2017 in books: The best reviews of the year

From CRISPR to chess, via Darwin and Hawking, 2017 was a heady mix of literary gems.

Genome editing: That's the way the CRISPR crumbles Nathaniel Comfort finds heroism but little nuance in Jennifer Doudna's account of her co-discovery.

Artificial Intelligence: Chess match of the century Demis Hassabis lauds Garry Kasparov's account of battling supercomputer Deep Blue.

Chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov holds his head in his hands during his final game against computer program Deep Blue in 1997.

Grandmaster Garry Kasparov during the last of six games against Deep Blue in 1997; the computer won the match by 3.5 games to 2.5.Credit: Stan Honda/Getty

History: Science and the Reformation The scientific and religious revolutions that began 500 years ago were not causally related, but were both stimulated by printing, argues David Wootton.

Climate change: Al Gore gets inconvenient again Michael Mann views the US statesman's second film probing climate change.

Natural history: Thoreau's debt to Darwin On the naturalist's bicentenary, Randall Fuller traces his empirical journey after Walden.

Sunset over Walden Pond in Concord, Massachusetts.

Walden Pond in Concord, Massachusetts, where the naturalist Henry David Thoreau lived for two years in the 1840s as an experiment. Credit: Tetra Images/Getty

Chemistry: The hidden war Paul A. Lombardo applauds a shocking study detailing the Allies' Second World War experimentation with chemical weapons on their own troops.

In retrospect: Das Kapital As the world is reshaped by another industrial revolution, Gareth Stedman Jones revisits Karl Marx's opus.

Economics: The architecture of inequality Aaron Reeves surveys five books on the defining social, political and economic issue of our times.

Charles Edward, who lives in a factory in Michigan, in an oversized coat staring upwards

Charles Edward lives in a factory in Michigan.Credit: Espen Rasmussen/Panos

Polar exploration: The forgotten journey Huw Lewis-Jones revisits a pioneering, ill-fated expedition to map the Arctic.

Publishing: A brief history of Stephen Hawking's blockbuster Elizabeth Leane surveys the extraordinary influence of the physicist's first foray into popular-science publishing.

doi: 10.1038/d41586-017-08471-3

Savour the editor’s book picks of the year, from the top 20 among books reviewed to the top 8 illustrated volumes.

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