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.

Steve Olson: Apocalypse Factory

The atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki, Japan, August 9, 1945, contained nuclear material manufactured at the Hanford nuclear reservation in Washington state. Histories of the Manhattan Project and the Cold War generally neglect Hanford, an oversight Steve Olson, who grew up in the nearby town of Othello, aims to correct in The Apocalypse Factory: Plutonium and the Making of the Atomic Age.

Susan D’Agostino: How to Free Your Inner Mathematician

If the mathematical properties of wallpaper patterns, the best way to stack oranges, or the fairness of voting methods stir your curiosity, this book is for you. In How to Free Your Inner Mathematician: Notes on Mathematics and Life, Susan D’Agostino aims to help readers discard resistance to tackling mathematical concepts and explore new ways to master these ideas. She includes 300+ sketches.

Emily Anthes: The Great Indoors

Even before COVID-19 lockdowns, most of us spent 90 percent of our time indoors. Not only do thousands of microbes live alongside us but light and noise exposure, outdoor views, and other environmental factors affect both our mental and physical well-being, Emily Anthes reports in The Great Indoors: The Surprising Science of How Buildings Shape Our Behavior, Health, and Happiness.

John Farrell: The Clock and the Camshaft

Although nailing a bent strip of iron to a horse’s hoof dates to Roman times, widespread use of horseshoes arose only at the end of the 800s. Horseshoes provided better traction and boosted draft horses’ endurance, helping foster greater agricultural productivity, John Farrell reports in The Clock and the Camshaft and Other Medieval Inventions We Still Can’t Live Without.

Shannon Brescher Shea: Growing Sustainable Together

As a self-described “green mom,” Shannon Brescher Shea aims to help other families embrace earth-friendly tactics in daily life. In Growing Sustainable Together: Practical Resources for Raising Kind, Engaged, Resilient Children, she encourages parents and children to walk, bike, and use public transit, lower home energy use, avoid acquiring “stuff,” and volunteer in their communities.

David Bullock: 2008-2018-A NewSpace Primer

The termination of NASA’s space shuttle program in 2011 sparked opportunities for the commercial space industry. For 2008-2018: A NewSpace Primer, David Bullock interviewed CEOs, scientists, lawyers, and others in this emerging field. His compact overview addresses advantages of competitive pricing and reuse of equipment. He also created a picture book for young children, What Is Up In Space?

Kelly Brenner: Nature Obscura

Thousands of crows roost nightly in cold months at a Seattle parking lot. River otters, beavers, and muskrats thrive in city parks. Colonies of eight-legged water bears, microscopic animals aka tardigrades, may live on your roof. In Nature Obscura: A City's Hidden Natural World, Kelly Brenner offers a paean to the vast diversity of organisms urban dwellers can see and study close to home.

Ainissa Ramirez: The Alchemy of Us

A diagnosis of COVID-19 depends in part on an accurate thermometer, a device made possible by adding boron to glass in the late 1800s. In The Alchemy of Us: How Humans and Matter Transformed One Another, Ainissa Ramirez tells how advances in materials science shape our lives. Along with glass, her topics include clocks, steel, telegraph wires, photographic materials, silicon chips, and more.

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.