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Summer is officially here, and whether you’re relaxing in the great outdoors or riding out a heat wave inside, STAT’s annual book and podcast list has you covered with a bevy of titles to check out.

Read on for recommendations from the likes of FDA Commissioner Robert Califf, former CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, and former White House Covid-19 response coordinator Ashish Jha. Plus, STAT readers from Oregon to Romania, in addition to our staff, share their picks.





“On Call: A Doctor’s Journey in Public Service”
By Anthony Fauci
I just had the chance to read Dr. Fauci’s book, “On Call: A Doctor’s Journey in Public Service,” and I found it to give deep insight into both the history of medicine during my time as a clinician, researcher, and public servant and into the complexity of leadership jobs, especially leadership jobs in the federal government. These insights would be useful to anyone trying to understand “how the system works” or thinking about going to work in public service.

If coupled with Michael Lewis’ book “The Fifth Risk,” one can gain a deep sense of the role of public service in advancing science and society. Fauci exemplifies leadership, and Lewis extolls the virtues of unsung heroes making a difference behind the scenes.


I first met Dr. Fauci when I was a resident at San Francisco General Hospital, grappling with people with HIV/AIDS before we knew what was causing it. And, of course, I recently worked closely with him as we dealt with the Covid-19 pandemic. I also identified deeply as a high school basketball player with Fauci’s description of the love of basketball and the excitement of the game, including coming to grips with one’s limitations.
— Robert Califf, FDA commissioner

By Maggie O’Farrell
An improbably lyrical passage describing the journey of Yersinia pestis in plague-ridden fleas from Alexandria to London is enough to recommend this book. But it’s also a deep and moving exploration of grief — that of a father (William Shakespeare) who loses his son Hamnet to the disease. I read it early in the pandemic when our collective losses had just begun, and found it wise, and strangely comforting.
— Jeanne Marrazzo, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

“The Exceptions: Sixteen Women, MIT, and the Fight for Equality in Science”
By Kate Zernike
A tale of how far we have come — and a reminder of how far we have yet to go — for women working to advance in science. Nancy Hopkins, a molecular biology and MIT professor, demonstrates grit and tenacity to overcome the stigma, unconscious biases, and sheer forces working against her in modern day academia. The book recounts Dr. Hopkins’ career, which culminates in not only numerous scientific successes but also a collaborative effort with 15 other women faculty demonstrating evidence of gender discrimination at MIT. This work led to studies to address gender equity at nine other universities.
— Rochelle Walensky, former CDC director

“Tuxedo Park: A Wall Street Tycoon and the Secret Palace of Science That Changed the Course of World War II”
By Jennet Conant
An excellent account of the development of the science and engineering behind two revolutionary new technologies that changed World War II: radar and the atomic bomb. The story focuses on Alfred Loomis, a wealthy financier and scientist who turned his estate into a secretive hub for scientific research. In many ways, the scientific breakthroughs in biology today mirror the breakthroughs with physics in the 1920s and 1930s, and the book is a great look at how a scientific field, once it becomes engineerable, can have transformative effects in the world.
— Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health

“Legacy: A Black Physician Reckons with Racism in Medicine”
By Uché Blackstock, M.D.
What ails the health of the richest nation in the world? Why is the U.S. the only high-income country in the world to not have universal health coverage? Why are millions of Black people struggling to access humane and affordable care? The diagnosis, as well as the prescription, can be found in “Legacy,” a powerful, thoughtful, and impactful new book, by Dr. Uché Blackstock. “Legacy” is extremely timely because DEI initiatives are under attack in the U.S., and institutional commitment to the Black Lives Matter movement is rapidly disappearing. I hope American leaders and health care policymakers read this book and act on the recommendations.
— Madhukar Pai, Canada Research Chair in Epidemiology & Global Health at McGill University

“Disability Intimacy: Essays on Love, Care, and Desire”
Edited by Alice Wong
In this second of three anthologies compiled and edited by the marvelous disability advocate Alice Wong, the 40 contributors explore a wide variety of aspects to disability intimacy and encourage us to reflect on our relationships — with ourselves, with romantic partners, with friends, with our community, with everything around us. In the face of many societal barriers (e.g. the pandemic, discrimination, marriage penalties), the book models how to live with love, care, and access as guiding principles.
— Lisa McCorkell, Patient-Led Research Collaborative co-founder

