Advance Copy: Backstories on books by NASW members

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.

Successful parenting involves teaching one’s children to parent themselves — from learning to put on socks to managing time. While some parents nag or punish, Katherine Reynolds Lewis says there’s a better way to help children master self-control. In The Good News About Bad Behavior: Why Kids Are Less Disciplined Than Ever — And What to Do About It, she proposes use of the Apprenticeship Model.

The California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, launched in 2007 with $3 billion in public funding, has generated 42 therapies now in clinical trials for a variety of incurable diseases. Don Reed, a science writer and advocate for stem cell research, describes the program’s successes in California Cures: How the California Stem Cell Program is Fighting Your Incurable Disease.