Advance Copy: Backstories on books by NASW members

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.

It’s 2050. Lifelike neuromorphic robots provide domestic, professional, even sexual services for their human owners. Then a rogue engineer programs robots to murder and rob their owners. Dennis Meredith’s sixth sci-fi thriller, The Neuromorphs, explores possibilities and drawbacks of AI. Meredith's nonfiction books include Explaining Research, a guide for scientists and science writers.

The story of development of vaccines against rubella and other childhood diseases in the 1960s pits a daring young biologist against his world-famous boss, testing that used prisoners, intellectually disabled children, and other disenfranchised subjects, political roadblocks that nearly derailed the research, and other elements of high drama. Meredith Wadman covers it all in The Vaccine Race: Science, Politics and the Human Costs of Defeating Disease.

To research and write Wildfire: On the Front Lines with Station 8, Heather Hansen followed the crew of a fire station near her Boulder CO home for two years. She went through training and testing to become a certified wildland firefighter, and joined the crew for emergency calls and planned burns. She provides here an insider’s view of the challenges of addressing increasingly frequent, severe, and costly conflagrations.