Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Review: Science Ink by Carl Zimmer

Reviewed by Christina
[I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.]

Published: 2011

Full Title: Science Ink: Tattoos of the Science Obsessed

It's about: After noticing a small but significant DNA tattoo on a scientist friend, journalist Carl Zimmer put out a call for science tattoos on his blog, The Loom. The response was huge, and Science Ink is the result: a compilation of over 300 science-y tattoos with a photo and explanation for each.

I thought: I LOVED this book. My life has been terribly busy lately, and Science Ink provided the right distraction every time I sat down to read it: equal parts ogling voyeurism and intelligent science talk.

Firstly, it is beautifully put together. It has the size and build of a small textbook or expensive yearbook. All the photos are in color, many of them full-page, and they've been tastefully enhanced (the color saturated and edges darkened for a sort of vignette effect). The photo editing gives the book unity, which wasn't something I expected given the premise.

If you're interested in the stories behind tattoos, or if you're looking for an enjoyable way to learn a little about science, you'll dig Science Ink. Mr. Zimmer explains concepts very clearly; each blurb explains not only the "what" of each tattoo, but the "why." I'm not surprised he's such a successful science writer, and I'd love to read more by him. There's also an amusing foreword by another of my favorite science journalists, Mary Roach.

Verdict: Stick it on the shelf!

Reading Recommendations: Obviously there's no overarching story here, so this would be a good one to pick up every now and then when you're between books. You could display it on your coffee table, but be careful not to spill anything on it! It's way too beautiful to be a coaster.

Apparently there's also a collection of literary tattoos called The Word Made Flesh. Want! I wish someone would do one for music tattoos. I could be in it.

Warnings: none

Favorite excerpts: There are lots of slideshows and photos available online. Here's the NYT one. One of my favorites is number four in that series, Passionflower. Here are some other cool ones: