Advance Copy: Backstories on books by NASW members

For this column, NASW book editor Lynne Lamberg asks NASW authors to tell how they came up with the idea for their book, developed a proposal, found an agent and publisher, funded and conducted research, and put the book together. She also asks what they wish they had known before they began working on their book, what they might do differently the next time, and what tips they can offer aspiring authors. She then edits the A part of that Q&A to produce the author reports you see here.

Publication of NASW members' reports in Advance Copy does not constitute NASW's endorsement of their books. NASW welcomes your comments and hopes this column stimulates productive discussions.

Athena Aktipis: Cheating Cell

Cancer cells act in the body like bad roommates, Athena Aktipis writes in 'The Cheating Cell: How Evolution Helps Us Understand and Treat Cancer.' They stop cooperating, over-use resources, and invade every space in the house. Cancer is the literal embodiment of evolution, Aktipis says. We can’t win a war against a process of evolution, she says, but altering it may make cancer easier to tolerate.

Sarah Scoles: They Are Already Here

According to a 2019 Gallup poll, 33% of U.S. adults believe alien spacecraft visiting Earth from other planets or galaxies account for some UFO sightings. About 16% of Americans claim to have seen a UFO. “What intrigued me most was not the UFOs,” Sarah Scoles relates. “It was the people obsessed with UFOs.” She tells their stories in They Are Already Here: UFO Culture and Why We See Saucers.

R. Douglas Fields: Electric Brain

People who manifest a specific pattern of brain activity while letting their minds wander can learn a second language more easily than those who don’t show it. A computer interpreting brainwaves can generate speech that sounds “as clear as Alexa,” Douglas Fields relates in Electric Brain: How the New Science of Brainwaves Reads Minds, Tells Us How We Learn, and Helps Us Change for the Better.

Lydia Denworth: Friendship

A child reports having a best friend and a worst friend (no friend at all). Adults typically need 40-60 hours of being together to form a casual friendship and 200+ hours to rate someone as a best friend. Maintaining close relationships boosts quality of life and benefits our health, Lydia Denworth writes In Friendship: The Evolution, Biology, and Extraordinary Power of Life’s Fundamental Bond.

Carpenter: The Craft of Science Writing

Who is a science journalist and how do you become one? What makes a science story and how do you find one? How do you report a science story? How do you tell your story? How do you build expertise in science writing? —The Craft of Science Writing: Selections from The Open Notebook edited by Siri Carpenter, TON co-founder, provides 30+ articles delving into these concerns, many by NASW members.

Sergio Pistoi: DNA Nation

“You may discover things about yourself and/or your family members that may be upsetting or cause anxiety and that you may not have the ability to change.” People ordering DNA tests often overlook the small print, Sergio Pistoi writes in DNA Nation: How Internet of Genes is Changing Your Life. Afterward, he notes, they may regret that. An estimated 2-10 percent of paternities are misattributed.

Judy Foreman: Exercise is Medicine

“It’s not just that physical activity is good for you. It’s that a sedentary lifestyle, as a totally separate variable, is seriously bad, Judy Foreman writes in Exercise is Medicine: How Physical Activity Boosts Health and Slows Aging. Moderate exercise 30 minutes a day, five days a week, she says, increases lifespan by 3.5 years. Are you sitting down now? —Read this fast, then take a walk.

Matthew Bettelheim: Wildlife Confessional

In The Wildlife Confessional—Kick It in the Ice Hole and Other Stories, NASW member and wildlife biologist Matthew Bettelheim and the late writer/wildlife biologist Thomas Roberts offer a multi-authored collection of tales and reflections on encounters with birds, bears, and more in diverse locales. Funds from book sales will help support student scholarships, grants, and training opportunities.

John Galbraith Simmons, translator, Aline and Valcour

Science writer John Galbraith Simmons and his wife Jocelyne Geneviève Barque provide the first English translation of a 900-page epistolary novel by the French author Marquis de Sade, written while Sade was imprisoned in the 1580s. Aline and Valcour combines picaresque adventures, satire, and black humor to illuminate societal injustices that persist today, including exploitation of women.