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 Jerry’s Vegan Women, a work of short fiction, Ben Shaberman traces the life trajectory of the title character who grows from a burger-loving sixth grader into an adult committed to animal welfare and a vegan lifestyle. In the classic tradition of the Odyssey, Jerry encounters women along the way — college classmates, animal rights activists, Humane Society volunteers, pet lovers, and others — who both inform and inspire him.

In Andy Warhol Was a Hoarder, science journalist Claudia Kalb illuminates common psychiatric disorders by exploring their effects on the lives of well-known people, including Albert Einstein (autism), Charles Darwin (social anxiety), Fyodor Dostoevsky (compulsive gambling), and Marilyn Monroe (borderline personality disorder). She drew on many sources, including letters, journals, and published medical records, and she interviewed biographers, mental health specialists, and others. Her aim: to reduce stigma surrounding mental illness.

In the Cancer Survival Guide, Charlotte Libov provides information on treatment and life after treatment for the thirteen most common cancers, including those of the lung, breast, prostate, and colon. She offers tips to help patients and families find clinical trials, cost-effective therapies, and free resources, and make sound decisions from the outset. She also includes information on prevention and early detection, including genetic tests that may enable family members to assess their risks.

When a pickpocket grabbed his wallet in Barcelona, Douglas Fields fought back. He recovered his wallet, and was unharmed, but later marveled at his instantaneous, unthinking reaction. In his book, Why We Snap: Understanding the Rage Circuit in Your Brain, he explores the neurocircuitry driving such automatic responses. Some people put themselves in harm’s way to aid strangers, while others respond to minor traffic incidents with road rage and other violent behaviors. From a neuroscience perspective, he suggests, the same brain circuits drive these dissimilar acts.

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 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.