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.

A blue man shows up in a hospital emergency department, then a red woman, then a yellow one, and soon large numbers of people display a kaleidoscope of colors. A rogue biologist has exposed them surreptitiously to a genetically engineered virus that takes over the body’s melanocytes, producing the unnatural hues. Worse, the colors serve as a marker of the scientist’s intent to employ bioweapons to create worldwide mayhem. The FBI’s on the case, and so is the CDC. In his sci-fi novel, The Rainbow Virus, Dennis Meredith provides a behind-the-scenes look at forensic and epidemiological detective work.

“A box jellyfish is little more than goo, yet it can kill a man in less than five minutes. A spider or a scorpion can be unceremoniously crushed under our feet, yet some of their venoms can take us out just as easily,” Christie Wilcox reports in Venomous: How Earth’s Deadliest Creatures Mastered Biochemistry. In this book, based on her PhD research, Wilcox introduces us to venom scientists around the world, telling what venoms do and how they work, and exploring their present and potential medical applications. She also includes stories of survivors of near-fatal venom exposure, individuals who — for highs or putative health benefits — self-inject venoms, and even venom-using murderers. And yes, Wilcox also recounts her own run-ins with venomous barbs and stingers.

In The Autoimmune Connection, Rita Baron-Faust explores autoimmune diseases that are found more frequently in women than in men. These include rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, Sjögren’s Syndrome, scleroderma, multiple sclerosis, immune thrombocytopenia, and inflammatory bowel disease. Some women have two or more of these disorders, she notes. Because symptoms such as fatigue or pain often are vague and overlap, diagnosis may be delayed or missed. In this update of her 2004 book, Baron-Faust reports recent advances in understanding, diagnosis, and treatment of autoimmune disorders.

After his 19-year-old son Roman became paralyzed in a 1994 college football game, Don Reed immersed himself in learning about and advocating for stem cell research. His book, Stem Cell Battles: Proposition 71 and Beyond, chronicles efforts to educate the public and convince legislators to support stem cell research, first in California in 2004, and later in other states, and nationally. Reed humanizes the research, telling stories of individuals affected by disorders for which stem cell research holds promise, and of scientists working to advance treatment.

“That’s not fair!” “He started it!” When children behave like — well, children — parents often have to settle disputes. In The Game Theorist’s Guide to Parenting, NASW member Paul Raeburn and Kevin Zollman assert that game theory — the science of strategic thinking — offers parents a wealth of practical and non-punitive ways to reduce squabbling and improve sibling relationships. Use of bargaining, incentives, and other evidence-based tactics, they say, fosters family harmony, and helps children grow into fair-minded adults.

In 1882, Russian zoologist Elie Metchnikoff recognized that white blood cells form the first line of defense against invading bacteria. Initially greeted with skepticism, his insights into the nature of immunity brought him the Nobel Prize in 1908. His belief that sour milk might delay aging sparked a global craze for yogurt. In researching Immunity, her biography of Metchnikkoff, Luba Vikhansky tracked down a secret stash of Metchnikoff’s letters in Paris, and obtained permission to break into safe deposit boxes to gain access to this material.

Want to write a science blog? Learn how to set up your blog, build an audience for it, and cover controversial topics, while dealing with deniers, cynics, and trolls in Science Blogging: The Essential Guide. Editors Christie Wilcox, Bethany Brookshire, and Jason Goldman, along with two dozen other seasoned bloggers, also tell how to blog for science education, use your blog as a springboard for a book, and, yes!, get paid for your work. A NASW Idea grant helped support the book’s production.

In Green Transport: Exploring Eco-friendly Travel for a Better Tomorrow, Rani Iyer, writing for young adults, reviews effects of various modes of transportation on the environment. She describes more environmentally-friendly modes of transportation, such as biodiesel-fueled buses and cars and solar-powered boats, and stresses benefits to the environment and health of biking or walking. She also discusses efforts around the world to boost use of these alternatives.

An assignment to write about an imaginary river in the American Southwest, sought for decades by 18th and 19th century explorers, fur trappers, and pioneers, sparked Melissa Sevigny’s interest in modern-day efforts to bring more water to the Colorado River Basin. In Mythical River: Chasing the Mirage of New Water in the American Southwest, Sevigny tells those stories, and explores the challenges of making an ethical home in a desert.