“The Invisible Kingdom: Reimagining Chronic Illness”
By Meghan O’Rourke
Chronic illness is both pervasive and invisible in our society. Meghan O’Rourke’s startling account shines a light on the rise of autoimmune conditions and the failure of the health care system to properly prevent, diagnose, and treat them. O’Rourke’s experience with debilitating symptoms that were dismissed by many health care providers led her to investigate the health care system’s systemic issues that keep millions of people — in particular women — sick. Informed by extensive research and interviews with patients, doctors, and public health experts, “The Invisible Kingdom” is both a personal memoir and a call for systemic change, advocating for a new health care system that breaks down the silos of medicine and treats the whole person, instead of a set of of disparate body parts. It is a deeply meaningful read for anyone experiencing chronic illness or navigating an unknown diagnosis, but just as powerful to those who are not part of this unenviable club. As she writes, “The illness was not just my own; the silence around suffering was our society’s pathology.”
— Fidji Simo, CEO of Instacart and co-founder of Metrodora Institute, a medical center dedicated to complex chronic conditions

“The Anxious Generation: How the Great Rewiring of Childhood Is Causing an Epidemic of Mental Illness”
By Jonathan Haidt
Not everyone agrees with Haidt’s recommendations about restricting kids’ access to smartphones and social media, but this book makes an important case that we under-protect our children online and over-protect them offline in the real world. Whatever you think about the risks of social media, it’s tough to refute Haidt’s argument that for kids, time spent in front of a screen is time not spent in activities essential for healthy cognitive and social development. He makes a strong pitch that when kids are not online, they need to be free range without adults hovering over them. This book needs to be read by anyone with kids or grandkids.
— Thomas Insel, Vanna Health co-founder and executive chair and former director of the National Institute of Mental Health

“Adventures in Human Being: A Grand Tour from the Cranium to the Calcaneum”
By Gavin Francis
Gavin Francis is a gem of a medical writer well worth discovering. A primary care doctor in Edinburgh, his “Adventures in Human Being” explores how the subject of anatomy informs art, music, literature, history, and astronomy. Francis is a physician polymath — his training in obstetrics, pediatrics, geriatrics, neurosurgery, and orthopedics makes him an erudite interpreter of both physiology and pathology. As his narrative unfolds from head to foot, we learn how the body is an enduring catalyst for creativity.
— Jerome Groopman, Recanati Professor at Harvard Medical School and New Yorker staff writer

“Breath from Salt: A Deadly Genetic Disease, a New Era in Science, and the Patients and Families Who Changed Medicine Forever”
By Bijal Trivedi
It’s the best deep look at the village required for drug discovery, across patients, families, academic scientists, drug discoverers … over many years and many twists and turns. A phenomenal reminder of why we do what we do.
— Jordi Mata-Fink, co-Founder and CEO of Gate Bioscience

“Saving Us: A Climate Scientist’s Case for Hope and Healing in a Divided World”
By Katharine Hayhoe
This book by renowned climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe navigates the complexity of climate change and its impacts on our society. While it offers clarity on the science and takes stock of the impacts, its real brilliance lies in how Hayhoe brings us to the realization that tackling climate change is about healing our relationship with our planet and with one another. If you are overwhelmed and seeking opportunities to find your voice and take action — even in a small way — you may find what you’re looking for in this courageous, poignant, and optimistic read.
— Gaurab Basu, director of education and policy at the Center for Climate, Health, and the Global Environment at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

“The Lady’s Handbook for Her Mysterious Illness: A Memoir”
By Sarah Ramey

“Through the Shadowlands: A Science Writer’s Odyssey Into an Illness Science Doesn’t Understand”
By Julie Rehmeyer
Many complex, chronic illnesses disproportionately impact women and are poorly understood. It’s critical to understand the patient experience in order to better support patients, study, and treat these illnesses. These moving autobiographical books detail the experiences of two brave women as they navigate the challenges of diagnosis and health care for the illness myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (which has no official treatments) and co-occurring conditions like dysautonomia and mast cell activation syndrome. They share unique perspectives on what it’s like to have disabling multisystem conditions that have largely fallen through the cracks of both research and medicine.
— Beth Pollack, research scientist in the department of biological engineering at MIT

“Rough Sleepers”
By Tracy Kidder
“Rough Sleepers” is the kind of book that has you looking at familiar things in novel and illuminating ways. In this case it’s three things — the actual rough sleepers, which is the Brits’ slang for homeless people; the seemingly intractable issue of homelessness, which in Tracy Kidder’s Pulitzer-polished hands seems more soluble; and Jim O’Connell, a Boston doc who’s devoted his life to healing the unhoused.
— Larry Tye, author and former Boston Globe health reporter, and director of the Boston-based Health Coverage Fellowship

