The Language of Life:
DNA and the Revolution in
Francis S. Collins
As a key leader of the Human Genome
Project, Collins brings a unique perspective to the discussion of the promise and
perils of genome-based medicine. His
latest book presents an accessible and
comprehensive assessment of genetic
testing and its relevance to health care.
Collins targets the general public. To
begin, he gives a rudimentary overview
of Genetics 101, then lightly touches on
more complex matters such as how the
genetic cards a person is dealt play into
the overall risk of heart disease, diabetes
and what he calls “the big C” — cancer.
Collins favors making genetic testing
more widely available so people can
understand their predisposition to
diseases but acknowledges the difficulty for doctors and patients alike in
interpreting the level of risk from such
Despite these uncertainties, Collins
argues, now is the time to prepare for
the future of personalized medicine,
The Edge of Physics: A Journey to
Earth’s Extremes to Unlock the
Secrets of the Universe
Astronomers once had the most
romantic job in science. Working alone
atop a rickety telescope platform, the
astronomer was like a sailor in a crow’s
nest, unspooling the universe’s secrets
by hand. But with
advances in comput-
ers and the advent
of space telescopes,
it has become much
easier to decode the
cosmos from an air-
In The Edge of
Physics, Ananthaswamy shows that the
really big questions — What is dark mat-
ter? Why is the universe’s expansion
accelerating? Where does mass come
from? Are there other universes? — still
have a sense of adventure. Part physics
which tailors treatment to an indi-
vidual’s genetic makeup. Each chapter
includes practical suggestions, such as
compiling a family medical history and
researching common tests for genetic
mutations linked to cancer. Collins also
calls on government officials and other
decision makers to bring personalized
medicine into health policy. Today’s
“standard of care”
should start account-
ing for gene-based
differences in how
people respond to
drugs, he says.
Readers hoping for
more advanced dis-
cussions of personalized medicine may
be disappointed by The Language of Life.
But those looking for a basic and broad
view of the field should be satisfied.
Writing with the authority of one who
has seen human genomics develop from
its infancy, Collins offers a clear and
hopeful vision of this field’s role in the
future of medicine. — Rachel Zelko witz
Harper, 2010, 332 p., $26.99.
primer and part travel epic, the book
takes readers to some of the most desolate places on Earth. Ananthaswamy
looks for the frontiers of understanding
in such unlikely places as an abandoned
mine in Minnesota and a frigid lake in
Siberia, and from the underground lair
of the Large Hadron Collider to the thin-aired peak of Mauna Kea in Hawaii. He
finds that retreating from light and noise
is sometimes the only way to achieve the
level of clarity these questions demand,
both clarity of data and clarity of mind.
Ananthaswamy, a science writer and
editor, smoothly weaves together the
stories of people who help push science
forward, from principal investigators
to research institute gardeners, with
exquisitely clear explanations of the
questions they hope to solve — and why
some research can be done only at the
edge of the world. — Lisa Grossman
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Trade, 2010,
336 p., $25.
65 Short Mysteries
You Solve with Math!
Eric Yoder and
Math can help solve
real-life dilemmas, this
collection of puzzles
for young adults illustrates. Science,
Naturally! LLC, 2010, 169 p., $9.95.
Where the Dragon
Meets the Angry
River: Nature and
Power in the People’s
Republic of China
R. Edward Grumbine
A policy scholar ana-
lyzes the impact of China’s develop-
ment on its natural resources. Island
Press, 2010, 240 p., $25.95.
The Essential Engi-neer: Why Science
Alone Will Not Solve
Our Global Problems
The approaches of sci-
entists and engineers
complement each other, an engineer
and historian argues. Alfred A. Knopf,
2010, 274 p., $26.95.
Theodore Garland Jr.
and Michael Rose, eds.
Scientists can take
to the lab and field to
explore the mecha-
nisms of evolution. Univ. of California
Press, 2010, 730 p., $45.
Making Sense of
A pediatrician reviews
treatments for children
with these disorders.
Bantam Books, 2010, 448 p., $25.
How to Order To order these books or others,
visit www.sciencenews.org/bookshelf. A click on
a book’s title will transfer you to Amazon.com.