Category Archives: Books

A couple of Big Announcements about The Open Laboratory

First Big Announcement:

The first couple of reviews of the 2010 anthology are now out: by Dr. Alistair Dove at Deep Sea News and by Ariel Carpenter at USC News. Check them out. If you have read the book and have a place to publish a review, we’ll appreciate it – just send us the link.

Second Big Announcement:

I am very excited to announce the Guest Editor for the 2011 – a good friend, a marvelous writer, and a great blogger: Jennifer Ouellette (blog, Twitter). I am looking forward to working with Jennifer over the course of the year to produce the best anthology yet!

Third Big Announcement:

After five years of self-publishing the book with Lulu.com, the Open Laboratory now has a real publisher! Yes!

I am happy to announce that the sixth anthology will be published by Scientific American Books, an imprint of Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Both Scientific American and Farrar, Straus and Giroux are part of the same publishing empire – McMillan – so this is a natural marriage between the two.

Jennifer Ouellette and I will work closely with Amanda Moon, Book Editor at Scientific American and Senior Editor at Farrar, Straus and Giroux, on producing the next volume.

What does this mean, and what will change?

The first phase of the production of the book will remain the same. You will keep submitting your own and other bloggers’ work via the same submission form. I will keep posting the growing list of submissions every Monday morning.

At the end of the year, some time in December, we’ll close the submission form as we always do. Jennifer will devise the judging methodology and will ask a group of bloggers, writers and scientists to serves as judges, to help us go through hundreds of entries at a fast pace. Thus the crowdsourced, community aspects of the book will remain intact.

Once the final decisions have been made and 50 essays, one cartoon and one poem are chosen for the inclusion in the book, Jennifer, Amanda and I will work closely with the authors to edit, copyedit and proofread the entries until they are in a perfectly publishable form (but without losing the webby ‘feel’). Then the project will get turned over to the professionals for design, typesetting and marketing – the aspects of publishing that were always the hardest for us to do as amateurs until now. Also, though Open Laboratory is a brand in our small circles (and quite popular there – see #openlab hashtag on Twitter), we may need to change its name to something more broadly marketable – but that is far from final yet, more information to come later.

This process lasts a little bit longer when done professionally, so we expect the book not to get published early in the year as before, but rather in early Fall, perhaps September, just before people start shopping for the holidays.

It took five years to find the publisher for this project, and it has finally happened, mainly due to continuous and strong support of the community – yes, that’s you. And I should not forget to mention the help of people most closely involved in the project over the years – the past Guest Editors Reed Cartwright, Jenny Rohn, Scicurious and Jason G. Goldman, the LaTeX guru Blake Stacey and, person without whom this idea would not have even been hatched – Anton Zuiker.

I am very, very happy with these developments and am looking forward to working on it over the next year, and hopefully into the future.

‘Pink Boots and the Machete’

‘Pink Boots and the Machete’, book by Mireya Mayor was published today.

I received an advance review copy from the publisher and wrote the review last night. I published it this morning on the Observations blog on Scientific American – check it out: Book review: ‘Pink Boots and the Machete’ by Mireya Mayor.

Simultaneously with the review, I also posted the interview with Mireya conducted by Darlene Cavalier on the Guest Blog – see it there: Cheerleader for science: A chat with Mireya Mayor, author of Pink Boots and the Machete.

Enjoy, comment, share… and read the book!

Book review: Pink Boots and the Machete by Mireya Mayor

As a little boy, I was always drawn to books about wilderness, exotic places, explorers and wild animals. I hungrily read accounts of real events, from Joy Adamson to Gerald Durrell, and works of fiction, from The Jungle Book to The White Fang, from Henryk Sienkiewicz’s In Desert and Wilderness to the entire Doctor Dolittle series.

And I never outgrew the genre, excitedly checking out new titles, but now with a somewhat raised bar – adventure is not enough, I also want good science in the story. Like, for example, last year’s hit Bonobo Handshake.

And this year, or to be more precise, exactly today, a new adventure book is coming out – Pink Boots and a Machete: My Journey From NFL Cheerleader to National Geographic Explorer by Mireya Mayor.

If the name is familiar to you as a science and nature enthusiast, it is probably because you saw her on TV. Mireya is the host of numerous wildlife shows on the National Geographic channel. You may have seen her in “Mystery Gorillas“, or the currently airing “Wild Nights with Mireya Mayor“. Or perhaps you watched her in the History Channel’s “Expedition Africa: Stanley & Livingstone” retracing, using only the technology available at the time of the original journey, the footsteps of Dr.Livingstone, I presume.

