metagnat: (10thDrGeeks)
[personal profile] metagnat
Who is your favorite science writer and why?

I ask, in part, because I've only read what feels like a small amount of science writing (outside of frequently dubious newspaper stories). Most of the reading I have done that is by scientists isn't really about science per se (like Donald Pettit's accounts from the space station, Feynman's autobiographies, etc.).

So, are there books you'd recommend? Articles? Web sites? I am not fraught with scientific education, but neither am I stupid - technical is fine, insanely obfuscated is not...

Date: 2009-10-24 06:54 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
William Cronon, hands down, for science writing and general historical nonfiction.

I can definitely recommend Uncommon Ground: Rethinking the Human Place in Nature and Nature's Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West.

I want to read everything else of his, especially the one I just found out about since you asked - Changes to the Land: Indians, Colonists, and the Ecology of New England - since I'm on a Thoreau kick at the moment.

He gets the right level of scientific and historical detail, he gets it accurate, he gives all kinds of context for it, and he makes it interesting.

Speaking of Thoreau and science writing, I found this the other day, which is worth reading if you're into the origins of ecological thinking, like me: "Speaking a Word for Nature: Science and Poetry in the Rhetoric of Thoreau’s Transcendental Ecology"

And this isn't William Cronon, but Charles Mann's 1491: New Revelations of the Americas before Columbus is fantastic historical anthropology nonfiction, and stuff that more people should be aware of.

Enough for now? :)

Date: 2009-10-24 07:05 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Ooh, how could I forget Stephen Pyne! Fire!

Here's one: Fire in America: A Cultural History of Wildland and Rural Fire. The intro is even by William Cronon.

Date: 2009-10-24 10:14 pm (UTC)
dot_fennel: (Default)
From: [personal profile] dot_fennel
Daniel Dennett is awesome, IMHO, but he's an awesome philosopher who also qualifies as a science writer, rather than an awesome science writer.

(My favorite book by him is Elbow Room, which is not very science-y at all. It's about free will. His most science-y is probably Darwin's Dangerous Idea, which I liked but thought ran a little long. And I didn't retain nearly as much of it.)

Date: 2009-10-26 04:35 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
John McPhee, for Oranges and especially Control of Nature.

Date: 2009-12-05 11:24 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
How did I forget to mention Douglas Hofstadter earlier?? Godel Escher Bach is one of my favorite books. It's really long, but brilliant. (I Am a Strange Loop is shorter and supposed to cover some of the same ground. But I haven't read it yet.)


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