A New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice
An astonishing debut from the beloved NPR science correspondent: intimate essays about the intersection of science and everyday life.
In her career as a science reporter, Nell Greenfieldboyce has reported from inside a space shuttle, the bottom of a coal mine, and the control room of a particle collider; she’s presented news on the color of dinosaur eggs, ice worms that live on mountaintop glaciers, and signs of life on Venus. In this, her debut book, she delivers a wholly original collection of powerful, emotionally raw, and unforgettable personal essays that probe the places where science touches our lives most intimately.
Expertly weaving her own experiences of motherhood and marriage with an almost devotional attention to the natural world, Greenfieldboyce grapples with the weighty dualities of life: birth and death, constancy and impermanence, memory and doubt, love and aging. She looks for a connection to the universe by embarking on a search for the otherworldly glint of a micrometeorite in the dust, consults meteorologists and storm chasers on the eerie power of tornadoes to soothe her children’s anxieties, and processes her adolescent oblivion through the startling discovery of black holes. Inspired throughout by Walt Whitman’s invocation to the “transient and strange,” she remains attuned to the wildest workings of our world, reflecting on the incredible leap of the humble flea or the echoing truth of a fetal heartbeat.
A beautiful blend of explanatory science, original reporting, and personal experience, Transient and Strange captures the ache of ordinary life, offering resonant insights into both the world around us and the worlds within us.
Nell Greenfieldboyce is a science correspondent for National Public Radio. Before joining NPR, she was a science reporter at magazines including U.S. News & World Report and New Scientist, where she received the Evert Clark/Seth Payne Award for Young Science Journalists. She lives in Washington, DC.
Sweeping, unusual, and poignant.
— Brandy Schillace - Wall Street Journal
This artful debut essay collection from NPR science correspondent Greenfieldboyce…yields unexpected insights buoyed by evocative prose. Greenfieldboyce dazzles with her auspicious first outing.
— Publishers Weekly (starred review)
The title is borrowed from a phrase in a Walt Whitman poem. He surely would be pleased to be linked to Greenfieldboyce’s display of inquiry and imagination, inevitability, and possibilities.
— Booklist (starred review)
Nell Greenfieldboyce has a writer’s respect for beauty, complexity, and mystery, and a reporter’s instinctive intolerance for bullshit. Although she is never sentimental, she does harbor her idiosyncratic adamant passions: a spider that builds a web in her window, a fleck of a meteorite worn as a pendant, the infinitesimal marvel that is the flea, her parents’ immortal, miraculous toaster. What hope or solace there is in this universe, and in these essays, does not come easily, or cheap—and it’s all the more valuable for it.
— Tim Kreider, author of I Wrote This Book Because I Love You
In a perfect blend of science and memoir, Nell Greenfieldboyce imbues objects of study—meteorites, tornadoes, black holes, fleas—with emotional beauty. Transient and Strange is a deeply relatable account of the pleasures and the terrors of being a woman, being a mother, and being deeply curious about the universe.
— Emma Marris, author of Wild Souls
For almost twenty years, Nell Greenfieldboyce’s reporting on science, technology, and culture has charmed and enlightened her listeners. In these elegant, unforgettable essays, her inimitable voice guides us into more complex and personal territory, asking the questions that haunt us all.
— Michelle Nijhuis, author of Beloved Beasts