“The Overstory”
By Richard Powers
This book considers the place of humans in the living world through intertwined stories of a half-dozen characters who are called to impassioned action by trees. Intimate evocation of the natural world, especially trees, which are, like us, interconnected and resourceful.
— Jerry Rosenbaum, psychiatrist-in-chief emeritus at Massachusetts General Hospital

“A Voyage to Arcturus”
By David Lindsay
Written in 1920, shortly after the author was traumatized in the trenches of World War I, it’s a metaphysical, spiritual, science-fiction fantasy novel involving travels to other worlds, to Arcturus, through “Back Rays” in which light can be ridden as it returns to its source. The novel involves repeated confrontations with the mysteries of death, and of good and evil, perceived by the characters through various new sense organs that they develop and shed. The transformations in the book seem like attempts to grapple with understandings revealed by quantum physics. The novel is often inscrutable yet still fascinating, with a sense of a deeper but obscure truth. A novel of awesome imagination, C.S. Lewis was influenced and introduced it to Tolkien. I built a home and named it Arcturus to honor the imagination inherent in architecture and design.
— Rick Doblin, Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies founder and president

“Under the Skin: The Hidden Toll of Racism on American Lives and on the Health of Our Nation”
By Linda Villarosa
“Under the Skin” poetically narrates the story of how racism is killing Black Americans by slowly, and sometimes rapidly, eroding their health and well-being. The heartbreaking stories of Black people whose illnesses and deaths could have been prevented if they weren’t faced with monumental racism demonstrate how different forms of racism in our health care institutions continue to impose harm on Black people. Villarosa’s book shows the human toll of racism that is so often lost among endless statistics about Black Americans’ current health status.
— Keisha Ray, professor of bioethics at the University of Texas

“How To Sell a Poison: The Rise, Fall, and Toxic Return of DDT”
By Elena Conis
This book about the history of DDT is a story that most people think they know, but the author found new and alarming things to say. It remains all too relevant among our current climate of science denialism and industry minimizing health threats.
— David Shumway Jones, A. Bernard Ackerman Professor of the Culture of Medicine at Harvard Medical School

“Elon Musk”
By Walter Isaacson
While I don’t agree with his politics or many of his actions, it’s hard not to appreciate someone who has been entrepreneurial in three different industries and has undoubtedly changed the world. He demonstrates a willingness to take risks to grow his businesses in ways that many others would never consider. Walter Isaacson is a great writer as well.
— Glen Tullman, CEO of Transcarent and managing partner of 7wireVentures

“Death Panel”
Hosted by Beatrice Adler-Bolton, Artie Vierkant, Phil Rocco, Jules Gill-Peterson, and Abby Cartus
It’s too hard to pick just one book recommendation, but when it comes to podcasts, my go-to is “Death Panel.” This podcast offers an incredibly thoughtful deep dive into the political economy of health, featuring amazing guests like Alice Wong, Naomi Klein, and Ruth Wilson Gilmore. The hosts have provided some of the most important and consistent critiques of the inequities of the U.S. pandemic response that I’ve seen in any media outlet. They provide a guide for what a more socially just future of health could actually look like — and how we can actually get there.
— Nora Kenworthy, author of “Crowded Out” and associate professor at the University of Washington Bothell

“The Beauty of Dusk: On Vision Lost and Found”
By Frank Bruni
I read this book when it came out in 2022; now I love it even more as I deal with the temporary challenge of a fractured wrist. Frank Bruni used to be something of a bon vivant/food critic, and then got more “serious” about politics and the like. But in 2017 he took on a new identity of disabled person … and learned enough to write a book and more. This amazing book is both personal and social. Even as Bruni’s vision faded, he saw so many things more clearly. He learned how to listen better — both in order to guide his own steps and to understand other people more clearly. Only some disabilities are visible. With his expanded non-optical vision, he saw some people crumple as they faced health crises, and others, like himself, find a new way to flourish and to see the beauty of things they had missed before. This is a book you may hope you’ll never “need” to read, but in fact everyone should read it to understand the beauty of the dusk that ultimately makes clear both the value and the transience of life in whatever form it takes.
— Esther Dyson, health tech investor and founder of Wellville

