By listening to BookLab, a podcast by science journalists Amanda Gefter and Dan Falk, I better understood what makes science writing engaging and how to think critically about what I read, even if the authors are experts in their field.
BookLab describes itself as a series “that puts science books under the microscope.” Though Gefter and Falk specialize in physics reporting, they don’t shy away from exploring topics from a diverse range of fields.
Their discussions include books on how medicine may drastically change due to technology, unexpected implications of modern physics, issues with genetic testing, and much more.
Gefter and Falk integrate their experiences as science journalists into their discussions, exploring how certain sections of a book relate to recent discoveries they’ve reported on, and how their personal experiences can serve as examples of a key concept.
They bring in their experiences as longform writers, exploring how writers successfully distil complex ideas into accessible forms, and how poetic language can be distinctively used to capture an idea into words.
Each episode starts off by introducing the broad theme explored by a book under review. Gefter and Falk then provide a brief overlay of the writing, discuss particular parts of the book that stood out to them, and observations about the writings and arguments of the authors.
The episodes conclude with a brief segment called “What’s on your nightstand?”, in which each journalist describes a science book they’ve been reading recently, and what they liked about it.
It’s rare to find a podcast hosted by science journalists in a casual setting, as opposed to researchers or journalists in a professional setting. BookLab fits that niche and is engaging for scientists and science enthusiasts alike.