Wednesday, June 30, 2010


Olivia Judson is taking "a year's sabbatical." It's not clear whether she's returning to write columns for the NYT at the end of that time; it's quite possible one or both parties aren't sure whether to continue the commitment. It is clear she's going to work on a new book, to which I say, "Yay!"
Her first book, Dr Tatiana's Sex Advice to All Creation (2002), grew out of that article. Written in the style of a sex-advice column to animals, the book details the variety of sexual practices in the natural world and provides the reader with an overview of the evolutionary biology of sex. The book was praised by critics as being witty and engaging, without compromising its scientific integrity. It became an international best-seller and was nominated for the Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction in 2003.
I have not had the opportunity to read that book, but I've read any number of reviews, from bloggers, to scientists, to press reviewers. I can't recall a single negative one. I've deeply enjoyed her columns at The Times, and will miss them. If you haven't been reading these, and you have any interest in evolutionary biology- or amazing information about living things at all, for that matter- I have a treat for you: here's the archive of her columns.

Life moves forth, and in the grand scheme of things, this is pretty trivial. Nevertheless, she has become my favorite science columnist since Gould. (I guess I don't think of McPhee as a columnist, nor does he strictly do science, nor, at the end of the day does his writing have the coherence of the other two. It really helps to bring a little background knowledge to much of his writing. That said, I think I'd have to point to him as my favorite non-fiction author overall.) I doubt Dr. Judson will read this, but I'm already feeling deprived.

Followup: I forgot to mention the content of today's column. If you're interesting in learning some of the processes by which she turns out such readable, sharp material, this is a good one. Nothing really surprising I suppose, but an admirable role model to emulate.

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