Pellissippi HOME | Library Site A-Z

Common Academic Experience Archive: 2014-2015: The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2013

See previous common books, including information about the book, author biography, and PSCC projects relating to the book.

About the Book

Book cover of The Best American Science and Nature Writing


"This collection of the best science and naturewriting published in the US last year is an excellent introduction to the key issues in science today. It's edited by Siddhartha Mukherjee, whose biography of cancer won the 2011 Guardian First Book award.

Highlights include David Deutsch and Artur Ekert's attempt to see "beyond the quantum horizon" to where "truths that would otherwise remain hidden forever" may be glimpsed, and David Quammen's scary report on how zoonoses, animal infections that cross the species barrier (such as the terrible Ebola virus), remind us that we are part of nature: "There is no 'natural world'. There is only the world."

Oliver Sacks writes a frank memoir about his experiments with mind-altering drugs, including a memorable encounter with a giant spider on his kitchen wall that sounded like Bertrand Russell and discoursed learnedly on analytic philosophy. Stephen Marche asks: "Is Facebook making us lonely?" and concludes that we have lost "the chance to forget about ourselves for a while, the chance to disconnect".

Ah well, you can always unplug and read a good book." - PD Smith, The Guardian

The Best American Series began with The Best American Short Stories in 1915.  The series began publishing collections of short essays on other topics beginning in 1986.  The Best American Science and Nature Writing series began in 2000.  

Each anthology has a series editor, who chooses 100 articles from that topic published in the selected year.  The guest editor then chooses their top 25 or so, depending on the intended anthology size.  The runners-up for the year are listed in the back of each edition.

Other topics in The Best American Series include travel writing, essays, infographics, comics and sports writing.  All of the titles can be found on the Houghton Mifflin Harcourt page

In Siddhartha Mukherjee's introduction to this collection of science and nature writing, he says that the he chose many of these articles because they describe "how science happens" (xix).  That process, according to Mukherjee, is similar to tending a garden with quiet consideration, in the same way that Gregor Mendel theorized trait inheritance by cultivating pea plants.  Mukherjee encourages readers to approach science with this philosophy and observe what the natural world can teach us.


Illustration of various flower taxonomies

Pellissippi State has a common reading experience for new students. Each year a new book is selected for this program. The intention is to stimulate a year-long discussion of issues related to the book, by encouraging exploration in classes, on and off campus, and with co-curricular programming. This common reading experience involves incoming first-year students, and many faculty and staff.

Common Book (n) - An innovative approach to orient new students to college. The Common Book gives students a reading experience to share with their peers at Pellissippi State.