PUBLISHERS WEEKLY

August 30, 2004

THE BEST AMERICAN SCIENCE AND NATURE WRITING 2004

EDITED AND WITH AN INTRO. BY STEVEN PINKER.

Houghton Mifflin, $27.50 (240p) . ISBN 0.618.24697.5; paper $14 ISBN 0-618-24698-3

Science buffs will find a smorgasbord of lively pieces in this anthology selected by renowned Harvard psychologist Pinker (The Blank Slate; etc.). Many readers will jump straight to Ron Rosenbaum's "Sex Week at Yale," an entertaining exposé of how academics can give their audience a headache when they yammer on about sex. Even the most science-wary readers will enjoy Peggy Orenstein's "Where Have All the Lisas Gone?" about trends in naming babies. Bird lovers (and cat haters) will laugh out loud at the letters to the Bird Folks collected in Michael O'Connor's "Ask the Bird Folks." And ailurophiles will be stunned by Robert Sapolsky's report ("Bugs in the Brain") on how the pathogen that causes toxoplasmosis alters its carriers' (rodents) brains so they no longer fear their number one predator (cats). Medical buffs will look for Atul Gawande's extended profile of the amazing Francis Moore, a pioneer in treatment of burns, nuclear medicine, hormone replacement therapies and organ transplants. Both Pinker's choice of subjects (linguistics, psychology) as well as sources (The American Conservative, The Cape Codder) range happily beyond the usual suspects; everyone will find something they haven't already read. The collection is recommended for intellectually omnivorous readers in this and all other universes. (Oct. 14)