Emily Anthes: The Great Indoors

Great Indoors

Great Indoors

THE GREAT INDOORS:
THE SURPRISING SCIENCE OF
HOW BUILDINGS SHAPE OUR BEHAVIOR,
HEALTH, AND HAPPINESS

Emily Anthes
Scientific American/Farrar, Straus and Giroux, June 23, 2020
Hardback, $28.00, ebook, $14.99
ISBN-10: 0374166633; ISBN-13: 978-0374166632
ASIN: B07Y73DTNW

Anthes reports:

I began exploring the science of indoor spaces more than a decade ago, when I wrote about collaborations between neuroscientists and architects for Scientific American Mind. The idea for a book didn’t occur to me until 2013 or so, when I began seeing studies about the “indoor microbiome.” Scientists were surveying the microbes that lived in our buildings, and their findings were staggering: there were tens of thousands of species of bacteria and fungi in our homes. The studies made me realize that our indoor spaces are complex ecosystems. Thinking about buildings as rich landscapes opened up all sorts of possibilities.

I already had an agent from my previous book, Frankenstein’s Cat, and I was hoping to work with the same editor again. Both of them gave me feedback as I developed my proposal. The editor did end up buying the book, and I used a significant portion of my advance to fund travel.

Emily Anthes (Photo by Nina Subin)

Emily Anthes (photo by Nina Subin)

I worked early on to identify buildings that I wanted to feature, like an elementary school that was designed to nudge kids to be more physically active and a women’s jail that was designed to be more restorative than punitive. I asked the architects who had designed them to give me personal tours. These tours were invaluable and led to some of the best scenes in the book. I was able to describe, for example, one architect’s horror at discovering a large freezer of ice cream in a school cafeteria she’d designed to encourage healthy eating and her covert attempt to hide the chocolate milk.

My biggest challenge was in narrowing the scope of the book. In retrospect, I wish I had thought through the focus and scope more carefully at the proposal stage.

My advice for aspiring authors is to make sure you really love your book idea. You’ll be living with it and thinking about it for a long time, and there’s no guarantee of riches at the end. (There probably will not be riches at the end.) You have to enjoy the process itself and be passionate about the story you’re telling.

Contact info:

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Jul. 1, 2020

Advance Copy

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.