Nature and Science
Something Deeply Hidden: Quantum Worlds and the Emergence of Spacetime by Sean CarrollWhat it's about: quantum mechanics, "the heart and soul of modern physics." Although we all appreciate the technologies it has brought us (smartphones, lasers), no one really understands it.
What sets it apart: While many books on this topic emphasize the magic and mystery of quantum mechanics, this one attempts to demystify a complex topic for general readers without oversimplifying.
About the author: Caltech theoretical physicist Sean Carroll is the author of the bestselling The Big Picture.
Wildhood: The Epic Journey from Adolescence to Adulthood in Humans and Other Animals by Barbara Natterson-Horowitz and Kathryn BowersWhat it's about: An evolutionary biologist and a science journalist explore adolescence across species. Despite varying lifespans -- days for a fruit fly, decades for a human, centuries for a Greenland shark -- most species must achieve similar milestones of safety, status, sex, and self-reliance before they're considered adults.
Why you should read it: Whether you're in the throes of adolescence yourself, or know someone who is, you'll be reassured by the authors' conclusion that this stage of life "make[s] exquisite evolutionary sense."
Strange Harvests: The Hidden Histories of Seven Natural Objects by Edward PosnettWhat it's about: seven rare and expensive natural products that represent the "commodification of the natural world."
Namely: eiderdown, vicuña wool, sea silk, tagua nuts ("vegetable ivory"), civet coffee, bird guano, and edible birds' nests.
Why you might like it: Inspired by the curiosity cabinets of natural philosophers, author Edward Posnett entertainingly delves into the history and folklore surrounding the items he discusses.
Gender and Our Brains: How New Neuroscience Explodes the Myths of... by Gina RipponWhat it is: a neuroscientist's evidence-based debunking of sex- and gender-based myths about the human brain, many of which emerged centuries before scientists were actually able to study the brain.
Why you might like it: Incorporating terms such as "neurosexism" and "neurotrash" into thought-provoking discussions of neuroplasticity and socialization, author Gina Rippon takes both researcher bias and media misrepresentation to task.
Inconspicuous Consumption: The Environmental Impact You Don't Know You... by Tatiana SchlossbergEveryone pollutes: From food waste to fast fashion, we're all guilty of destroying the Earth. Our video streaming habits alone pump 50.3 million tons (45.6 billion kg) of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere annually.
Includes: eye-opening assessments of the (steep) environmental costs of our technology, food production, fashion, and fuel, presented in conversational style.
For fans of: Rose George's Ninety Percent of Everything, another examination of the unseen environmental impacts of human activities.
A Terrible Thing to Waste: Environmental Racism and Its Assault on the American Mind by Harriet A. WashingtonWhat it's about: environmental racism, which describes the legacy of racist environmental policies and practices that disproportionately harm communities of color.
Did you know? "Approximately 60,000 industrial chemicals commonly used in the U.S. have never been tested for their effects on humans," although that doesn't stop them from harming black, brown, and indigenous children.
About the author: Journalist Harriet A. Washington won The National Book Critics Circle Award for Medical Apartheid, a sobering look at the history of medical experimentation on African Americans.
A Song for the River by Philip ConnorsThe person: veteran fire lookout Philip Connors, author of the National Outdoor Book Award-winning Fire Season: Field Notes from a Wilderness Lookout.
The place: New Mexico's Gila National Forest.
The prose: "To watch a mountain you love murmur and chirp and howl and green up from rain and bloom with flowers, then see it succumb to flame and be blackened by heat only to live once more from the ashes, was to absorb an object lesson in transience and renewal."
Horizon by Barry LopezWhat it is: a lyrical, elegaic autobiographical account of travels on six continents by the National Book Award-winning author of Arctic Dreams.
Reviewers say: "a contemporary epic, at once pained and urgent, personal and oracular" (The Guardian).
Want a taste? "To go in search of what once was is to postpone the difficulty of living with what is."
The Sun is a Compass: A 4,000-Mile Journey into the Alaskan Wilds by Caroline Van HemertWhat it's about: wildlife biologist Caroline Van Hemert's six-month, 4,000-mile trek across the Alaskan wilderness with her husband, a journey undertaken without motorized transport.
Why you might like it: Van Hemert interweaves vivid descriptions of the natural world with her memories of growing up in Alaska, her anxieties about her career, and her reflections on life and love.
Word of the day: Zugunruhe, a German word referring to the migratory restlessness of birds.
The Hour of Land: A Personal Topography of America's National Parks by Terry Tempest WilliamsContains: 12 moving and deeply introspective essays on U.S. national parks by writer and environmental activist Terry Tempest Williams.
Why you might like it: the author combines lyrical descriptions of landscapes with insightful observations on the environmental and political issues that impact America's public lands.
Did you know? "In Big Bend National Park, the Rio Grande is so low because of drought, locals are calling it the Rio Sand."
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