Advance copy: Backstories on books by NASW members

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In the late 1800s, US consumers unwittingly bought diluted and artificially whitened milk, and canned peas and beans greened with copper sulfate. Adulterated butter, meat, and other foods sometimes proved fatal. In The Poison Squad: One Chemist’s Single-Minded Crusade for Food Safety at the Turn of the Twentieth Century, Deborah Blum chronicles the birth of federal consumer protection.

While Western audiences widely oppose the slaughter of wildlife and marketing of tusks, horns, and other body parts, polls show little shift in favor of conservation in Asia, Rachel Nuwer reports in Poached: Inside the Dark World of Wildlife Trafficking. Nuwer traveled to 12 countries to examine the illegal demand for wildlife and efforts underway made to halt impending species extinctions.

Last week Jocelyn Bell Burnell was named recipient of the prestigious $3 million Breakthrough Prize for recognizing the first pulsar in 1967 when she was 23 years old. In Dispatches from Planet 3: Thirty-Two (Brief) Tales on the Solar System, the Milky Way, and Beyond, Marcia Bartusiak describes Burnell’s discovery and provides the backstory for it and other cutting-edge findings in astrophysics.

In the Apollo 8 mission, December 21, 1968, humans left earth’s gravity for the first time, and flew to the moon, circling it 10 times. They took now-iconic photos from space. To mark Apollo 8’s 50th anniversary, Robert Zimmerman collaborated with a fan of his 1998 book Genesis: The Story of Apollo 8: The First Manned Flight to Another World to produce the work’s first ebook and audio versions.

DNA makes us who we are. But how? In Genetics 101, Beth Skwarecki starts at the beginning. She aims to build lay readers’ understanding step-by-step, and moves from describing basic building blocks of cellular information to how traits are inherited to topics in the news, including how DNA ancestry services work, ethical quandaries posed by embryonic gene editing, and babies of the future.

US Route 1, the nation’s first highway, runs the entire length of the East Coast. Long bypassed by the interstate highway system, it’s still used by millions of people every day, and ranges from two-lane divided highways to narrow crooked roads. In U.S. Route 1: Rediscovering the New World, Mark A. Marchand explores the character of communities and geographical challenges that determined its path.

Both science writers and investigative reporters rely on analytical skills, curiosity, skepticism and a knack for sussing out dubious claims, Liza Gross notes in The Science Writers’ Investigative Reporting Handbook. Her book, written with support from a NASW Peggy Girshman Idea Grant, tells how to explore the story behind the story, detect biases, and find concealed information.

In Weather: An Illustrated History: From Cloud Atlases to Climate Change, NASW member Andrew Revkin, and Lisa Mechaley provide one-page summaries of meteorological milestones. They report, for example, how clouds were classified and named, how reliable The Farmer’s Almanac is, how global warming harms coral reefs, what a “nuclear winter” would involve, and where climate diplomacy is heading.

Space exploration isn’t just a technological story, Carolyn Collins Petersen asserts. Literature and art helped fuel interest, education, and funding. Jules Vernes’ From the Earth to the Moon, one of many examples, inspired future rocket designers. Many Trekkies now work at NASA. In Space Exploration: Past, Present, Future, Peterson examines what it takes to build a space-faring civilization.