cooper–The shunning of the men who burned the bodies of Ebola victims.
The Lost Girls by Apoorva Mandavilli–How autism affects girls differently than boys and the need for further studies.
My Periodic Table by Oliver Sacks–Perhaps my favorite piece. In one of his final essays before his death in 2015, Sacks shares his thoughts on taking comfort in science even with the spectre of cancer nearby.
If you’ve ever enjoyed reading magazines like National Geographic and Discover, or you just like to explore something new, be sure to check out The Best American Science and Nature Writing. 2016 was a very good year indeed.