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.

In Improving Numeracy in Medicine, Bonny McClain aims to help journalists and scientists better understand the imperfect world of prediction and analyses. This is not just another book on statistics or biostatistics, she asserts. It is a guide to such books, addressing topics such as what a hazard ratio is, how effect size is determined, and what is meant by number needed to treat, to harm, or to screen. Learning more about these subjects, she says, can help reporters improve their healthcare coverage.

Zoologist Susan J. Crockford has studied polar bear ecology and evolution for more than 20 years, and blogs at http://polarbearscience.com. In Eaten, Crockford’s novel set in 2025, residents of hundreds of small towns in northern Newfoundland face a spring onslaught of hungry polar bears. Some of the bears have killed and eaten people. Mounties, biologists, and citizens struggle to protect the population — and the bears.

While humans have evolved to detect visible light — the energy range our Sun radiates most strongly — we also are surrounded by an invisible spectrum that ranges from radio waves to gamma rays. In Light: The Visible Spectrum and Beyond, Kimberly Arcand and NASW member Megan Watzke, both of whom work in the communications group at NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, explore and explain, using words and artists’ science-based visual translations, all the light we can and cannot see.

Heather Hansen’s love of national parks started at age seven, when she was a junior ranger at Cape Cod National Seashore. To research Prophets and Moguls, Rangers and Rogues, Bison and Bears: 100 Years of the National Park Service, she drove over 20,000 miles, and she has visited 150 national parks. She spoke with park rangers, superintendents, historians, archaeologists, architects, wildlife biologists, education and interpretation experts, youth ambassadors, and others. Published in time for the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service’s creation, her book includes 125 images, many of them archival photos.

The Akha hill tribe of Northern Thailand once raised poppies for opium. With financial support and technical advice from two entrepreneurs, one Thai, one Canadian, the tribe now grows high quality organic Arabica coffee. As Mark Pendergrast describes in Beyond Fair Trade: How One Small Coffee Company Helped Transform a Hillside Village in Thailand, the coffee’s success has improved the community’s health, education, and, often, quality of life. At the same time, television, computers, and other aspects of modern life also have altered the community’s cultural landscape.

NASW member Elizabeth DeVita-Raeburn teamed up with her father, Vincent T. DeVita, M.D., a former director of the National Cancer Institute, to provide an insider’s perspective on decades of cancer research. In The Death of Cancer, they call for changes in delivery of cancer treatment in the U.S. Optimal care of people with cancer, they say, requires better-informed and less timid physicians, refocused national agendas, and fewer bureaucratic hurdles.

The 2012 discovery of the Higgs boson put finishing touches on the so-called “Standard Model” of particle physics. In From the Great Wall to the Great Collider: China and the Quest to Uncover the Inner Workings of the Universe, Harvard mathematician Shing-Tung Yau and NASW member Steve Nadis describe plans to build a giant accelerator in China.

In Heal: The Vital Role of Dogs in the Search for Cancer Cures, Arlene Weintraub describes promising collaborative research on cancers that are similar in dogs and humans, including gastric cancer, lymphoma, osteosarcoma, breast cancer, and melanoma. Benefits from this research, Weintraub reports, include new medications benefiting both people and pets. Spurred by the death of her sister, Beth, from gastric cancer at age 47, Weintraub visited eight universities and interviewed veterinarians, oncologists and other scientists, as well as drug company executives, pet owners, and others.