Book Review: Scientists Who Changed History edited by Victoria Heyworth-Dunne, Kathryn Hennessy, Rose Blackett-Ord, Kim Bryan, Andy Szudek, Debra Wolter

Cover of the book Scientists Who Changed History edited by Victoria Heyworth-Dunne, Kathryn Hennessy, Rose Blackett-Ord, Kim Bryan, Andy Szudek, Debra Wolter
Scientists Who Changed History
edited by Victoria Heyworth-Dunne, Kathryn Hennessy, Rose Blackett-Ord, Kim Bryan, Andy Szudek, Debra Wolter
DK, 2019

This review was first published by Booklist on December 1, 2019.

**STARRED REVIEW** This comprehensively researched and beautifully designed reference work contains profiles of over 80 scientists, mathematicians, engineers, and inventors whose work changed the world. Each profile is between 1-4 easily digested pages that cover essential information. What differentiates this work from similar ones is its scope and inclusivity. It covers history from approximately 650 BCE through the present and includes figures from Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and the modern Americas. Effort has been made to include many women, too often overlooked by historians for their contributions to science. A broad scope of scientific fields are represented: mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology, medicine, technology, geology, oceanography. All the giants are here: Archimedes, Galileo, Newton, Curie, Einstein, Turing, Goodall. Alongside them are lesser known but equally impressive people: Zhang Heng, Al-Khwarizmi, Hildegard of Bingen, António Egas Moniz, Tu Youyou. Profiles are organized based on historical era to highlight the progression of scientific thought and discovery. At the end of each section is a directory of other individuals from the era, each accompanied by a paragraph of basic information. This is an excellent resource to both browse and to serve as a launch pad for further research. Appropriate for middle school and up.

This title has been recommended for young adult readers:

YA/Curriculum Support: Easily digested, inclusive profiles of influential scientists will bolster both STEM and history coursework.

Book Review: Lost Transmissions: The Secret History of Science Fiction and Fantasy by Desirina Boskovich

Cover of the book Lost Transmissions: The Secret History of Science Fiction and Fantasy by Desirina Boskovich
Lost Transmissions: The Secret History of Science Fiction and Fantasy
by Desirina Boskovich
Abrams, 2019

This review was first published by Booklist on November 15, 2019.

Mainstream histories of sf and fantasy cover the main eras, the big names, the important publications and events. But there’s more to any history than just the mainstream. There are obscure authors, forgotten works, and a plethora of what might have beens, plus the myriad ways sf and fantasy have influenced and been influenced by art, design, architecture, fashion, music, and fandom. Lost Transmissions explores some of these often-overlooked pieces of the history of sf and fantasy. How would the genre be different if Jules Verne had successfully published the first novel he submitted? If William Gibson’s screenplay for Alien III had been made, or if E.T. had been a creepy goblin movie? From the sf fashion of David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust, to the Afrofuturism of Janelle Monáe’s music, to Soleri’s architecture of arcology (best recognized as Luke Skywalker’s dome house on Tatooine,) to contributed essays by a roster of luminaries reflecting on their favorite obscurities, this is a fascinating enrichment of the history of sf and fantasy.

Book Review: The Best of Uncanny edited by Lynne M. Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas

Cover of the book The Best of Uncanny edited by Lynne M. Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas
The Best of Uncanny
edited by Lynne M. Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas
Subterranean, 2019

This review was first published by Booklist on November 1, 2019.

**STARRED REVIEW** Multi-award-winning Uncanny Magazine has been the preeminent publisher of speculative short fiction, poetry, and nonfiction since 2014, and is renowned for offering its contributors tremendous creative freedom. Authors published by Uncanny are a roster of the greatest sf writers of the present era: Neil Gaiman, N. K. Jemisin, Charlie Jane Anders, Seanan McGuire, Naomi Novik, and many, many more. The works in this anthology are the best of the best in the genre, from science fiction to fantasy to weird tales to poetry, representing a stunning diversity of styles and perspectives, from the Hugo award-winning “Folding Beijing,” by Hao Jingfang to a female empowerment parable, “Monster Girls Don’t Cry,” by A. Merc Rustad. Language and family tie into technology and posterity in “Restore the Heart to Love,” by John Chu; “Clearly Lettered in a Mostly Steady Hand,” by Fran Wilde visits a nightmarish circus freak show; “And Then There Were (N-One),” by Sarah Pinsker is what happens when Being John Malkovich meets Agatha Christie. This anthology contains a gluttonous surfeit of narrative riches. The works in this collection are inventive, gorgeous, occasionally difficult, and immensely rewarding. Truly, the best of Uncanny.

Book Review: Medieval Bodies: Life and Death in the Middle Ages by Jack Hartnell

Cover of the book Medieval Bodies: Life and Death in the Middle Ages by Jack Hartnell
Medieval Bodies: Life and Death in the Middle Ages
by Jack Hartnell
Norton, 2019

This review was first published by Booklist on October 15, 2019.

