Fictional forensics prodigy Temperance Brennan is the alter ego of real-life forensic anthropologist Kathy Reichs, who is a producer of the Fox TV show Bones and the author of the series of novels that inspired it. This 13th installment in the series is a page turner that sheds light on the tangled webs of criminal justice and how forensic anthropology can be used to solve decades-old mysteries. But while forensic techniques, such as bite mark and footprint analysis, have become staples of police show plot lines, Reichs says many programs don't reflect the reality of forensics investigations. "Most real crime labs simply don't have access to those expensive high-tech tools," Reichs tells Neal Conan. "It does raise perhaps unrealistic expectations about what will be available in every single case."
In the thick of World War II, as the U.S. aimed to produce an atom bomb, the two prime sources of uranium were near the Arctic Circle and in the Belgian Congo. That is, until the Army found a lot of it in the Navajo homeland in northeastern Arizona. After the mining ended, federal inspectors let the companies go without cleaning up. And so the very poor and practical Navajos discovered that the ore, nicely squared off by the blasting, made very good foundations, floors, bread ovens and cement for stucco walls. In the 1,500 homes they built, many of which exist to this day, residents have contracted cancer. Yet as Los Angeles Times reporter Judy Pasternak reveals in her powerful account of environmental justice deferred, efforts to contain the ore led to the largest accidental release of radioactive material in U.S. history 30 years ago, and cleanup efforts have been piecemeal ever since.
Samuel Steward had many identities, including book lover, pioneering sex researcher and seducer of cultural luminaries from Rudolph Valentino to Thornton Wilder. More darkly, he was also a masochist and drug addict. When biographer and 2010 National Book Award finalist Justin Spring discovered Steward's obsessive journals — along with an unpublished memoir, scores of letters, poems, stories and erotica and even a detailed 746-entry card catalog of his sexual history — he surmised that Steward's goal had been to create "a single, lifelong body of work through which he hoped to demystify homosexuality for generations to come." Born in 1909 in Ohio to a Methodist family, Steward is neither a pre-liberation gay-rights hero (he's disqualified by an avid mid-1950s affair with a sadistic former Nazi storm trooper) nor a victim of straight oppression. Rather, he was a bold man who decided to turn his own secret history into a time capsule that helps map the territory of 20th century gay experience.
Women are wealthier, more powerful and more independent than ever. In What Women Want, marketing expert Paco Underhill explains that smart businesses are adapting to accommodate women — a group that often makes up more than half of their customers, in many cases. Take, for example, the hotel shower curtains that once hung from straight rods over the bathtub. Now, you'll often find shower curtains hanging on a curved track. But how is that about women? Well, women are more likely to be conscious that there have been hundreds of strangers staying in that hotel room over the past year and that the shower curtain isn't likely to get wiped down after each visit. Underhill believes the concern about hygiene is wired into women's systems — and the bowed shower curtain is an improvement, then, because it doesn't touch you while you wash.
Charlotte Abbott edits "New in Paperback." A contributing editor for Publishers Weekly, she also leads a weekly chat on books and reading in the digital age every Friday from 4-5 p.m. ET on Twitter. Follow her at @charabbott or check out the #followreader hashtag.