Deborah Blum, ed.: Best American Science and Nature Writing 2014


Deborah Blum (NASW member), editor; Tim Folger, series editor
Mariner Books, October 7, 2014, $14.95
ISBN-13: 978-0544003422
ISBN-10: 054400342X

Blum reports:

I was excited and honored when Houghton Mifflin Harcourt contacted me about being this year’s guest editor of Best American Science and Nature Writing. Then, of course, I started obsessing about how much I wanted to do a really good job with it.

Series editor Tim Folger does an incredible job of helping all the guest editors, of course. Tim sifts through countless publications during the year, and also encourages science writers to send him recommendations. I started to talk with him early last year about the collection, and by early January of this year, he'd sent me about150 stories. I added others that I’d seen and admired, bringing the final tally close to 200.

Deborah Blum

The publisher gave me a target of about 25-27 stories, and asked for an introduction in the 3,000 word range. I used thinking my way through that introduction to help me decide how to winnow and sift. One of the primary points in that introduction is this: “In the stories we tell, the ones that really do justice to the scientific process, we show our readers the curving complicated line that connects discovery and development, choice and consequence.”

That’s why you’ll find stories here about antibiotic resistance, the costs of the anti-vaccine movement, global climate change, loss of wilderness, and more. They connect us to consequence, and they remind us that science continually shapes the lives we live today. I also picked these stories because they are beautiful, exceptional, memorable. One of the advance readers wrote to me about what an eclectic mix the anthology contained. I like that because it tells me my central organizing idea is subtle enough to let the really excellent writing here stand out.

The authors in The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2014 are about 50/50 male/female. That's unusual: these anthologies have had about a 75/25 percent male/female ratio over time. I wanted women as well as men to be fairly represented in the anthology, but I didn't have to go out of my way to achieve this balance. Women and men in science writing are all doing amazing work. Editing this collection made me very proud to be a science writer.

NASW members whose work is featured in the 2014 edition:

  • David Dobbs for “The Social Life of Genes” (Pacific Standard)_
  • Robin Marantz Henig for “A Life-or-Death Situation” (The New York Times Magazine)
  • Virginia Hughes for “23 and You” (Matter)
  • Maryn McKenna for “Imagining the Post-Antibiotics Future” (Medium)
  • Seth Mnookin for “The Return of Measles” (The Boston Globe Magazine)
  • Carl Zimmer for “Bringing Them Back to Life” (National Geographic)

Contact info:

NASW members: Will your book be published soon? Take advantage of this opportunity for shameless self-promotion.

Tell your fellow NASW members tell how you came up with the idea for your book, developed a proposal, found an agent and publisher, conducted research, and put the book together. Include what you wish you had known before you started working on your book, or had done differently.


Send info and images to Lynne Lamberg, NASW book editor,

October 1, 2014

Advance Copy

The path from idea to book may take myriad routes. The Advance Copy column, started in 2000 by NASW volunteer book editor Lynne Lamberg, features NASW authors telling the stories behind their books. Authors are asked to report how they got their idea, honed it into a proposal, found an agent and a publisher, funded and conducted their research, and organized their writing process. They also are asked to share what they wish they’d known when they started or would do differently next time, and what advice they can offer aspiring authors. Lamberg edits the authors’ answers to produce the Advance Copy reports.

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