Raised by three strong women in the Cuban immigrant family in Miami, Mireya Mayor was both a “girly-girl” with interest in pretty clothes and make-up, and a “tom-boy”, climbing trees and hunting for lizards around the neighborhood. As breaking into a career in acting was difficult, and 9-5 cubicle jobs she had to take were deadening, she saw going back to college as her only way out.

One day, on a dare, she auditioned for a slot on the cheerleading squad with Miami Dolphins and, to her own surprise, she got picked out of thousands of candidates. Majoring in English and Philosophy, and busy with professional NFL cheerleading, she postponed the science requirement to the very end of her senior year, when the only class still available was physical anthropology.

That class changed her life. She got lucky to get sent by National Geographic to her first expedition, and she started graduate studies in anthropology soon after.

The book is her autobiography, describing how she grew up, in every sense of the word “grow up”, from a sheltered girl in Miami, through the world of professional cheerleading, to a career in science and finally the spotlight on television.

A Fulbright Scholar, a National Science Foundation Fellow, a two-time Emmy Award-nominee, a National Geographic Emerging Explorer, a scientist with a respectable publication record, including the discovery of Microcebus mittermeieri which is likely the smallest primate species in the world, one can say she’s made it. But the journey was anything but easy – getting chased by elephants and gorillas, swimming with Great White sharks, climbing steep mountains, getting bitten by every imaginable tropical critter that bites, getting sick and medivac-ed back home in the nick of time, even surviving an airplane crash in the jungle. This was no smoothly oiled Hollywood stardom track – it took literally gallons of blood, sweat and tears to get there!

I may have read all those books and explored the wilderness vicariously, but Mireya lived them. I did not have the courage (or craziness – but are the two traits really distinguishable from each other?) Mireya has. She has a rare talent – to say ‘Yes’ when her entire terrified body is saying “No” to an offer of yet another spectacularly dangerous expedition.

It is quite difficult to write an autobiography when one is so accomplished. It is too easy to sound self-aggrandizing. On the other hand, efforts to write in a more self-deprecating manner, emphasizing the role of friends and luck in one’s success, usually sound fake.

Mireya Mayor did not fall into either trap. She just wrote it as it is. A genuine, authentic voice describing what happened, what she did, what others did, and how it all felt.

In other words, Mireya is a Natural Born BloggerTM (and coming from me, this is the highest praise she can get), writing with her genuine voice, with her real personality shining through each sentence. If she was scared, she says so. If she did something brave or smart, she says so. No need to embellish or downplay anything. Total honesty all the way.

It is a refreshing style. Even the paragraphs describing the setting of the story of the particular expedition are real, clear descriptions, helping one visualize the place, not places to practice endless flowery prose for the sake of showing off one’s writing ability. Each chapter reads like a long blog post (or a series of several shorter posts) and I am surprised that she does not write a blog herself. While wildly popular on Twitter and Facebook, I could only find one blog post she has ever written.

With such personal and authentic style of storytelling, it is very easy to get inside of her head and go on the journey with her, trekking around the world, avoiding hippos, piranhas, scorpions and leeches, drinking dirty water full of worms (and getting de-wormed after every return home), running out of food in the middle of nowhere where no communication with the civilized world is possible, climbing vertical walls of rock while being terrified of heights, and all of that with bleeding wounds and swollen ankles in 100 degrees Fahrenheit over days of incessant rain. It is exciting, enchanting, sometimes scary. It is sometimes exhausting just reading it, but you feel guilty for being so whiny while not actually having to physically endure it yourself!

Fortunately, Mireya sometimes gives us a break. And those chapters that are not “on the road” are probably most important parts of the book.

Chapter 12 may seem funny at first. In it, she compares what she used to pack for her first trips and what she packs today, joking about the unexpected usefulness of feminine items, carefully choosing what items are more useful than others for survival. But between the lines you can see how she matured over the years, and what it feels like to be the only woman on an expedition, often at time when desperate times demand desperate measures, like starting a fire with a tampon.

Many will suggest this book as essential reading for teenage girls, with or without interest in science, and for their mothers. But I think that it is even more important this book gets read by boys and men. The book as a whole, but especially the incredible and must-read Chapter 6, shows what it takes to succeed as a woman in the male world of science and in the even more male world of television.

