Books & Arts | Published:

Books in brief

Nature volume 534, page 619 (30 June 2016) | Download Citation


Barbara Kiser reviews five of the week's best science picks.

Cities for a Small Continent: International Handbook of City Recovery


Policy (2016) 9781447327523

Many of Europe's storied cities have seen more bust than boom for decades, writes urban-sustainability specialist Anne Power. Yet a number have risen reinvented, and in this brilliant analysis, Power shows how. She follows the march of seven “Phoenix cities” with strong industrial legacies, from Sheffield, UK, to Turin in Italy, as they weather upheavals and de-industrialize with the aid of major public investment. These conurbations should be seen, she argues, as the vanguard in the low-carbon transformation outlined by economist Nicholas Stern (M. Grubb Nature 520, 614–615; 2015).

Anatomy Museum: Death and the Body Displayed


Reaktion (2016) 9781861893758

Pickled in formalin, stripped down to articulated skeletons or depicted in wax or plastic, human anatomical remains have educated generations of medics and fired the public imagination. Anthropologist Elizabeth Hallam uses the Anatomy Museum at the University of Aberdeen, UK, to anchor a history of such collections as “synoptic mazes” — labyrinthine summations of knowledge. Hallam charts their convoluted chronicles of acquisition, dissection and preservation, weaving in a narrative on the cultural display of death, from ancient ossuaries to plastinated bodies.

The Art of Flight

Fredrik Sjöberg (Translated by Peter Graves). Particular (2016) 9781846147999

Entomologist Fredrik Sjöberg's best-selling memoir The Fly Trap (Particular, 2014) marked him as a maestro of the episodic. Here, he completes a trilogy with two books in one — “accidental journeys” by fellow Swedes whose omnivorous curiosity rivalled his own. The Art of Flight focuses on Gunnar Widforss, exalted in the United States for his haunting landscape paintings of national parks. The Raisin King tackles polymath Gustav Eisen, who studied earthworms, Anopheles mosquitoes and viticulture, brought avocados to California and sparked the founding of Sequoia National Park. A joy.

The Switch


Profile (2016) 9781781256350

The world is poised for the solar revolution, argues energy writer Chris Goodall in this nippy, number-crunched study of the science behind the “switch”. Noting that solar farms will have to cover 1% of Earth's surface by 2050 to meet global energy needs, he treads the road towards that goal. He examines readiness in industry and banking, research on new solar-collection materials such as perovskites, the state of back-up renewables and innovative batteries. With many governments and some utility companies primed for action, Goodall avers, the fossil century could be history within two decades.

The Doomed City

Arkady Strugatsky and Boris Strugatsky (Translated by Andrew Bromfield). Chicago Review Press (2016) 9781613749951

Doyens of Russian science fiction Arkady and Boris Strugatsky wrote this nihilistic 'lost' novel in the 1970s. In its English-language debut, we are dumped abruptly into the Experiment, a garbage-choked, baboon-infested city with an artificial sun and an eerily mismatched populace. Here, astronomer-turned-rubbish-collector Andrei begins a grim trek into the ideology of tyranny. A book that carries an Orwellian punch, and a crazed energy all its own.

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