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Environment

What to Read in March

Stories full of heart, rust and essential nutrients — all in these new releases.

By Gemma Tarlach and Brenda PoppyFebruary 24, 2015 4:53 PM

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The Man Who Touched His Own Heart

By Rob Dunn

Our hearts are one of our biggest weaknesses; the organ is implicated in 1 out of every 3 adult deaths. Biologist Dunn burrows deep into the valves and ventricles, looking at what makes our hearts tick and what can keep them ticking longer, including pacemakers, angioplasty and transplants. He covers science, symbolism and superstition surrounding the heart, from mummification in ancient Egypt to Leonardo da Vinci’s exploratory dissections and the medical advances of the Atomic Age. Dunn paints a detailed picture of the myriad ways our hearts can break and the men and women brave enough to try putting them back together. — Brenda Poppy


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Rust

By Jonathan Waldman

It never sleeps, as Neil Young noted: Rust is too busy wrecking our world. The relentless, destructive process has downed planes, sunk ships, crashed cars, dissolved priceless artifacts and committed countless other crimes of corrosion. Waldman uses our long war with the iron oxide as a loose frame, focusing more on the people crusading against the electrochemical reaction than on the science they marshal to fight it. Some of his musings, such as facial hair preferences among engineers, wander well off-topic. But anecdotes about “Can School,” for those bent on building a better soda can, and a robotic “pig” that inspects Alaskan pipelines for rust offer fascinating insights into our endless battle with the dreaded four-letter word. — Gemma Tarlach


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Vitamania

By Catherine Price

“Both individually and as a society,” writes journalist Price, “we have been seduced by a word.” That word is vitamin, and Price chronicles our love affair with it in riveting detail, from its first appearance in 1912 to its recent co-opting by junk food marketers and snake oil peddlers. What’s amazing is how little we know about how vitamins actually work in our bodies, and how much of them we really need. Price doesn’t solve these mysteries — no one has, at least not yet — but her investigation, full of scurvy-ridden sailors, questionable nutritional supplements and solid science, is both entertaining and enlightening. — Gemma Tarlach

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