Walter Isaacson is known for his bestselling biographies of such brilliant, innovative figures as Albert Einstein, Leonardo da Vinci, Benjamin Franklin, and Steve Jobs. And now to this list he’s added Jennifer Doudna. She may not yet have the the same name recognition as the others, but as Isaacson makes clear, her Nobel Prize-winning work on gene editing ranks among the most significant biological inventions. By developing the gene-editing technology known as CRISPR, Doudna dramatically expanded the role science can play in reshaping the nature of life itself. Isaacson, as usual, tells this story vividly, comprehensively, and insightfully, recounting not just the path-breaking science involved but also examining the moral quandaries raised by the revolutionary ability to revise our genetic structure.
Michael Heller teaches property law at Columbia University. Jim Salzman is a leading environmental theorist and teaches environmental law at UCLA. Together, they’ve tackled the concept of ownership, which is not as straightforward as it might seem. Who, for instance, has rights to the space around someone’s seat on an airplane? Who owns the password to an online account? Why does a chair in the street that’s been put there to hold a parking space work in, say, Chicago, but in New York, both the space and the chair would be gone? Why can people sell their blood plasma but not their kidneys? These are just a few of the many situations and puzzles addressed in this intriguing, informative book.
Glenn Frankel, building on his success writing fascinating books about great American movies, does it again in this penetrating look at Midnight Cowboy, the 1969 film directed by John Schlesinger and starring Jon Voight and Dustin Hoffman. The first and only X-rated movie to win the Oscar for best picture, the film was raw and taboo-breaking and told the story of a Texas hustler trying to survive on the streets of New York. It pushed boundaries, addressing homosexuality, prostitution, and sexual assault, and Frankel not only goes behind-the-scenes into how the movie got made, but places it in the context of its times—the social upheaval of the 1960s, New York City’s grittiness, and Hollywood in transition.