“Breaking Through: My Life in Science”
By Katalin Karikó
I knew before I started reading how this story turned out: The daughter of a butcher arrives in the United States from Hungary with little more than the money she’s sewn into her daughter’s teddy bear, discovers the potential of mRNA vaccines but spends years being ignored, dismissed, and told she is not “faculty quality” before biotech companies recognize her discovery as the key to the vaccines that lift the world out of the the deadly Covid pandemic. Still, this book pulled me along like a thriller: How will she do it? Karikó weaves a family story — as she is developing vaccines, her daughter is rowing her way to two Olympic gold medals — into an inspiring portrait of persistence and passion for science.
— Kate Zernike, author of “The Exceptions: Nancy Hopkins and the Fight for Women in Science” and New York Times reporter

“The Underworld: Journeys to the Depths of the Ocean”
By Susan Casey
It’s a fascinating account of the least explored part of the planet — the deep seas. There’s a bit of history and important insights into the future of these sunless ocean zones as yet untapped resources but the descriptions (and photos) of seemingly alien creatures thriving in the abyss are truly the most captivating — and weird — parts. Expect to learn more bizarre ocean facts than you ever imagined.
— Vivien Dugan, director of the influenza division at the CDC


“The Face Laughs While the Brain Cries: The Education of a Doctor”
By Stephen Hauser, M.D.
After being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and getting on one of a disease-modifying therapy, I felt myself drawn to finding out more about how the breakthrough came about. I’m grateful for those who devote their lives to science and bringing it to patients like me.
— Ana M., Bucharest, Romania

“How Medicine Works and When It Doesn’t: Learning Who to Trust to Get and Stay Healthy”
By F. Perry Wilson, M.D.
Dr. F. Perry Wilson’s deep understanding of the doctor-patient relationship, commitment to combating misinformation, and practical advice make this book an invaluable resource for navigating today’s complex health care system. His insights help foster better communication and trust with health care providers while empowering readers to make informed health decisions.
— CarolAnne Dube, Punta Gorda, Fla.

“Living Medicine: Don Thomas, Marrow Transplantation, and the Cell Therapy Revolution”
By Frederick Appelbaum, M.D.
This is the history of marrow transplantation and the work of Nobel Prize winner Don Thomas. Anyone interested in the evolution of this lifesaving procedure, science of the cell, or how medicine has transformed lives should want to put this on their reading list.
— Stan Busse, Eugene, Ore.

“Plain English”
Hosted by Derek Thompson
I loved the second part of a two-part episode of the wide-ranging podcast “Plain English.” Hosted by renowned Atlantic writer Derek Thompson (who covers broad subjects but has health care cred), the pod was conducted right about the time some were recognizing the world-changing power, implications, and consequences of the rise of a new class of weight loss drugs. I love it because it is such a wide-ranging discussion. And I love, despite my great respect for health care media like STAT, when health care developments make their way into discussion outside the industry. This was a particularly good one featuring the CEO of Ro and commentary from a well-regarded endocrinologist. Artfully packaged and managed by Thompson, it’s truly one of the more thought-provoking exchanges on the subject.
— Darren Brandt, Shrewsbury, N.J.

“Humans in Public Health”
Hosted by Megan Hall, Brown University School of Public Health
“Humans in Public Health” introduces me to the researchers who study all sorts of topics, some I’d never even considered before I listened to the episode. I love the show because I not only learn how public health researchers are conducting their studies but I also get to know them as people while I learn new things from their research, which I really appreciate. As someone who is curious but not scientifically minded, the show makes boring academic research papers come alive!
— Sophie Gillard, Cambridge, Mass.

“The Black Angels: The Untold Story of the Nurses Who Helped Cure Tuberculosis”
By Maria Smilios
I have developed a strong interest in the community-wide efforts within Harlem during the 1920s to 1940s to significantly reduce public health threats, and this book to a notable extent provides needed cultural context with respect to those efforts.
— Bob Cullen, Baltimore

“Toxic Prey”
By John Sandford
Although not a book that you would normally think of in this category, it is the perfect summer read. An expert in tropical and infectious diseases thinks the Earth is dying. He combines the Marburg and measles viruses to create a highly transmissible deadly virus to save the world. Then the roller-coaster read begins. Enjoy.
— Onalee Grady-Erickson, Georgia

