SciBooks is where we run book reviews on new science books from New Zealand and around the world. We welcome both books for review from publishers and reviewers interested in contributing to SciBooks.

Brilliant Novel Captures ‘The Signature of Science’ - Scibooks

Dec 15, 2013

by Christine Jasoni REVIEW: The Signature of all Things by Elizabeth Gilbert Viking, 2013 RRP $32.00 Like many people I adore a bit of fiction, and my particular penchant is for fantastic stories that have the power to take me away. The Signature of All Things, the latest novel from Elizabeth Gilbert, fits this bill to a T. But it has so many additional dimensions that tickled my fancy, that I feel compelled to write about them here. Perhaps the most pleasant surprise was that this novel turned out to be wonderful ‘science fiction’. Not aliens and time travel, but a lovely and compelling story about a woman scientist. Mind you, I tend not to be a reader of scientist’s biographies, female or male, because they typically lack a certain ethereal nature that I require in my … Read More

Facts, Freaks and Fun - Scibooks

Dec 04, 2013

Reviewed by Siouxsie Wiles REVIEW: The Book of Barely Imagined Beings: A 21st Century Bestiary By Caspar Henderson Published by Granta, 2012  RRP: $22.80 Shortlisted for the  Royal Society Winton Prize for Science Books Society of Biology book awards (General category) British Book Design & Production Awards (Best British Book category) Artist Emily Valentine combines road kill and dead pets to create the most beautiful of creatures. Her collection of feathered and winged cats, dogs and skinks look like they belong in the pages of a medieval leather-bound bestiary, whose bizarre mix of cryptozoology and religious parables celebrated the beauty   of the (often imaginary) natural world. However, it will come as no surprise to the biologists among us that there are creatures in the real world as wonderful as … Read More

Inside Story On Our Gang Nation - Scibooks

Dec 03, 2013

Reviewed by Dr Nick Wilson REVIEW: Patched:  The History of Gangs in New Zealand by Jarrod Gilbert Auckland University Press RRP $49.85 WINNER People’s Choice Award of the New Zealand Post Book Awards 2013 Patched is based on Dr Jarrod Gilbert’s PhD studies in sociology conducted at the University of Canterbury, for which he also received a C. Wright Mills Award from the US-based Society for the Study of Social Problems. It represents a decade of research into the development of New Zealand gangs and their impact on society, but is emphatically not a dry or overly academic account. Gilbert spent eight years in the field, ‘hanging around’, as he puts it, with gangs and living their life, gaining access to information not known outside of these closed and usually … Read More

The Higgs, the Universe and Everything - Scibooks

Nov 25, 2013

Reviewed by Richard Easther REVIEW: The Particle at the end of the Universe – How the Hunt for the Higgs Boson Leads Us to the Edge of a New World by Sean Carroll Dutton Adult, 2012     WINNER 2013 Royal Society Winton Prize for Science Book of the Year RRP$32.85 Sean Carroll is both a scientist and science-writer, combining the inside knowledge of a particle physicist with the skills of the story-teller. This combination of talents gives a unique and valuable perspective to his book about the Higgs Boson and its discovery at the Large Hadron Collider [LHC] in 2012. The reader will cover a lot of ground in Carroll’s company, getting a potted history of 20th century physics and joining the author in the heroic task of explaining the Higgs itself.  This is the … Read More

Birds’ Own Stories Captivate - Scibooks

Nov 24, 2013

by Dr Léonie Walker REVIEW: Bird Sense: What It’s Like to Be a Bird by Tim Birkhead Bloomsbury, London, UK, 2013 RRP $24.99 Shortlisted for 2013 Royal Society Winton Prize for Science Books Professor Tim Birkhead, a behavioural ornithologist, is both an accomplished scientist and a superb communicator. His new book is an entertaining and informative gallop through centuries of accumulated (and revised) knowledge about the amazing variety of ways that birds see, hear, smell, touch, sense, and even express emotions. Like many books aimed at scientifically literate but non-specialist readers, Bird Sense catalogues past discoveries and how they were made, and brings the subject up to date,  covering everything from early gruesome dissections through to highly technological applications,  such as brain imaging, miniaturised cameras and locator beacons, among many too numerous … Read More