Why did her professors, classmates and scientific colleagues make life so hard for her in the beginning? Why does every TV crew want to film her showering under a waterfall? Why, no matter how she dresses, producers will think she looks either too sexy or not sexy enough? Why does it matter how she looks like in the first place?

“You don’t look like a scientist” is often the first thing she hears when a new TV crew meets her. “Well, this is how a scientist looks like” is her response. Makes you think. Now read the book.

Related: Cheerleader for Science: a chat with Mireya Mayor, author of “Pink Boots and the Machete”

ZooBorns!

My readers are most likely to know Andrew Bleiman as my SciBling from the Zooillogix blog, a witty and fun blog about animals and curious things they do. You may not be aware that he also runs a blog called Zooborns which highlights the animal babies.

Recently, Andrew teamed up with photographer Chris Eastland and produced two books of Zooborns – one, ZooBorns for a little bit bigger children, and the other, ZooBorns!: Zoo Babies from Around the World, for very little kids. Let’s say the first is for kids who can read on their own, and the latter for kids who need to be read to.

When the books arrived the other day, we read them together, the whole family. Actually, “reading” may be an overstatement. We were loudly oooooohing and aaaaaaahing at each page. Those baby animals are sooooo cute!

Of course, that’s the point! Hook ‘em young with charismatic megafauna! Or even better – with irresistible babies of animals not usually deemed ‘charismatic’. Perhaps they will want to learn more when they grow up – the information provided in the books is a great hook to get them to want to learn more. Or they will grow up being aware of conservation efforts. Or they will keep us elders hostage by constantly nagging us to keep those species around for a couple of decades more so they can go and see them when they grow up!

On that last point, the books can help you a little bit as 10% of proceeds from the sale of every book goes to support the AZA’s (Association of Zoos and Aquariums) Conservation Endowment Fund.

Holidays are coming soon. If you were wondering what presents to get the small and big children in your family, now you know – a bunch of copies of ZooBorns! books!

Written In Stone: interview with Brian Switek

2010 is an incredible year for science books, many written by people who daily write on blogs.

The latest in this fantastic streak is Written In Stone (homepage, IndieBound, Amazon) by Brian Switek (blog, Twitter).

Written In Stone is officially published today. If you pre-ordered it, it should hit your mailbox in a few days and bookstores should get it soon after (watch Brian’s blogs for updates – there was a small delay in shipping). I got the book earlier, have read it and loved it – my review is coming here later today. But first, I wanted to catch up with Brian and ask him a few questions about his book, his blog, and how the two are connected.

———–

A few years ago, you were a student and blogging was a hobby – something you did on the side, out of love. At what point did you realize that you could do writing as a profession? Was there a precipitating event or did that gradually dawn on you?

There wasn’t any single event or cause – I just fell into it. Now that we’re mostly beyond the blogger vs. journalist sniping – I hope – I can look back and say that I was acting like a science writer even before it became a viable career option. Making the transition required a change in attitude and a realization that I could actually get paid for what I like to do, and I feel exceptionally lucky that I have been able to turn my hobby into a nascent science writing career (even though I still work an unrelated day job to keep the lights on at home).

The more detailed story goes like this – After blogging for two years, I got serious about my science writing and started to pitch to magazines. My performance was abysmal. Most of the time I didn’t even hear back from the publications I pitched to. Still, I kept using my blog as a writing laboratory and tried to fine-tune my writing. Then, in May of last year, everything changed almost instantaneously. It was at that time that I started working with my literary agent – Peter Tallack of the Science Factory – and Mark Henderson of the Times was kind enough to give me my first formal op-ed about the Darwinius controversy. Those breakthroughs, paired with the earlier acceptance of my first academic paper (just published), allowed me to build up enough momentum to start making some headway into more formal channels of science writing outside the blogohedron.

I wouldn’t be able to do what I do without blogs, Twitter, or the web in general. Blogging allowed me to practice writing, plug into a community of fellow science enthusiasts, and has otherwise made it possible for me to become a professional – if still part-time – science writer. If I tried to do the same thing just a few years ago, or otherwise tried to jump into science writing without developing my writing online, I would have almost surely failed. As I mentioned above, though, I did not think of my efforts as a career change. The only major difference was that people started paying me for the sort of work I had been doing anyway!

How did you decide to write a book? You were already a well-known blogger and have started appearing in more mainstream media on occasion – why a book?

