"It is strange that the tactile sense, which is so infinitely less precious to men than sight, becomes at critical moments our main, if not only, handle to reality."
~ Vladimir Nabokov (1899-1977), Russian-American novelist, Lolita
New and Recently Released!
Rain: A Natural and Cultural History by Cynthia Barnett"We long for rain especially when we've gone without," observes author Cynthia Barnett in this richly detailed exploration of precipitation. Rain has always been an important aspect of life on Earth, from the downpours of 4 billion years ago, which filled the planet's oceans, to the erratic weather wrought by climate change. In anecdotal style, Barnett combines science, history, and travel writing to cover a variety of topics, including the shape of raindrops, the cultural significance of water, and human efforts to predict and even alter rainfall patterns. A must-read for days when it's raining cats and dogs (United States), old women and walking sticks (Wales), or men (The Weather Girls).
Cuckoo: Cheating by Nature by Nick DaviesIn this "highly literate, beautifully written natural history" of the common cuckoo (Library Journal), British ornithologist Nick Davies examines the biology, behavior, and cultural significance of Cuculus canorus. A brood parasite that lays its eggs in other birds' nests, the cuckoo is also an active participant in an "evolutionary arms race," in which cuckoos devise clever strategies for tricking other species into raising their young while their targets (including reed warblers, wagtails, meadow pipits, and dunnocks) develop ever-more sophisticated defenses against the invaders.
The Triumph of Seeds: How Grains, Nuts, Kernels, Pulses, & Pips Conquered the... by Thor HansonAn estimated 352,000 species of plant reproduce by seed, prompting conservation biologist Thor Hanson to call seeds the most important evolutionary development in the entire history of plants. And they're equally important to humans, supplying us with "food and fuels, intoxicants and poisons, oils, dyes, fibers and spices." If you enjoyed Michael Pollan's The Botany of Desire, check out The Triumph of Seeds, a similarly engaging, accessible science book about the co-evolution of plants and humans.
Beyond: Our Future in Space by Chris ImpeyIn Dreams of Other Worlds: The Amazing Story of Unmanned Space Exploration, astronomer Chris Impey examined the role of probes, landers, rovers, and telescopes in expanding our knowledge of the universe. Now he turns his attention to human space travel -- past, present, and future. From the Cold War "space race" to the rise of private space companies (such as Space X and Virgin Galactic), Beyond describes our species' ongoing efforts to explore, colonize, and inhabit the final frontier. Fans of Mary Roach's Packing for Mars or Neil deGrasse Tyson's Space Chronicles will want to check out this book.
Headstrong: 52 Women Who Changed Science--and the World by Rachel SwabyAs these 52 concise, yet informative, biographical profiles demonstrate, women have always changed the world through science -- from the invention of the aquarium (Jeanne Villepreux-Power) to the development of protein crystallography (Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin) to the discovery of the Earth's inner core (Inge Lehmann). Recounting their (often overlooked) achievements in a wide variety of disciplines -- including astronomy, biology, chemistry, computer science, genetics, mathematics, medicine, and physics -- Headstrong also describes how each woman overcame significant obstacles to pursue her passion for knowledge.
The Sound Book: The Science of the Sonic Wonders of the World by Trevor CoxWelcome to a world where galleries whisper, waterfalls hiss, glaciers creak. and Mayan pyramids chirp. Acoustic engineer Trevor Cox provides a fascinating tour of "the sonic wonders of the world," a collection of unusual sounds both natural and synthetic. In the process, Cox explains the acoustic qualities that characterize the places we use and occupy, distinguishing between "live" (concert halls, bathrooms) and "dead" (offices, classrooms) spaces. After reading this fascinating book, you'll never look at -- or listen to -- your surroundings in the same way.
The Scent of Desire: Discovering Our Enigmatic Sense of Smell by Rachel HerzIn this "lively, seductive exploration of what the nose knows" (Kirkus Reviews), psychologist Rachel Herz examines our olfactory sense and how it affects our behavior. Did you know that our perception of odors depends on emotional and cultural factors, and that there is no universally "good" or "bad" smell? Or that mothers and their newborns can recognize each other by smell? These are just a couple of the fascinating discoveries to be found in this book, which will appeal to fans of Diane Ackerman's A Natural History of the Senses. Those specifically interested in smell should also check out Avery Gilbert's What the Nose Knows..
On Seeing: Things Seen, Unseen, and Obscene by F. Gonzalez-CrussiDrawing upon history, art, and philosophy, physician F. Gonzalez-Crussi presents an insightful meditation on how our eyes and brains interpret and influence what we see. Covering a wide range of topics, including the structure of the eye, the cognitive underpinnings of visual perception, and the technological augmentations and extensions that enable us to see more than anatomy permits, On Seeing will appeal to science buffs as well as art enthusiasts who have enjoyed John Berger's Ways of Seeing.
Touch: The Science of Hand, Heart, and Mind by David J. LindenThere's a reason we refer to emotions as "feelings," according to author David J. Linden, science writer and professor of neuroscience at Johns Hopkins University. Our sense of touch is inextricably connected to our emotional lives, for good or ill. Touch also influences our physical health, cognitive development, and social interaction in subtle and profound ways. Starting with the fundamentals (tactile receptors, sensory maps) of sensory experience, this engaging book then delves into case studies that explore the effects of touch on everything from consumer behavior to intimate relationships. For another examination of touch, albeit from an anthropological perspective, check out Constance Classen's The Deepest Sense.
Tasty: The Art and Science of What We Eat by John McQuaidThe tongue has one job: "to distinguish food from everything else." However, the process though which we determine what's edible is complicated, requiring an understanding of, among other areas, microbiology, genetics, and neuroscience. It also requires cleansing one's mental palate by, for example, discarding that diagram of the tongue depicting four distinct regions dedicated to sweet, salty, sour, and bitter flavors (which has no scientific basis) and accepting that, to a large extent, taste is hereditary. If you've ever wondered why and how we eat what we eat, check out Tasty.
Contact your librarian for more great books!