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.

DNA makes us who we are. But how? In Genetics 101, Beth Skwarecki starts at the beginning. She aims to build lay readers’ understanding step-by-step, and moves from describing basic building blocks of cellular information to how traits are inherited to topics in the news, including how DNA ancestry services work, ethical quandaries posed by embryonic gene editing, and babies of the future.

US Route 1, the nation’s first highway, runs the entire length of the East Coast. Long bypassed by the interstate highway system, it’s still used by millions of people every day, and ranges from two-lane divided highways to narrow crooked roads. In U.S. Route 1: Rediscovering the New World, Mark A. Marchand explores the character of communities and geographical challenges that determined its path.

Both science writers and investigative reporters rely on analytical skills, curiosity, skepticism and a knack for sussing out dubious claims, Liza Gross notes in The Science Writers’ Investigative Reporting Handbook. Her book, written with support from a NASW Peggy Girshman Idea Grant, tells how to explore the story behind the story, detect biases, and find concealed information.

In Weather: An Illustrated History: From Cloud Atlases to Climate Change, NASW member Andrew Revkin, and Lisa Mechaley provide one-page summaries of meteorological milestones. They report, for example, how clouds were classified and named, how reliable The Farmer’s Almanac is, how global warming harms coral reefs, what a “nuclear winter” would involve, and where climate diplomacy is heading.

Space exploration isn’t just a technological story, Carolyn Collins Petersen asserts. Literature and art helped fuel interest, education, and funding. Jules Vernes’ From the Earth to the Moon, one of many examples, inspired future rocket designers. Many Trekkies now work at NASA. In Space Exploration: Past, Present, Future, Peterson examines what it takes to build a space-faring civilization.

By the start of the 20th century, near disappearance of beavers from the U.S. at the hands of trappers made wetlands and meadows dry up, hastened erosion, altered streams, and harmed fish, fowl, and amphibians. Beavers’ recent resurgence, a wildlife success story, offers many environmental benefits, Ben Goldfarb asserts in Eager: The Surprising, Secret Life of Beavers and Why They Matter.

Unexpected pleasure on tasting an obscure Middle Eastern wine found in his Amman, Jordan, hotel minibar sparked Kevin Begos’ ten-year odyssey to explore wine’s history. In Tasting the Past: The Science of Flavor & the Search for the Origins of Wine, Begos shares his findings from archeological digs to contemporary efforts to decode the DNA of wine grapes and save some grapes from extinction.

“The understanding that wetlands store and purify water has fueled some creative efforts to protect natural wetlands,” Sharon Levy reports. In The Marsh Builders: The Fight for Clean Water, Wetlands, and Wildlife, Levy chronicles the citizen-run battle to construct wetlands in Arcata, Calif., her home since 1994, and explores the impact of water treatment globally on health and the environment.

In 1580, ruminating about his kidney stones, Michel de Montaigne wrote, “It is likely I inherited the gravel from my father.” That was a visionary concept, Carl Zimmer writes in She Has Her Mother’s Laugh: The Power, Perversions, and Potential of Heredity. In exploring how heredity defines us, Zimmer covers diverse topics including the pseudoscience of eugenics and today’s three-parent babies.