A Good List to Be On

by admin on December 7, 2018

This morning, my co-author Judea Pearl sent me an e-mail: “Did you know about this?” Well, no, I didn’t. Here’s what “this” means:

Science Friday, probably the nation’s most-listened-to radio show for science news, has named The Book of Why as one of its best science books of the year for 2018. It was one of eighteen books chosen. Here they are in alphabetical order. (That way, The Book of Why is near the top instead of at the bottom, the way it is on the Science Friday web page!) I’ll leave out the subtitles except when it’s necessary to understand what the book is about.

  • Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup, by John Carreyrou
  • The Book of Why, by Judea Pearl and Dana Mackenzie
  • Broad Band: The Untold Story of the Women Who Made the Internet, by Claire Evans
  • Chesapeake Requiem, by Earl Swift
  • The Dialogues: Conversations about the Nature of the Universe, by Clifford Johnson
  • The Dinosaur Artist, by Paige Williams
  • Dispatches from Planet 3, by Marcia Bartusiak
  • Heart: A History, by Sandeep Jauhar
  • How to Change Your Mind, by Michael Pollan
  • In Search of the Canary Tree, by Lauren Oakes
  • Losing the Nobel Prize, by Brian Keating
  • The Mystery of the Exploding Teeth, by Thomas Morris
  • Nine Pints, by Rose George
  • The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs, by Steve Brusatte
  • Rising: Dispatches from the New American Shore, by Elizabeth Rush
  • She Has Her Mother’s Laugh, by Carl Zimmer
  • Spying on Whales, by Nick Pyenson
  • What the Eyes Don’t See, by Mona Hanna-Attisha

Now I have to admit: I haven’t read any of these books, except for the one that I (co-)wrote. Shame on me! I do have In Search of the Canary Tree on my Amazon wish list, because I read a glowing review of it this week in Science. I am impressed that Science Friday says that She Has Her Mother’s Laugh is “clearly Zimmer’s best book,” because he has written a lot of books. Broad Band and Nine Pints (a book about blood) split my vote for the best title. In general, blood had a pretty good year (Nine Pints, Heart, and metaphorically speaking, Bad Blood). Of course, climate change had a good year; Chesapeake Requiem, Rising, and In Search of the Canary Tree all have to do with that topic. And dinosaurs are another evergreen topic (The Dinosaur Artist, The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs).

As for me, I’m just happy to be sitting at the same banquet table as these folks. It gives me the same spine-tingling, “Wow, is this happening?” feeling that I had the week our book came out. It’s possible that Judea and I will make it onto some other year-end best-of lists (I certainly hope so!), but this is the first one, so it’s special to me. And it’s a pretty great list to be on.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Robert White December 11, 2018 at 6:43 am

I hate to be rude, but I’m curious. Landing on top of this list – how does (or will) it affect your sales? You recently shared your (Amazon) sales stats with your readers, so I hope I am not being too crass by asking you to share sales stats as a direct result of being on this list. I always wondered how these awards affect books or similar things like that.
Thank yo for your blog!


admin December 11, 2018 at 9:21 am

Thanks for your comment, and I don’t consider it rude at all. One of the reasons I’ve posted about the nuts and bolts of the publishing business is that there is so little public information available about questions like yours.

I’ll know the effect on sales better after this Friday, when the Nielsen Bookscan data through December 9 get posted on Amazon. It’s going to be hard to tell, though, because there was already a huge jump in sales last week (before Science Friday) simply due to my book going back in stock at Amazon.

Anyway, I’ll post the latest figures on Friday and we’ll see! My sense from watching the (unofficial) rankings on Amazon is that there has been a significant effect on sales but it has not been as big as the review in the New York Times, back in June.


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