Written in Stone had a relatively long gestation and significantly changed since the time that I was first inspired to write a book. I knew that I wanted to write a book about evolution from the time I started blogging, but I was pretty clueless as to how to go about it. I used my blog as a way to practice writing, keep up with the literature, and organize my ideas. Blogging gave me an incentive to keep learning, researching, and sharing that information with whoever cared to read it.

This went on for about three years. I kept notes and wrote parts of a few chapters, but I didn’t have a story to tie things all together. I knew that I wanted to write about evolution from the perspective of the fossil record, but that’s not a book – I needed a more specific angle from which to approach the bigger story of life through time. I knew that I didn’t want to write a comprehensive textbook – we’ve already got plenty of those – but what examples should I choose to help people understand what fossils tell us about how life has changed?

Unfortunately I can’t remember the moment the idea struck me, but I settled on looking at some of the major transitions in the history of vertebrates that transfixed me as a child. The evolution of the first tetrapods from fish, the evolution of birds from dinosaurs, the evolution of whales from terrestrial mammals, the evolution of humans, and others – they were classic examples of evolutionary change, but as I became more familiar with the scientific literature I felt that the public wasn’t being presented with the latest science about these examples. Even in recent popular books about evolution, a few of these transitions would be presented but usually in such paltry detail as to be unconvincing to anyone who didn’t already agree that evolution is a reality. More than that, these changes have been debated for a very long time but we often talk about them only in reference to recent discoveries. I wanted to dig into the long history of debate and show how our understanding has changed. In distilling everything down to simple, step-by-step diagrams of evolutionary change, I felt like other authors had missed something, and I wanted to plug that gap in the popular literature.

Once I figured all that out, writing the book wasn’t too difficult. I had been rummaging through the literature for my own education for several years already – it was mostly a matter of writing the thing. With three chapters in hand, I signed with Bellevue Literary Press in September and completed the first full draft of the manuscript just two days before Christmas. The manuscript went back and forth a few times over the following months for edits, but, looking back, I am still a little baffled as to how I put the whole thing together so quickly!

Your writing – both on the blog and in the book – looks at evolution, focusing mainly on fossils, in the context of history of science. This is a pretty unique combination of themes – where did that come from? Was that a conscious decision or something that just happened as it combined your existing passions?

The mix of evolution, paleontology, and the history of science happened organically. They all overlap and feed into each other. Since I wanted to write about what the fossil record tells us about evolution, those aspects of the story came together very easily. I could have left it at that, but then I would have done the same thing as everyone else by divorcing recent discoveries from their context. I didn’t want to do that. I did not want to act as a figure of authority, handing down data for the public to digest and accept.

Instead of taking the more traditional approach, I wanted to give the book a warmer tone – I wanted to present science in the way that I might talk to a curious friend about evolution, or in terms of what I might say if I were walking with someone through a natural history museum. The history of science allowed me to do this by providing me with a flowing narrative which encompassed the scientific points I wanted to talk about. This served the dual purpose of placing recent discoveries in context and also gave me a way to lead readers through the tangled process of scientific discovery. This was especially important in the historical chapters about the beginnings of paleontology and evolutionary theory (Ch. 2 and 3). I found the idea of simply laying out the nuts and bolts of stratigraphy, natural selection, the nature of the fossil record, etc. repulsive – as I mentioned, I had no intention of writing a textbook – but by tracing the history of science I could use stories to introduce readers to those same concepts in a more palatable way.

Naturally, my own interests played a role, as well. I am fascinated by vertebrate paleontology, and both evolutionary theory and the history of science remain important in the field for understanding the patterns of life on earth and how our perspective of those patterns has changed. It was not a stretch to bring it all together. Paleontology is an evolutionary science, and paleontologists are constantly reexamining old specimens and localities. Given all these available perspectives, it was mostly a matter of choosing where to place the emphasis.

The book grew out of your blog. What proportion of the book, can you estimate, comes directly from edits of your older posts, and how much was brand new material? Was it difficult to repurpose the bloggy format into something that will work well in the book form?

The book grew out of my blog in the sense that I used my blog to practice writing about some studies and ideas which eventually became incorporated into the blog. The book is not just a stitched-together collection of posts. It was written as a story unto itself – containing many smaller stories – and even when I covered something I had blogged about earlier I disregarded what I had already said and wrote something fresh. Sometimes I would dig back into my posts for something I had referenced which I had trouble remembering, but in no instance did I edit any of my posts to place that material in the book. I wanted to write in such a way that the story flowed, and I felt that if I was going to start incorporating material directly plucked from the blog I would jeopardize that. Readers of my blogs will see some familiar subjects, absolutely, but, barring quotations, the book is 100% new writing.

