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.

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.

For Getting Screwed, Sex Workers and the Law, Alison Bass interviewed sex workers, lawyers, sociologists, community activists, and others. Decriminalizing adult sex work, she asserts, would help sex workers protect themselves better from exploitation, and encourage them to practice safe sex and seek access to health care that could stem the spread of HIV infection and other sexually transmitted diseases. Funds diverted from pursuing prosecution, she contends, could benefit teenage runaways and the homeless, as well as individuals addicted to drugs.

People who experienced a limb amputation may perceive pain or other sensations that seemingly arise in the missing limb, a disorder known as phantom limb syndrome. Other people deny that healthy limbs or other bodily parts belong to them, and sometimes beseech surgeons to amputate these parts, or even attempt that act themselves. Anil Ananthaswamy explores these and other disorders that alter our sense of living in our own body in The Man Who Wasn’t There: Investigations into the Strange New Science of the Self.

In the early part of the twentieth century, Seattleites decided the city’s Denny Hill was too high; they leveled it, carting away millions of tons of earth they then used to create a waterfront area at the city’s harbor. Large-scale engineering projects continue to reshape the city’s landscape today, Seattle native and urban geologist David Williams reports in Too High and Too Steep. As one reviewer observes, “Williams explores the irony that the Emerald City, surrounded by blue water and forested mountains, may be the most engineered metropolis on earth.”