Nature and Science
The Telescope in the Ice: Inventing a New Astronomy at the South Pole by Mark BowenWhat it is: A physicist's book-length tour of the South Pole's IceCube Observatory, which contains a telescope that searches not for stars but for high-energy neutrinos -- sub-atomic particles that originate in places like supernovae and black holes.
Try this next: Interested in cutting-edge astronomy? You might like Govert Schilling's Ripples in Spacetime: Einstein, Gravitational Waves, and the Future of Astronomy.
Immune: How Your Body Defends and Protects You by Catherine CarverWhat it's about: The "hidden army" that protects us from disease, better known as the human immune system.
Did you know? One kiss can transfer 80 million bacteria. (Happy Valentine's Day!)
Why you should read it: lt's flu season, the perfect time to dive into this comprehensive survey of the immune system, which presents serious science in an entertaining style that should appeal to Mary Roach fans.
Where the Wild Coffee Grows: The Untold Story of Coffee from the Cloud Forests of Ethiopia... by Jeff KoehlerWhat it's about: Having tackled tea in Darjeeling, science writer Jeff Koehler traces the origins of Arabica coffee from the Kafa region of Ethiopia to the large-scale farms of Latin America.
Why you should read it: Between the ravages of disease, deforestation, and climate change, coffee could one day disappear. If you can't imagine life without this magical elixir, pick up this book.
Reading the Rocks: How Victorian Geologists Discovered the Secret of Life by Brenda MaddoxWhat it is: In brief but informative vignettes, biographer and science writer Brenda Maddox profiles the Victorian geologists who revolutionized our understanding of Earth's history and human evolution.
Contains: biographical portraits of notable figures such as Charles Lyell, Mary Anning, James Hutton, and Louis Agassiz, as well as historical context that puts their discoveries in perspective.
The Last Man Who Knew Everything: The Life and Times of Enrico Fermi... by David N. SchwartzWhat it is: the first English-language biography of Italian-born physicist Enrico Fermi to be published in nearly 50 years.
Why you should read it: Despite impressive accomplishments in experimental and theoretical physics, Fermi hasn't received nearly as much attention as some of his Manhattan Project peers.
Reviewers say: In a starred review, Publishers Weekly praises this "scrupulously researched and lovingly crafted portrait" of a brilliant scientist.
The Remedy: Robert Koch, Arthur Conan Doyle, and the Quest to Cure Tuberculosis by Thomas GoetzStarring: German physician Robert Koch, who isolated the bacterium responsible for tuberculosis, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who applied his own medical training (and innate skepticism) to investigating the "cure" Koch subsequently claimed to have found.
For fans of: Medical histories with a dash of mystery, such as Steven Johnson's The Ghost Map, about a deadly cholera epidemic in Victorian London.
This is Your Brain on Parasites: How Tiny Creatures Manipulate Our Behavior... by Kathleen McAuliffeWhat it's about: Could microparasites influence our behavior? Science writer Kathleen McAuliffe seeks to discover whether we're in control of our bodies or just some protozoa's unwitting puppet.
Book Buzz: Expanding on the author's viral Atlantic article, "How Your Cat is Making You Crazy," this book offers intriguing ideas about the possible effects of microorganisms on human health.
Further reading: Rosemary Disdelle's Parasites: Tales of Humanity's Most Unwelcome Guests.
Life on the Edge: The Coming of Age of Quantum Biology by Johnjoe McFadden and Jim Al-KhaliliWhat it's about: the nascent field of quantum biology, which applies principles of quantum mechanics to biological processes, ranging from our sense of smell (olfaction) to bird migration, which relies on the ability to sense the Earth's magnetic field (magnetoreception).
Read it for: the way the authors -- a theoretical physicist and a molecular biologist -- make a complex and challenging topic accessible to non-scientists.
The Hidden Half of Nature: The Microbial Roots of Life and Health by David R. Montgomery and Anne BikléWhat it is: An engaging blend of science writing and memoir, written by a geologist and a biologist as they explore the roles played by complex microbial communities in everything from agriculture to human health.
Why you might like it: From vivid descriptions of the authors' quest to turn their barren Seattle backyard into a lush garden to reflections on Biklé's cancer diagnosis, The Hidden Half of Nature illuminates the intimate connections between humans and their environment.
I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life by Ed YongIntroducing: the microbiome, a complex ecosystem of commensal, symbiotic, and pathogenic microscopic organisms living in and on our bodies.
Why you should read it: Science writer Ed Yong's accessible field guide to microorganisms reveals that they're more than just germs to be wiped out -- they form communities that help our bodies function, making them a promising subject for medical research.
You might also like: Rob Dunn's The Wildlife of Our Bodies or Rodney Dietert's The Human Super-Organism.
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