Nature and Science
The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs: A New History of a Lost World by Steve BrusatteWhat it is: the most up-to-date research on the amazing rise, fantastic reign, and spectacular extinction of dinosaurs, presented in a captivating and lively manner.
Why you should read it: Paleontologists discover, on average, one new dinosaur species a week(!), so there is much new information to share.
About the author: American paleontologist Steve Brusatte of the University of Edinburgh is highly respected in his field.
The Truth About Animals: Stoned Sloths, Lovelorn Hippos, and Other Tales... by Lucy CookeWhat it is: Zoologist Lucy Cooke -- the founder of the Sloth Appreciation Society -- probes some of the most intriguing myths about 13 animals, including beavers, pandas, and (of course) sloths.
For fans of: natural history and hilarious, quirky, and entertaining facts.
Try this next: Follow this fun collection of surprising essays with The Wasp That Brainwashed The Caterpillar: Evolution’s Most Unbelievable Solutions to Life’s Biggest Problems by Matt Simon.
When Einstein Walked With Gödel: Excursions to the Edge of Thought by Jim HoltWhat it is: an examination of unlikely partnerships between eccentric geniuses -- including Albert Einstein and logician Kurt Gödel, and computer scientists Ada Lovelace and Alan Turing -- that breaks down some of science’s most groundbreaking ideas.
Why you might like it: If you enjoy science writer Jim Holt’s (Why Does The World Exist?) signature writing style -- entertaining, accessible, and humorous -- you won’t be disappointed by this fun and informative book.
Milk! A 10,000-Year Food Fracas by Mark KurlanskyWhat it is: As he did in works such as Paper and Salt, historian Mark Kurlansky provides an illuminating microhistory of another familiar item: milk.
Why you should read it: This sweeping history of milk is also the story of human civilization itself, reaching across continents and throughout time. (And of course, recipes are included.)
You might also like: For more microhistories of edibles, try Tea by Laura C. Martin and Spice by Jack Turner.
The Plant Messiah: Adventures in Search of the World's Rarest Species by Carlos MagdalenaWhat it’s about: one man’s heroic quest to save some of the world’s rarest plant species from extinction, an endeavor that takes him into a variety of breathtaking habitats around the globe.
About the author: Spanish-born Carlos Magdalena, a horticulturalist at Kew Gardens, has been nicknamed “the plant messiah” for his work saving endangered plants.
You might also like: The collective biography The Brother Gardeners by Andrea Wulf and the historical fiction novel The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert.
Voices in the Ocean: A Journey into the Wild and Haunting World of Dolphins by Susan CaseyWhat it's about: Journalist Susan Casey (who wrote about sharks in The Devil’s Teeth) probes the astounding world of dolphins, examining their relationship with human beings (for better and for worse).
Did you know? Dolphins are highly intelligent creatures with x-ray vision who can recognize their own reflections and have been known to throw temper tantrums.
Further reading: Journey of the Pink Dolphins by Sy Montgomery.
The Attacking Ocean: The Past, Present, and Future of Rising Sea Levels by Brian FaganWhat it is: an eye-opening look at how rising sea levels have changed the planet -- and how humans have themselves contributed to ever-changing shorelines -- over the last 15,000 years.
Is it for you? Readers with an interest in global warming, climate change, and anthropology will find much to ponder here.
About the author: Brian Fagan is an emeritus professor of anthropology at U.C. Santa Barbara and the celebrated author behind The Little Ice Age: How Climate Made History, 1300 -1850.
Deep: Freediving, Renegade Science, and What the Ocean Tells Us about Ourselves by James NestorWhat it’s about: Competitive free diving is a sport in which participants plunge, unburdened by scuba gear, to depths of up to 300 feet in the span of a single breath. In Deep, author James Nestor begins training for free diving -- and in the process uncovers much about the enduring relationship between humans and the ocean.
Book buzz: Deep was a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice, an Amazon Best Science Book of 2014, and a Scientific American Recommended Read.
The Ocean of Life: The Fate of Man and the Sea by Callum RobertsWhat it's about: Biologist Callum Roberts documents the past, present, and future of the world's oceans, which continue to undergo dramatic environmental changes.
Why you should read it: Filled with fascinating tidbits (albatross chicks eat an average of 70 pieces of plastic per meal) as well as meticulous scientific detail, The Ocean of Life makes a powerful case for ocean conservation.
About the author: Roberts has been called “the Rachel Carson of the fish world” (The New York Times).
Pacific: Silicon Chips and Surfboards, Coral Reefs and Atom Bombs, Brutal Dictators... by Simon WinchesterWhat it’s about: bestselling author Simon Winchester turns his keen eye on the Pacific Ocean, the largest body of water on Earth, mainly focusing on events after 1950.
What’s inside: Assessing not only the ocean and what lies beneath it, Winchester also discusses the countries that border it (including China and the United States) as well as the islands within it.
Reviewers say: Kirkus Reviews calls Pacific a "superb analysis of a world wonder."