Reading the book, it struck me how unique it is and how much it fills a glaring gap in the literature. There are many books on evolution. There are many books on the history of science. There are many books about fossils (though usually narrower in subject, focusing on a single group like dinosaurs, or even a single fossil like Tiktaalik or Darwinius). Yet I cannot remember another book that combines these three topics until today (literally today!). While it is fortunate for you that this niche was wide open for you to fill, do you have any thoughts as to why this niche was empty to begin with? Aren’t there other scholars who could have, perhaps should have, covered this area in this way?

I think some historians of science have written similar books, but they have usually been focused on a particular time period of group of researchers (such as Adrian Desmond’s Archetypes and Ancestors about Victorian paleontology, Peter Bowler’s Life’s Splendid Drama about early 20th-century paleontology, or Eric Buffetaut’s sadly out-of-print A Short History of Vertebrate Paleontology). When you’re dealing with the history of paleontology, you have to include biological details as well as historical ones, and in many ways this historical subgenre was very influential in determining how I should go about telling my story.

You’re absolutely right about the gap in the literature, though. I intentionally wrote this book to fill it. There’s no single reason why the gap was left open to start with. From a practical perspective, the history of science is often left out of popular books because there is a common assumption that the public doesn’t care about it. One publisher I spoke to about the book early on, in fact, wanted me to cut all the historical material from the book and focus only on new discoveries – from science magazines to book publishers, there is a major push to cover what is new and exciting and leave the historical bits for people who want to track them down (despite the success of some books, such as Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything, which have a heavy emphasis on history!). An exception is Sean B. Carroll’s recent book Remarkable Creatures, but, while I greatly enjoyed it, the treatment of significant people and specimens was a collection of snapshots which did not illustrate the importance of paleontology to our understanding of evolution. There are gaps and jumps in my narrative too – if I included everything I wanted Written in Stone would have rivaled The Structure of Evolutionary Theory in length – but it was very important to me to trace ideas through multiple shifts in understanding over the past 150 years.

The fact that many recent, popular-audience books about evolution – such as Why Evolution is True by Jerry Coyne, The Greatest Show on Earth by Richard Dawkins, and Only a Theory by Kenneth Miller – have been written by lab-based evolutionary scientists is another reason for the persistence of the “paleo gap.” Paleontology isn’t their field and so, understandably, doesn’t get much attention from these authors outside of transitional forms in the fossil record. More than that, though, there is something of a conceit that genetics and microbiology are more important to evolutionary science than paleontology is. Paleontology is still often viewed as the search for old bones to fill museums with – it can demonstrate the reality of evolution by do little else. This appraisal of paleontology has been around since the beginning of the 20th century, at least, and Dawkins even downplayed the importance of the fossil record to understanding evolution in his book The Ancestor’s Tale.

Since Stephen Jay Gould died in 2002, we haven’t really had a strong public advocate for paleontology as an essential evolutionary science. I’m no Gould, but I was inspired by his work to communicate the relevance of the fossil record to understanding of evolution (as well as similar efforts made before him by George Gaylord Simpson). Not only does paleontology provide the essential context to understand why life is as it is now – it is the science which showed us that extinction is real and that life has been changing for vast periods of time – but has become arguably the most interdisciplinary evolutionary science. Paleontologists regularly use ideas and techniques from genetics, molecular biology, embryology, histology, geochemistry, and other sciences in addition to comparative anatomy and geology. Having just attended the 70th annual meeting of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology just last month, I can tell you that paleontology is an exceptionally vibrant field in which everything from the color of dinosaur feathers to the tempo and mode of evolutionary change are being investigated. This makes the rather brief treatment of paleontology in many recent books on evolution all the more irritating – paleontology, as I know it, is not being reflected in discussions about evolution, and I wanted to write a book to help remedy that.

One thing that struck me as I was reading the book is how well fleshed are the characters in the story, people like Lamarck, Darwin, Owen and Huxley, among others. You present them with a nuance that is rarely seen in usual discourse on the history of evolution. How much did you use biographies of these people, their letters and diaries, in trying to understand them as complex personalities, not just cardboard caricatures that we usually see?