“Does Coffee Cause Cancer?: And 8 More Myths about the Food We Eat”
By Dr. Christopher Labos
An excellent and easy read, perfect for the summer on the patio or on the beach. The book explains popular health and food myths, and why we need to think twice when reading everyday health headlines. The author has crafted this book into a romantic comedy, which adds to the value of the read.
— Kelly Christine, Montreal

“Salt in My Soul: An Unfinished Life”
By Mallory Smith
It’s a rare and humbling privilege to view life through the eyes of a gifted writer who, from age 12, knew she would likely succumb to the deadliest superbug a cystic fibrosis patient can harbor. Despite her many medical challenges, Mallory Smith survived to age 25 “living happy” — participating in sports, graduating from Stanford, experiencing romance — then receiving a double lung transplant and dying three weeks later due to a necrotizing pneumonia she had long anticipated. “Salt in My Soul: An Unfinished Life” is her unflinchingly honest and unforgettable posthumous memoir.
— Claire Panosian Dunavan, Los Angeles


“Risky or Not”
Hosted by Ben Chapman and Don Schaffner
Hosted by food safety experts Ben Chapman and Don Schaffner, this podcast series runs hundreds of bite-sized episodes exploring, with reasonable scientific rigor, a single, often humorous, question, about whether consuming (or doing) something poses a foodborne illness risk. Is it safe to drink coffee that contains drips of water that rolled off an awning? (Not risky!) What about uncooked vegan cookie dough stored in a hot car all day? (Risky!) Regular consumption of “Risky or Not” will teach you a lot about the dos and don’ts of food handling. That’s a warning, too: You will never look at food in a restaurant the same way again. For more in-depth listening, see Chapman and Schaffner’s VERY LONG form podcast, “Food Safety Talk.”
Mario Aguilar, health tech correspondent

“My Own Country: A Doctor’s Story”
By Abraham Verghese
While this is Verghese’s first of many acclaimed books, published in 1994, it stands the test of time as one of the most compassionate, forthright, and lyrical portrayals of a doctor and his patients. He takes readers on the unlikely journey of his birth and schooling in Ethiopia to his landing in a small town in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee in the 1980s, where he became the local HIV expert. Today, as we face one infectious disease after another, this book is something of a time capsule of the unfathomable horrors of the AIDS crisis, the lives lost and the lasting consequences. Verghese is refreshingly candid about how his immersion and attentiveness to his patients affected his marriage and home life. With the escalation of politicization of science and medicine, not to say pervasive discrimination in health care, his words and actions are a powerful reminder of what should be obvious: that every patient be treated with dignity and kindness.
Rick Berke, co-founder and executive editor

“The Wolves of K Street: The Secret History of How Big Money Took Over Big Government”
By Brody Mullins and Luke Mullins
I know, I know. A nonfiction book about work? In the summer? Believe it or not, I have inhaled this history of lobbying and influence in Washington. It unsurprisingly spends time digging into the pharmaceutical industry’s lobbying history on Capitol Hill. The authors (who are brothers) recount scenes such as Roche’s scheme to sell more Tamiflu by playing off fears of an avian influenza outbreak, Genentech’s team-up with legendary Democratic lobbyist Tony Podesta to advance FDA reforms during the Clinton administration, and the industry’s fight to extend market exclusivity for biologic drugs. The details of the lobbying battles aren’t too technical and are woven into fascinating larger-than-life human stories about the industry’s top operators.
Rachel Cohrs Zhang, chief Washington correspondent

“Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds & Shape Our Futures”
By Merlin Sheldrake
If you’re like me, you are constantly chasing the emotional dragon of awe. Wonder! Amazement. A sense of unity with the living world. I got my fill from this book, which uncovers the magic of mushrooms and other fungi (and, yes, magic mushrooms) in stunning scientific detail. Sheldrake’s storytelling taught me a whole lot about the remarkable work of fungi, including their value as sources of medicinal enzymes and extracts, and brainless problem-solving geniuses. But beyond that, the book helped me tap into the quiet, constant drumbeat of life that’s pulsing just below the surface of things.
Isabella Cueto, chronic disease reporter

Hosted by Kate Berlant and Jacqueline Novak
Yes, this podcast is titled “Goop,” spelled backward. But the chat show, hosted by comedians Jacqueline Novak and Kate Berlant, isn’t a parody or a takedown of the infamous, pseudoscience-touting wellness blog. “POOG” lives in a parallel universe, where these hosts say: We understand there isn’t “evidence” for drinking celery juice every day. But why not try it? They’re meticulous about their food intake (Novak recently started eating a “whole foods, plant-based” diet — NOT “vegan,” as Berlant tried to call it), skin care, and exercise routines. It’s funny, obviously. But the hosts can also hit a touching tone; Berlant, for example, has begun to talk more about the struggles of caretaking for a parent with Alzheimer’s. The show is a delight, an escape, and an anxious reassurance all at once.
Theresa Gaffney, Morning Rounds writer and podcast producer