**STARRED REVIEW** Medieval Bodies was a Sunday Times History Book of the Year when published in Britain last year, and it is now coming out in the U.S. Hartnell, a professor of the history of art and visual culture, brings together his vast knowledge of medieval art and writing to examine how European and Middle Eastern peoples of the time understood the workings of their own bodies. He starts with medical texts and illustrations, explores the legacy of classical Greek and Roman teachings, and surveys the general practices of medicine and healing during this period. But he doesn’t stop there. The body becomes a metaphor for medieval culture overall that informs our understanding of everything from the politics, religious beliefs, and class structures of this swath of Western history to the arts and interpersonal relationships of those who peopled it. Armed with Hartnell’s telling, readers will reassess their traditional view of the Middle Ages. Far from a Dark Age of superstition and ignorance, this was a time of curiosity, inquiry, and experimentation—a collision of the legacies of the past and the realities of the present. His knowledge and insight are impressive, and he shows uses [sic] with wit and humor.

Book Review: The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2019 edited by Sy Montgomery and Jaime Green

Cover of the book The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2019 edited by Sy Montgomery and Jaime Green
The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2019
edited by Sy Montgomery and Jaime Green
HMH, 2019

This review was first published by Booklist on October 1, 2019.

**STARRED REVIEW** The works in this annual anthology are lyrical, emotional, moving, and insightful—proof that long-form science journalism boasts some of our best writers. Many selections offer dreary outlooks for the future: the effects of climate change, the rise of infectious diseases, species extinction. Despite this, many are uplifting—science will always carry a sense of wonder and the joy of discovery, and awe for our ability to look deeply into existence and grapple with what we find. The strongest theme of this collection is the humanity of science. These articles all focus to some degree on the human nature of scientific endeavor. Science is work done by people seeking to understand our world; it’s passionate and flawed, subject to whim and error, driven by socioeconomic pressures and cults of personality. Science impacts real people, and these outcomes must be accounted for. For all its vaunted objectivity, science cannot be separated from its human components. Nor should it be, as series editor Green argues in a fiery foreward about the inescapable political nature of science. These pieces challenge us to look deeper and to understand better, to see the beating human heart in the soul of science.

Book Review: Reality ahead of Schedule: How Science Fiction Inspires Science Fact by Joel Levy

Cover of the book Reality ahead of Schedule: How Science Fiction Inspires Science Fact by Joel Levy
Reality ahead of Schedule: How Science Fiction Inspires Science Fact
by Joel Levy
Smithsonian, 2019

This review was first published by Booklist on September 15, 2019.

Science fiction starts with science and extrapolates possibilities. But how, and how often, does science fiction influence the course of science and technology? Levy does an admirable job of teasing apart this relationship by exploring the history of science fiction and tracing the origins of many ideas which came to dominate science over the years: H.G. Wells envisioned the atom bomb and tanks, for example; credit cards were predicted in a work written in 1888; and Star Trek gave us ideas for 3D printing, telecommunications, and health apps. In some cases, science fiction explores scientific ideas before they enter the mainstream. In others, people who grew up on science fiction work to make those stories a reality. Much of what Levy illuminates is already well-known but there are some surprising connections here, too. Most notably, he argues that telepresence (as portrayed in the movie Avatar) belongs to the evolution of videophones. He presents information in an accessible and engrossing way, highlighting many forgotten classic works of science fiction. This work should appeal to anyone who’s interested in the history of science, technology, and science fiction.

This title has been recommended for young adult readers:

YA/S – special interest: High school and even advanced middle school readers with an interest in science fiction and technology will appreciate this accessible book.

Book Review: The Science of Monsters: The Truth about Zombies, Witches, Werewolves, Vampires, and Other Legendary Creatures by Meg Hafdahl and Kelly Florence

Cover of the book The Science of Monsters: The Truth about Zombies, Witches, Werewolves, Vampires, and Other Legendary Creatures by Meg Hafdahl and Kelly Florence
The Science of Monsters: The Truth about Zombies, Witches, Werewolves, Vampires, and Other Legendary Creatures
by Meg Hafdahl and Kelly Florence
Skyhorse, 2019

This review was first published by Booklist on September 1, 2019.

Hafdahl and Florence, cohosts of the popular podcast, Horror Rewind, explore some of the real-world, factual basis for 30 popular horror films from the early days of Hollywood to today. The authors don’t offer specific analyses of each film so much as use the movies as jumping off points to explore ideas that arise from them. In some cases, the ideas are directly related to a specific kind of movie: slashers based on the psychology of real-life serial killers, rare physical conditions that inspired movie monsters. In other chapters, the ideas are only tenuously connected; for example, the chapter on Alien discusses dark matter and neutrinos, which have nothing to do with the movie. But this is part of the book’s appeal. It’s fascinating how these films can inspire curiosity about a wide range of topics. The chapters are all brief, and none go into any depth, but brevity makes this a quick and fun read. If readers want to know more about the topics explored, there are good end notes to direct further research.

This title has been recommended for young adult readers:

YA/General Interest: Pop-culture hooks make for easy entry into scientific topics. —Julia Smith