I have to admit that I actually did not get to include the amount of detail I wanted – I mostly restricted biographical sections to the period a given authority was working on a particular problem or idea – but I thought it was essential to provide some background as to who these people were and why they did what they did. In the case of Lamarck, for example, I didn’t know anything about his life outside of his ideas about evolution before writing the book, so I thought including a little more information about him would be a small way of helping his public image since he is so often trotted out to be a contrast to Darwin and nothing else.

The sources I used varied from figure to figure. For Cuvier, I relied on various historical papers and Martin Rudwick’s selected translations of his work in Georges Cuvier, Fossil Bones, and Geological Catastrophes, whereas I used Adrian Desmond’s biography Huxley and the naturalist’s original research papers for sections about the man famously called “Darwin’s Bulldog.” The most difficult challenge was Charles Darwin. So much has been written about him that I could not possibly read it all, so in addition to biographical accounts I used the Darwin Correspondence Project and The Complete Work of Charles Darwin Online to dig into his original writings as much as possible. Of course my account of Darwin’s work is framed in terms of paleontology – I could not comprehensively cover everything he did, especially since he was such a prolific naturalist and correspondent! – but I tried to hit the major points of his career leading up to 1859 without derailing the paleontological thread of the book.

Finally – what’s next? I know you will be busy traveling the country promoting the book, but I am wondering if you already have the ideas for the next book?

I actually don’t have many travel plans. I’ll be giving a few talks in the NY-NJ-PA area, but I don’t have the budget to allow for a full-scale book tour. I am going to focus on doing what I do best – keeping up my blogs and trying to find more stories to tell in more formal science publications and journals. If opportunities to travel and talk about the book pop up, I’ll jump, but I have no idea when or where such opportunities will arise.

If anything, I have too many ideas for future books. Some are just the seeds of future projects which will require significantly more background than I presently have to cultivate, whereas others I am already in the process of starting. Right now I am trying to choose between two different projects – one on the “Dinosaur Enlightenment” which is rapidly changing our understanding of the charismatic creatures, and another on the controversial idea of “Pleistocene Rewilding.” I fully intend on writing both, but which comes first depends on an array of factors from my ability to travel to places relevant to the books to the willingness of publishers to jump at the projects. Beyond those, I have at least three more ideas for long-term book projects on three disparate subjects, so with any luck I will be writing for some time to come!

And, as a closing note, thank you for your help and support, Bora. You have been behind my writing from the very beginning, and it has been a pleasure to talk to you about a book which has grown directly from my work online. Your ongoing encouragement has helped drive me to become a more professional science writer, so I am genuinely thrilled that you enjoyed the book.

Thank you so much for the interview. And let’s hope that book sells very well – it surely deserves it.

Serbian Dreambook: National Imaginary in the Time of Milošević

Some of you may know that my brother is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of Alberta. He also works as a visual artist in photography, video, and other media, mostly in collaboration with his wife Gordana who is an artist.

In a few months, his book willl come out – Serbian Dreambook: National Imaginary in the Time of Milošević:

The central role that the regime of Slobodan Milošević played in the bloody dissolution of Yugoslavia is well known, but Marko Živković explores another side of this time period: the stories people in Serbia were telling themselves (and others) about themselves. Živković traces the recurring themes, scripts, and narratives that permeated public discourse in Milošević’s Serbia, as Serbs described themselves as Gypsies or Jews, violent highlanders or peaceful lowlanders, and invoked their own mythologized defeat at the Battle of Kosovo. The author investigates national narratives, the use of tradition for political purposes, and local idioms, paying special attention to the often bizarre and outlandish tropes people employed to make sense of their social reality. He suggests that the enchantments of political life under Milošević may be fruitfully seen as a dreambook of Serbian national imaginary.

I have read most of the stuff in the book, at least in some earlier drafts, over the past few years, and I know this stuff is good! It will help you understand Serbia – in the wartime 1990s as well as before and after. And it may help you understand some other nations or some other groups of people (perhaps even TeaPartiers if you are dilligent in adjusting for different contexts, histories, etc.).

So, pre-order the book now – it will come out next May but it will be worth the wait.

Superbug in the Triangle!

Well, hopefully not the real MRSA in your home! But the book Superbug will be introduced to the audiences around here. Author Maryn McKenna (Twitter) will be in the Triangle this week.

First, on Wednesday October 6th at 7:30 pm, Maryn will be reading at my most favourite bookstore in the world – Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh. I’ll be there.

Then, next day, on Thursday October 7th at 7:00 pm, she will be going over to Durham to read/sign at The Regulator Bookshop. I may try to come to that again.

Join us if you are in town for one or the other or both events!