“Strangers to Ourselves: Unsettled Minds and the Stories That Make Us”
By Rachel Aviv
This book transcends any simple description thanks entirely to Aviv’s masterful storytelling. Each chapter explores a different character’s experience of mental health, from depression to psychosis, never quite fitting any neat understanding. These stories, collectively, pose beautiful but impossible questions about who we are in the context of mental illness, and how the narratives around mental health have the power to shape our experiences.
Olivia Goldhill, investigative reporter

“A Heart That Works”
By Rob Delaney
It’s unspoken, but everyone assumes it: The natural order is that parents are supposed to die before their children. For parents, the thought of that order being inverted is horrifying. But that’s what happened when Henry, the son of comedian Rob Delaney and his wife, Leah, died at the age of 2 1/2 due to brain cancer. The book has poignant details, like how Delaney was thrilled in retrospect that he let a 9-month-old Henry eat chorizo. That’s because months later, after his cancer diagnosis and surgeries, Henry was reduced to a liquid diet through a gastrostomy tube, never able to enjoy something like chorizo again. In a book about death, Delaney also makes you laugh: When Henry was hospitalized, the entire family dressed as skeletons, “and if you can’t have fun dressed as a family of skeletons in a pediatric cancer ward, I don’t know what to tell you.” Delaney talks about the power of social and palliative care, and how the entire family needs extra care during this time of suffering. More than anything, this book will make you cry, a lot. That’s because grief is painful. Children dying is painful. We shouldn’t pretend it’s not.
Bob Herman, business of health care reporter

“Natural Obsessions: Striving to Unlock the Deepest Secrets of the Cancer Cell”
By Natalie Angier
I love old science books. Ten years old? Good. Twenty years old? Great. Thirty-six years old? even better. They are, without fail, humbling for anyone who works in or writes about science. Invariably there are bedrock facts that have long since grown stale (up to 50,000 genes in the human genome!). Or confident assertions bumbled out that now seem impossibly outlandish. (“I believe that, within fifteen years, at the outside, we’ll be able to stop retinoblastoma before it begins. I’m so sure of that that I’ve already given the drug a name. I call it retino-revert,” one scientist says of a disease that, today, remains uncured.) No doubt, some of my own writing will age similarly. But mostly this book is incredible because, even though the techniques it describes are now outdated, it chronicles what it means to work in a lab caught up in a hot scientific race like no other piece of literature I’ve read, the joys of groping in the darkness until you finally find a diamond, and the toll that works takes on everyone involved.
— Jason Mast, general assignment reporter

“Breathing Race into the Machine”
By Lundy Braun
This powerful book probes the disturbing history of how medical instruments, in this case the spirometer widely used to assess lung function, have been used to normalize and extend racial stereotypes that date back to the era of slavery. The use of race is used in a myriad of clinical algorithms to this day, an issue now gaining national attention and calls for change because of the harm and health disparities they have caused. Braun’s book, written a decade ago, remains essential reading on this topic, demonstrating how insidiously race can enter science and shape medical practice.
Usha Lee McFarling, national science correspondent

“The Light Eaters: How the Unseen World of Plant Intelligence Offers a New Understanding of Life on Earth”
By Zoë Schlanger
Imagine a philosophy book that reads like poetry but is actually a science book: That’s “The Light Eaters.” Zoë Schlanger’s dive into the world of plant intelligence, and the research trying to understand it, is a journey filled with so much marvel — plants taking over Hawaii at a rhythm of a couple of seeds every thousand of years! Plants tricking wasps into having plant sex! Plants pretending to be other plants! — that it made me gasp and giggle in delight. Can plants be intelligent, if they don’t have a brain? Or are plants actually big brains? Do they have a conscience? The book takes on these big questions, and ultimately leaves you with even bigger ones — what even are intelligence, consciousness, feeling? And how do we fit in this beautiful world that plants made inhabitable for everyone else?
Annalisa Merelli, general assignment reporter

Correction: An earlier version of this post misspelled Kate Zernike’s name.

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