Molesworth: a story every kiwi should know - Scibooks

Nov 13, 2013

Reviewed by Jane Hall REVIEW: Molesworth: Stories from New Zealand’s largest high country station by Harry Broad.  Photographs by Rob Suisted. Craig Potton Publishing RRP: $69.99 The high country stations of the South Island of New Zealand have a mystic appeal to the males in my family:  huge, tough, rough, difficult country, but fascinating. I grew up hearing tales of the huge stations of Central Otago and North Canterbury where my father and his brothers used to work, rabbiting, chaff cutting and blade shearing before they took up farming full time. One station above all others had a fabled reputation and that was Molesworth, the largest station in New Zealand and the most remote. A few years ago, the station was opened up to the public  and one of my brothers, a sheep and cattle farmer … Read More

Would more social housing be enough to make homes affordable? - Scibooks

Oct 16, 2013

by Peter Ellis REVIEW: Homes People Can Afford: how to improve housing in New Zealand Edited by Sarah Bierre, Philippa Howden-Chapman & Lisa Early Steele Roberts Aotearoa  (for New Zealand Centre for Sustainable Cities, University of Otago), 2013 RRP $30 Homes people can afford is a timely contribution to the debate on what is to be done about housing affordability in New Zealand. The book forms part of an informal series on related topics from the same publisher and is based on presentations and debate from a workshop held at the University of Otago, Wellington in June 2012. It is aimed at non-specialists with an interest in public policy in this area, and priced accordingly. Specialists will find little new, but it forms a well-written and readable, if intentionally slanted, introduction to the topic for others. Read More

Extinct moa brought to life - Scibooks

Oct 09, 2013

Reviewed by George Gibbs REVIEW: Moa: the life and death of New Zealand’s legendary bird by Quinn Berentson. Craig Potton Publishing. 2013. RRP $49.99 Winner  2013 Royal Society of New Zealand Science Book Prize Winner 2013 New Zealand Post Best First Book Non Fiction The bird that fascinated the world ever since its ‘discovery’ by western science in 1839 has provided sustained interest for over 170 years and shows no sign of dropping out of sight any time soon. Its story began with London’s natural history and fossil bones guru of the day, Richard Owen, and continues today in ancient DNA labs around the world.  Combined scientific knowledge of these giant birds has now reached unprecedented heights for a totally extinct species.  This attractive book takes us from the earliest moa-bone … Read More

Keepers of natural history - Scibooks

Oct 08, 2013

Reviewed by Jim Hefford REVIEW: The Owl that fell from the sky: stories of a museum curator by Brian Gill Awa Press 2012 RRP $35.00 Ebook $11.99 Natural history museums contain many thousands of zoological specimens and each has a tale to tell – often involving extraordinary people, daring explorations, unquenchable scientific curiosity, and strange coincidences.” Such is the publisher’s blurb accompanying The Owl that Fell From the sky: Stories of a museum curator and such is the case. This is a delightful and engaging book by an expert scientist  and  experienced author who has drawn from his long career as curator of birds and other land vertebrates at Auckland Museum, an accessible insight into the esoteric world of the ‘keeper’. Brian Gill has written and co-authored several useful books about New Zealand fauna, including The Kiwi … Read More

Goat glands, greed and gullibility - Scibooks

Oct 01, 2013

by Alison Campbell REVIEW: Charlatan: America’s Most Dangerous Huckster, the Man Who Pursued Him, and the Age of Flimflam by Pope Brock Three Rivers Press, New York, USA (2008) Paperback: 324 pages ISBN: 978-0-307-33989-8 RRP: US$14.95 Goat glands, greed, and the gullibility of others turned out to be a winning combination for John R. Brinkley. In the early years of the 20th century it seemed as if science could do anything, perhaps even extend life – including life in the bedroom – well beyond the allotted three-score years and ten. Brinkley saw a market there, and managed to parlay the testicles of young goats, combined with the gullibility of the vain, the impotent, and the just plain desperate into an enormous personal fortune. Pope Brock’s biography of Brinkley, Charlatan, is both entertaining & … Read More