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.

NASW members: Will your book be published soon? Visit www.nasw.org/advance-copy-submission-guidelines to submit your report.

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 Eruption: The Untold Story of Mount St. Helens, Steve Olson focuses on the 57 people killed in the volcano’s eruption, the morning of Sunday, May 18, 1980. Those who lost their lives included volcanologists, loggers, conservationists, and other area residents, some as far as 13 miles from the summit. Had it been a weekday, Olson notes, far more people would have died, as hundreds of loggers would have been working in the area.

Melissa Sevigny interviewed more than 50 scientists engaged in solar system exploration, asking each of them to describe the first moment they saw a new world revealed. Their first sights ranged from the Moon to Mars, from asteroids to the moons of asteroids, and more. In Under Desert Skies: How Tucson Mapped the Way to the Moon and Planets, Sevigny shares their “inexhaustible sense of wonder.” Minor Planet (15624) Lamberton is named for Sevigny, who earned the honor as Melissa Lamberton in 2001, when she was a finalist in the Discovery Young Scientist Challenge, a middle school science competition.

Good essays have much in common with good science, in that both start with a question, Michelle Nijhuis asserts in The Science Writers’ Essay Handbook. Narrated in a personal voice, essays involve one or more journeys, and are relevant to both writer and reader, she says, telling how to organize, write, and self-edit essays, and where to find outlets for publication or broadcast. Nijhuis was a co-author of The Science Writers’ Handbook, published in 2013. NASW Idea Grants helped support development of both books.

What sense is most closely associated with emotions? How much skin does a person shed in one year? Why is it difficult to remember dreams? If you often seek health factoids for articles on medical topics, The Handy Anatomy Answer Book belongs on your bookshelf. NASW member Patricia Barnes-Svarney and her husband, Thomas Svarney — co-authors of several science “Answer Books” — provide hundreds of Qs & As covering all organ systems, as well as basics of physiology.

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.