I am always thrilled when a science themed book wins the General Non-Fiction Pulitzer Prize. Some of my favorites from previous years include the following:
2011 Siddhartha Mukherjee "The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer"
1998 Jared Diamond "Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies"
1995 Jonathan Weiner "The Beak Of The Finch: A Story Of Evolution In Our Time"
1991 Bert Holldobler and Edward O. Wilson "The Ants"
1980 Douglas R. Hofstadter "Godel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid"
1979 Edward O. Wilson "On Human Nature"
1978 Carl Sagan "The Dragons of Eden"
I am incredibly pleased that the author of one of my favorite books released in 2013 has been named as the 2014 General Non-fiction Pulitzer Prize winner:
2014 Dan Fagin: "Toms River: A Story of Science and Salvation"
The summary at the Pulitzer Prize site states that "Toms River" is "A book that deftly combines investigative reporting and historical research to probe a New Jersey seashore town’s cluster of childhood cancers linked to water and air pollution."
But the book is so much more to those of us who love the story of science. Dan Fagin weaves together varied facets of science detail in his book, including the discovery and chemistry behind aniline dye processing, the development of our understanding of cancer biology, how scientific research is able to demonstrate causative factors in cancer (or not), and finally how the field epidemiology informs us whether environmental toxicity can be implicated in clusters of diseases. And through all of the science and history he brings to life the people in the story to make the book interesting and relatable. As with another Pulitzer Prize winning book, "The Emperor of All Maladies", I found "Toms River" to be a book that was impossible to put down.
It was a great honor to have Dan as a guest on an episode of Read Science! along with Jessica Wapner, author of "The Philadelphia Chromosome". We entitled our episode "Oncogenes and Carcinogens", appropriately enough.
I've cued the episode to where I ask Dan about his book and where the inspiration for it arose. Naturally, feel free to watch the entire episode. I would encourage you to do so as Dan and Jessica elucidate plainly how they write their material to engage and inform their audiences so well.
Congratulations, Dan, for your excellent work. You and the book are very deserving of this honor! I am a fan and look forward to more great works from you.
Speaking of Pulitzer Prize winners, Read Science!, in conjunction with SciAm, hosted E.O. Wilson last summer.