Nature and Science
The World in a Grain: The Story of Sand and How It Transformed Civilization by Vince BeiserWhat it is: the story of sand. (Yes, sand.)
Why you should read it: From concrete to glass to computer chips, sand is the "literal foundation of modern civilization."
Fun fact: Due to increasing demand and dwindling supply, there now exists a black market for sand, run by ruthless sand cartels who control the supply to industry.
The Disordered Mind: What Unusual Brains Tell Us About Ourselves by Eric R. KandelWhat it's about: Bridging psychology and neuroscience, this illuminating book reveals what we can learn about human cognition by studying brain disorders.
Includes: discussions of autism, mood disorders, schizophrenia, dementia, PTSD, and addiction, to name just a few.
About the author: Eric R. Kandel is a Nobel Prize-winning neuroscientist.
The Tangled Tree: A Radical New History of Life by David QuammenWhat it's about: molecular phylogenetics, which uses biopolymers (DNA, RNA, and proteins) to study the evolutionary history of organisms and determine relationships between species.
Contains: three "big surprises" that will make you rethink your understanding of evolution: the domain of Archaea, the process of horizontal gene transfer, and a probable ancestor of humans previously unknown to science.
Accessory to War: The Unspoken Alliance Between Astrophysics and the Military by Neil deGrasse Tyson and Avis LangWhat it is: a thought-provoking examination of the long-standing relationship between science and the military-industrial complex, with a special focus on astrophysics and the aerospace industry.
Who it's for: readers interested in the intersection of science, industry, and politics; anyone who wonders what the proposed U.S. Space Force might look like.
Author alert: Well-known astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson teams up with longtime editor and frequent collaborator Avis Lang for this eye-opening book.
The Songs of Trees: Stories from Nature's Great Connectors by David George HaskellWhat it is: a fascinating literary tour of 12 trees from all over the world, ranging from a Callery pear in New York City to a ceibo tree in the Amazon rainforest.
About the author: David George Haskell is a professor of biology and environmental studies, as well as a Pulitzer Prize finalist for The Forest Unseen.
Urban Forests: A Natural History of Trees and People in the American Cityscape by Jill JonnesWhat it's about: Urban trees don't always get credit for all that they do -- for example, improving air quality, absorbing excess rainwater and surface runoff, saving energy, and inspiring cities' human inhabitants. This engaging natural history aims to change that perception.
Why it matters: From the stately specimens that grace the National Mall to the scrappy sapling of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, trees have always played an important role in American life.
American Canopy: Trees, Forests, and the Making of a Nation by Eric RutkowWhat it's about: Environmental lawyer and historian Eric Rutkow demonstrates how the history -- and destiny -- of the United States is inextricably linked to its millions of acres of forest.
Did you know? Twenty percent of freshwater reserves originate in U.S. forests, which are threatened by the average American's annual consumption of 250 board feet of lumber and 700 pounds of paper.
You might also like: Martin Doyle's The Source: How Rivers Made America and America Remade Its Rivers.
The Tree: A Natural History of What Trees Are, How They Live, and Why They Matter by Colin TudgeWhat it's about: There are an estimated 60,000 species of tree worldwide. But what are these organisms, exactly? A British biologist explains -- and the answer isn't as straightforward as it appears.
Why you might like it: Author Colin Tudge distills an enormous amount of information into an accessible introduction to all things arboreal.
Don't miss: Thirty-three intricate line drawings of tree specimens.
The Golden Spruce: A True Story of Myth, Madness, and Greed by John VaillantInquiring minds want to know: What prompted a logger-turned-activist to cut down the world's only giant golden spruce tree?
What it's about: Expanding on an article he wrote for the New Yorker, author John Vaillant recounts the destruction of K'iid K'iyaas, a centuries-old Sitka spruce with unusual golden needles located in British Columbia's Haida Gwaii archipelago.
The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate: Discoveries from a... by Peter Wohlleben; translated by Jane BillinghurstDid you know? Trees have families and friends, memories, sophisticated communication systems, and even the ability to feel pain.
Why you might like it: Without sacrificing scientific accuracy, author Peter Wohlleben enchants readers with combination of lyrical vignettes and anecdotes about his experiences as a forester in Germany.
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