Neither thumbs up nor thumbs down for The Triumph of Seeds: How Grains, Nuts, Kernels, Pulses and Pips Conquered the Plant Kingdom and Shaped Human History by Thor Hanson. History/botany.

There are a couple of ways you could go here. You could talk about (1) the science behind the workings of seeds; (2) how they fit into ecosystems; (3) their importance to human culture and development; (4) their nutritive value; (5) the importance of, and methodology for, saving unusual seed varieties in viable form; or (6) their future in the face of changing agricultural patterns and genetic modification.… >> Read more


Thumbs up for Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War by Mary Roach. Science.

Mary Roach is one of only two or three authors whose books I pre-order. Again, I am not disappointed by this, her book about military science—not guns, but all the other stuff, like uniforms, toilet paper specifications, shark repellent. However, I will say, for the first time, I was grossed out.… >> Read more

Thumbs up for Rabid: A Cultural History of the World’s Most Diabolical Virus by Bill Wasik and Monica Murphy. Medicine/history.

Somewhat uneven—or perhaps it’s just that I found the development of the rabies vaccine a far more riveting story than the section on the folklore of vampires and werewolves, which even the authors acknowledge have only a pretty vague connection with rabies.… >> Read more

Thumbs up for What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions by Randall Munroe. Humor/science.

I love Randall Munroe’s webcomic xkcd so very much. If you are even slightly nerdy and have not read it I am going to gently shoo you in that direction. Okay? We good? Well, his book—which is, exactly as billed, serious scientific answers to absurd hypothetical questions—had me in stitches.… >> Read more

Thumbs up for Data, A Love Story: How I Cracked the Online Dating Code to Meet My Match by Amy Webb. Science.

After watching Webb’s TED talk I was curious as to whether her book was a worthwhile expansion of the talk, or merely a padded version. I can say now that the book is well worth it, if you think humor, data hacking and love are a winning combination.… >> Read more

Thumbs up for Missing Microbes: How the Overuse of Antibiotics Is Fueling Our Modern Plagues by Martin J. Blaser. Science.

Oh look! Another book that makes intelligent decision-making even more difficult! You probably should not read this if you’re easily freaked out by the end of the world. I am somewhat immune (pun intended) to being freaked out by certain things, since I’ll never have children: I will not, for example, have to decide whether treating my six-month-year old with antibiotics for a painful ear infection is worth the risk of permanently throwing their microbiome out of whack, which may lead to a host of other difficulties down the road.… >> Read more