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Island Press Staff Picks – Evolution in a Toxic World

Drinking from a mason jar: hipster nonsense or a smart safety tip? Photo by João André O. Dias, used under Creative Commons licensing. Drinking from a mason jar: hipster nonsense or a smart safety tip? Photo by João André O. Dias, used under Creative Commons licensing.

Today’s pick, Evolution in a Toxic World, comes from our Production Intern, Elysia Liang.

My roommates tease me about many things, but they always chuckle when I wander into the kitchen to tell them not to microwave the colorful melamine-infused bowls in our cabinets or share my latest worries about the harmful effects of BPA. Just the other day, one of my friends sent me an article describing how actress and self-proclaimed environmentalist Shailene Woodley carries a mason jar to avoid drinking water from plastic cups. She wrote, “I’m surprised that you don’t do the same thing on a regular basis.” I will be the first to admit that there is the occasional newspaper headline that makes me wonder if I should take a page from Woodley’s book. However, my concern about the chemicals that are commonplace in our daily lives began in my Biology of Gender course, where we spent part of the quarter learning about the intricate defense systems that our bodies deploy when exposed to toxins. As I reviewed lecture slides and read studies about endocrine disruptors, I gained an appreciation for the complicated ways that living organisms react to their potentially harmful environments. Nonetheless, while my class explained how these mechanisms worked, I was still left wondering how they came to exist in the first place and wanted to know more about how they would change in the future. In Evolution in a Toxic World, toxicologist Emily Monosson answered my lingering questions. Through her exploration of evolutionary biology, she provides insights into the ways that biological processes have developed to handle substances and environments that are not always hospitable to life. For those who want to dive into the world of toxicology through a novel lens, Evolution in a Toxic World offers a thought-provoking introduction to the complex interactions between organisms and their environments. Whether she is summarizing competing theories that explain why many biographical processes depend on metals or describing PCB resistance in killifish, Monosson has created an engaging and informative work that is filled with detail and rigorously researched. While you’re flipping through pages of Evolution in a Toxic World, be sure to also pre-order a copy of Monosson’s latest work, Unnatural Selection, which will be released in October. Evolution in a Toxic World and all our other hardcover and paperback books are on sale for 50-70% off through September 30.