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1989 LOS ANGELES TIMES BOOK PRIZE NOMINEES : for the publishing year August 1, 1988, through July 31, 1989

September 03, 1989|MARJORIE MARKS-FROST | Marks-Frost manages the judging for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize program

IS SCIENCE NECESSARY? Essays on Science and Scientists by Max F. Perutz (E.P. Dutton) Perutz, a Nobel Prize winner, believes that science and art have a similar function in society: to expand human perception. This view underpins an anthology of essays that seek to make science more accessible now that nothing less than the "survival of nature and civilization" is at stake. Subjects emphasized are those basic to existence: health, energy, and food production from the global perspectives of both the past and the future.

PEACEMAKING AMONG PRIMATES by Frans de Waal (Harvard University Press) An absorbing account of the peacemaking strategies of five different species that include our closest primate cousins--chimpanzees, rhesus monkeys, stump-tailed monkeys, bonobos, and humans. Author DeWaal, a research scientist with the Wisconsin Regional Primate Research Center, demonstrates through the study of animal reconciliation behavior that forgiveness and peacemaking are widespread among nonhuman primates. Our tendency to condemn aggression as antisocial behavior is a simplification, he believes. His studies suggest that aggression and peacemaking are intertwined and that peacemaking is as innate to our heritage as is aggression.

THE FIVE SENSES by F. Gonzalez-Crussi (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich) A meditation on sensory experience by a Mexican-born pathologist who weaves personal experience with history, science, philosophy and theology for a wide- ranging approach to our centuries-old but undissipated curiosity about the origins of pain and pleasure. More anecdotal than scholarly, it is nevertheless an erudite work that ranges from musings on the source of the "phantom limb" phenomenon in his chapter on touch, to the array of religious attitudes toward olfaction in his chapter on smell, and a chapter inspired by his own origins entitled "Reminiscences of a Hot Pepper Eater."

SCIENCE AS A PROCESS An Evolutionary Account of the Social and Conceptual Development of Science by David L. Hull (University of Chicago Press) A challenge to the homily that the operating principle in science is "truth for truth's sake." In no sense a breed apart, successful scientists, like their successful counterparts in business, are driven by personal commitment and self-interest tempered by the need to collaborate. The author, who is a philosopher and historian of science, argues that some of "the behavior that appears to be the most improper actually facilitates the manifest goals of science . . . the least productive scientists tend to behave the most admirably, while those who make the greatest contributions just as frequently behave the most deplorably." It is the tension between competitive drive and the need to cooperate in order to survive that creates "conceptual change" in science, he says. The same evolutionary forces responsible for the rise and demise of species also are at work in the creation of scientific ideas.

WHAT MAD PURSUIT A Personal View of Scientific Discovery by Francis Crick (Basic Books) Together with James Watson, author Francis Crick discovered the structure of the genetic material of life on Earth for which they were each awarded the Nobel Prize in 1962. This is his warmly told account of the discovery and "how it, in turn, led to the cracking of the genetic code and the launching of the molecular biological revolution."


THE ONE DAY A Poem in Three Parts by Donald Hall (Ticknor & Fields) A book-length poem in three sections. Encompassing a wide range of ideas, and presenting a number of different characters, the poem arrestingly examines the strengths and deficiencies of contemporary American culture. The book includes, on the one hand, a funny mock-pastoral dialogue between two spoiled young consumers and, on the other, a moving meditation on aging and death.

STREAMERS by Sandra McPherson (Antaeus/The Ecco Press) A distinguished collection of short poems on the related subjects of nature and human nature. Especially gripping is a series of poems that examine the vexed relationship between a well-meaning mother and her rebellious daughter. Other poems freshly discuss issues of ecological importance. Still others evocatively describe plants and animals.

THE WONDER OF SEEING DOUBLE by Robert B. Shaw (University of Massachusetts Press) Written with ease in a variety of rhyming stanzaic forms and in blank verse, Shaw's poems include a fine dramatic monologue delivered by an understudy in an acting company on tour and a witty sequence of poems about timepieces. Also featured in Shaw's collection is a lovely poem, "Morning Exercise," that describes a child watching his father shave.

SARAH'S CHOICE by Eleanor Wilner (University of Chicago Press) A collection distinguished by its rich and thoughtful appreciation of myth and history. The title poem examines the story of the testing of Abraham from the standpoint of Abraham's wife. Like other poems in the collection, it portrays individuals torn between the claims of personal allegiance and the claims of the larger forces of the world and culture in which they live.

A SOLDIER'S TIME by R.L. Barth (John Daniel & Co., Publishers) A collection of poems by an ex-Marine who served in Vietnam in the late Sixties. Bearing witness to the experiences of the soldiers and civilians who suffered in the conflict, Barth's poems also attempt to understand the war in historical perspective. Barth writes in regular metrical forms that give structure and power to his observations of the violent and harsh realities of combat.

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