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Books for the Beach
Some great science reads for those hot summer days

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This week, we highlight some of our favorite books from the year. They’re stories about science, and they’re entertaining enough to read on an airplane or in your favorite beach chair. Before you head out on vacation, you might want to pick one up.

Not many molecular geneticists belong to the Explorer’s Club, where the exploits of daredevil balloonists and solo circumnavigators are celebrated with single malt Scotch and termite hors d’oeuvres.

Stephen J. O’Brien is a member in good standing, however, because he can tell stories that begin like this: “Our treacherous climb lasted six hours, slipping and sliding in the cold drizzle up the steep and muddy game path. Lugging our backpacks, in thermal undergarments and Gore-Tex hiking boots, we meandered through thick bamboo forest, over numerous precipices, by loggers’ camps, past towering waterfalls.”

See Complete Review: Tears of the Cheetah by Stephen J. O’Brien

In Michael Crichton’s latest novel, Prey, a team of irresponsible scientists cooks up a swarm of self-replicating robots bent on devouring every living thing. Next thing you know, micro-robots are threatening to take over the world.

See Complete Review: Prey by Michael Crichton

With You’re An Animal, Viskovitz!, Italian writer Alessandro Boffa has created a playful new genre of literature.

Call it anthropomorphporn.

But banish quickly any images of lewd spam crowding your email inbox. What follows is as steamy as it gets: “With my radula I delicately caressed my pneumosome, with the distal part of my foot I brushed the proximal. I felt the warm pressure of the rhinophor slipping under my shell…”

See Complete Review: You’re an Animal Viskovitz by Alessandro Boffa

Richard Preston's book is the third in his "Dark Biology" trilogy. It follows The Hot Zone, a non-fiction account of an Ebola virus outbreak, and The Cobra Event, a thriller about biological weapons and terrorism.

In The Demon in the Freezer, Preston returns to non-fiction with an inside look at the history, devastation, and eradication of the smallpox virus. We also learn how smallpox has once again become a serious danger, the biggest bioterrorist threat we face.

See Complete Review: The Demon in the Freezer by Richard Preston

It is said that the average human nose can pick up some 4,000 different smells. Many become triggers for memories—freshly baked bread, an ex-girlfriend's hair in the warm sun, old socks left for three days in wet boots.

But smells do more than confer pleasure or tell us that meat has turned rancid. In the creepily disturbing and occasionally repulsive novel Perfume: The Story of a Murderer, first published almost twenty years ago, Patrick Süskind explores the idea that our ability to smell—and the ability of others to smell us—is essential to our humanity.

See Complete Review: Perfume by Patrick Süskind

See our Book Review page for more reviews.

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