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Nobel Life

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Member Reviews

Nobel Life is a collection of essays and interviews with 24 Nobel Laureates and includes short biographies, advice and observations. Due out 29th July 2021 from Cambridge University Press, it's 230 pages and will be available in hardcover and ebook formats (ebook available now). 

I certainly understand that there's a huge gender (and socioeconomic) gap in the awards and selection (and indeed in representation in STEM especially at all levels), but there are only two women listed in these 24 interviews, which I found disappointing. The official statistics (discussed in the book) are around 17:1, so having two female laureates out of 24 interviews could be interpreted as more than fair (I guess). The interviewees are drawn from the worldwide scientific and economic community and from lots of backgrounds.

One thing that struck me in interview after interview was how recently so many things which are rock solid basic biology and physiology (taught and used in undergraduate level courses), and how many apparatus and procedures were discovered. Nearly all of them were things which were discovered, developed, and recognized during my lifetime (and I'm not *that* old). 

Many of the questions and interview formats were similar and it was interesting to read both how the laureates answered and the similarities (and differences) in their answers when faced with the same questions. 

This would make a superlative choice for library acquisition, as well as for readers who enjoy science writing and biography. Although the interviews are mostly drawn from scientists who received the Nobel for contributions in chemistry, physiology & medicine, physics and so forth, it's not necessary to have a scientific background or knowledge to read and enjoy the interviews. 

Five stars. Well written and interesting with insights into a world most of us will never experience. 

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.
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I don't pretend to be intelligent enough to fully understand and appreciate what it takes to win, and what it must mean to win, a Nobel prize, but I do like to learn, especially about things I know nothing about.

Nobel Life discusses topics such as chemical reactions, molecular biology, economics, spectroscopy, infections, biological proteins, cell reviews, structural biology, neuroscience, psychology, biochemistry, astronomy and cosmology. So very intense stuff. 

There is one question asked to everyone which I really liked which was "where were you when the call from Stockholm came?". It's here you realise that these are just everyday people going about their everyday business, who suddenly get their professional life turned upside down by this honour.

What I felt was missing in this book was an introductory paragraph to each individual, instead of jumping straight into questions. Several times I had to Google who the person was in order to get some background information. It needn't be much, but just an introduction saying something like "Mr Fake Name, born in 1962 in Peru, won the Nobel Prize in 1992 for his discovery of ABC". To me, this would give it more context and therefore more understanding. 

Whilst I found the q&a a bit blocky at times and irrelevant to prior or following questions, I did find the format easy to understand for a non-technical person who hasn't studied science for 13 years. I feel a heavier more detailed piece of prose might have been harder to wrap my head around. 

The e-book version I read did not have any imagery in. I can't say if the printed copy will, but I think it definitely needs some, even if it's just a photo of the person in question to bring back the human element behind this prize. 

Overall, I think they could be on to something with making this a series of books. Maybe a different book for each Nobel Prize discipline such as medicine or literature. Maybe a book for female winners, or even a kid friendly book.
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An interesting collection of interviews of nobel prize winners. An insight into their minds. Their struggles. Their findings and science. What they were doing when they got the call. All have one thing is common. They are humble and thankful. A wonderful read to enlighten readers.
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