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 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.

This is the 12th edition of Ricki Lewis’ textbook, Human Genetics: Concepts and Applications, widely used in colleges and high school AP classes, and a reliable resource for science writers. More than a million people have had their genomes sequenced, Lewis says, most since her 11th edition was published in 2014. This possibility barely existed in 1993 when her first edition came out. In this edition, Lewis explores use of exome and genome sequencing for both rare and common disorders, and their value in understanding our origins, solving crimes, and tracking epidemics.

A Voodoo Lily that surfaces unexpectedly in her yard moves a potter to make shiny purple pitchers that won’t pour, and bumpy, leaky mugs. A child treasures an autumnal butterscotch leaf; its mother refrains from revealing that “when beauty speaks it doesn’t hang around for an answer.” “Deep in a cave, life distills to one question — Which way now?” These meditations on the natural world and our place in it come from Kelly Lenox’s first book of poetry, The Brightest Rock. In her day job, Lenox edits Environmental Factor, the monthly newsletter of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.

The periodic table is one of the most iconic symbols of science of all time, Adrian Dingle observes in his latest chemistry book for a general audience, The Elements — A Tour of the Periodic Table. Both a science writer and a high school and college chemistry teacher, Dingle provides a conversationally-written, generously illustrated overview of many of the known 118 chemical elements. He discusses their discovery, action, applications, and, for some, hazards tied to their use.

On average, children in the United States will have had twenty courses of antibiotics by the time they reach adulthood, Emily Monosson reports in Natural Defense: Enlisting Bugs and Germs to Protect Our Food and Health. Today’s scientists seek ways to prevent the potentially adverse consequences of wiping out beneficial and/or harmless bacteria along with pathogens. “Twentieth century technology isolated us from nature,” Monosson writes, “but now twenty-first century technology is repairing the rift.”

The nation’s sad state of oral health often gets short shrift in the mainstream press. In Teeth: the Story of Beauty, Inequality and the Struggle for Oral Health in America, Mary Otto explores economic disparities in dental care, the connection between tooth decay and diminished job prospects, the continuing fake debate over the value of water fluoridation, the ethics of cosmetic dentistry, and more. Having focused her reporting on such issues for more than a decade, Otto serves as oral health topic leader for the Association of Health Care Journalists, for which she writes a weekly blog.

What procedures, drugs, foods, environmental exposures, and everyday practices can help or harm your children in pregnancy, birth, and the first years of life? What can you do to protect your children’s health and development? In Dirt Is Good, Jack Gilbert, Rob Knight, and NASW member Sandra Blakeslee provide a parent-friendly guide to the human microbiome — the community of mostly friendly microbes that populate the human body. The Q&A format gives parents quick access to their most pressing questions, and, Blakeslee reports, streamlined the writing process.

On August 21, 2017, for the first time in 99 years, the moon’s shadow will traverse the entire breadth of the continental United States. The event presents a host of opportunities for both scientific research and media coverage. In American Eclipse, David Baron examines the total solar eclipse of 1878, which crossed western North America from Alaska to Texas and Louisiana, attracting Thomas Edison and others. “Those three minutes of midday darkness,” he writes, “would enlighten a people and elevate a nation.”

The Atlanta BeltLine, now in the works, aims to transform a 22-mile ring of mostly defunct rail lines running through 45 diverse downtown Atlanta neighborhoods into a green pedestrian walkway and path for runners and bikers with a possible streetcar line, an urban planner’s dream. In City on the Verge: Atlanta and the Fight for America’s Urban Future, Mark Pendergrast, an Atlanta native, explores the BeltLine’s development and potential impact on the communities through which it will run. He also addresses broader urban issues, including transportation, race, housing, education, religion, public health, and the economy.

Sitting too much, and exercising too little, weaken gluteal and postural muscles essential for supporting the spine, and may trigger back pain. Treatment for back pain is a microcosm of everything wrong with the health care system, Cathryn Jakobson Ramin asserts in Crooked: Outwitting the Back Pain Industry and Getting on the Road to Recovery. Ramin aims to give patients “the information they need to make good decisions, to know what works sometimes, what works rarely, and what can cause harm.”