Recent Popular Science Books

I just finished reading First Steps: How Walking Upright Made Us Human by Jeremy DeSilva, and I was reflecting on how much I enjoy reading popular science books. I may only read a few each year, and I read them much more slowly than fiction, but I like learning about something new to me and appreciate the fine writing by a scientist or journalist who has really delved into a topic and is enthusiastic to share some of what they’ve learned with non-scientists. Other books I read this year include Kindred by Rebecca Wragg Sykes and The Arbornaut by Meg Lowman. Here is a list of recent popular science books in the library’s collection, along with a few about to be published. The variety of topics covered is remarkable, and I hope to enjoy more of these titles soon. Happy reading!

Brenda

Recent Popular Science Books

Biberdorf, Kate. It’s Elemental: The Hidden Chemistry in Everything

Black, Riley. The Last Days of the Dinosaurs: An Asteroid, Extinction, and the Beginning of Our World

Bryson, Bill. The Body: A Guide for Occupants

DeSilva, Jeremy. First Steps: How Upright Walking Made Us Human

Dettmer, Philipp. Immune: A Journey into the Mysterious System That Keeps You Alive

Ellenberg, Jordan. Shape: The Hidden Geometry of Information, Biology, Strategy, Democracy, and Everything Else

Everts, Sarah. The Joy of Sweat: The Strange Science of Perspiration

Frank, Adam. Light of the Stars: Alien Worlds and the Fate of the Earth

Kaku, Michio. The God Equation: The Quest for a Theory of Everything

Knoll, Andrew. A Brief History of Earth: Four Billion Years in Eight Chapters

Kolbert, Elizabeth. Under a White Sky: The Nature of the Future

Levesque, Emily. The Last Stargazers: The Enduring Story of Astronomy’s Vanishing Explorers

Lowman, Margaret. The Arbornaut: A Life Discovering the Eighth Continent in the Trees Above Us

Macfarlane, Robert. Underland: A Deep Time Journey

Nestor, James. Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art

Panciroli, Elsa. Beasts Before Us: The Untold Story of Mammal Origins and Evolution

Phoenix, Jess. Ms. Adventure: My Wild Explorations in Science, Lava, and Life

Prescod-Weinstein, Chanda. The Disordered Cosmos: A Journey into Dark Matter, Spacetime and Dreams Deferred

Raff, Jennifer. Origin: A Genetic History of the Americas

Raven, Catherine. Fox & I: An Uncommon Friendship

Roach, Mary: Fuzz: When Nature Breaks the Law

Scales, Helen. The Brilliant Abyss: Exploring the Majest Hidden Life of the Deep Ocean and the Looming Threat That Imperils It

Seager, Sara. The Smallest Lights in the Universe: A Memoir

Sheldrake, Merlin. Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds & Shape Our Futures

Simard, Suzanne. Finding the Mother Tree: Discovering the Wisdom of the Forest

Widder, Edith. Below the Edge of Darkness: A Memoir of Exploring Light and Life in the Deep Sea

Wohlleben, Peter. The Heartbeat of Trees: Embracing Our Ancient Bond with Forests and Nature

Wragg Sykes, Rebecca. Kindred: Neanderthal Life, Love, Death and Art

Zimmer, Carl. Life’s Edge: The Search for What It Means to Be Alive

Where the Deer and the Antelope Play

Where the Deer and the Antelope Play by Nick Offerman

Carpenter, actor, comedian and author Nick Offerman narrates the audio version of his new memoir. In 2019 and 2020 he travels to Glacier National Park to hike with two famous friends and a guide, visits a sheep farm in England where he helps rebuild a stone wall, and buys an Airstream trailer and travels from California to Texas, Oklahoma, and Illinois with his wife Megan Mullally and their dog. During his travels, Offerman shares amusing anecdotes, reflects on nature, public lands and their origin, the pandemic, common sense, and food. This is an entertaining and thought provoking read, with perhaps a bit too much time on his soap box. Excellent armchair travel with plenty of humor to enliven the book. Readalikes include the author’s Paddle Your Own Canoe, A Walk in the Woods and The Road to Little Dribbling by Bill Bryson, The Shepherd’s Life by James Rebanks, and The Longest Road by Philip Caputo.

Brenda

The Guide

The Guide by Peter Heller

Lush descriptions of stunning scenery combine with an increasing menace in a novel set at an elite fishing lodge in Colorado. The young guide, Jack, is well acquainted with loss, and finds his solace in fly fishing. Assigned to Allison K., a famous singer, they explore the water and grounds near Kingfisher Lodge, eating marvelous meals that include conversations about favorite Japanese haiku. No fishing experience is needed to enjoy the scenery and the pairs’ love of the sport. But no idyll is perfect, and as they explore too far and uncover a sinister plot just beyond the fence, the story becomes a heart-pounding thriller; changing from a readalike for Ivan Doig or Norman Maclean into a book perfect for readers of Robin Cook or Michael Crichton. Absolutely riveting, both gorgeous and frightening. Readers will also enjoy Heller’s companion novel The River, but this novel stands alone in its near future setting.

Brenda

Underland

Underland: A Deep Time Journey by Robert Macfarlane

For a remarkable reading adventure, join Robert Macfarlane as he explores the hidden worlds underground, from Slovenia to England to Greenland. This is a book to savor, lyrically written, for readers of adventure, travel, nature, and history, except for the claustrophobic. Moving below ground, he often travels backwards in time, to see red pictographs in Norwegian sea caves, the catacombs deep beneath Paris, and the fungal network linking trees in Epping Forest. There are ancient barrows, a physics lab in a Yorkshire mine, a glacier in Greenland, and caves built to receive nuclear waste in Finland. In China there’s a cave system with its own weather system, and a river deep underground connects Slovenia and northern Italy. Receding glaciers and melting permafrost show that nothing is permanent. Awe and brief moments of terror in locations ordinary and sublime make for a fascinating look at unimagined worlds. Readalikes include Into the Planet, The Hidden Life of Trees, Frozen in Time, In the Kingdom of Ice, and Deep Down Dark. Macfarlane’s other books include The Old Ways, Landmarks, and The Wild Places.

Brenda

 

Ellie and the Harpmaker

Ellie and the Harpmaker by Hazel Prior

On the anniversary of her father’s death, Ellie Jacobs goes for a long walk in the Exmoor woods and finds the Harp Barn and Dan Hollis, the harpmaker. Dan, very happy in his work and in the beautifully described countryside, is apparently on the autistic spectrum. Ellie slowly learns to play a harp, but hasn’t yet told her husband Clive, who’s a bit of a bully. Ellie and especially Dan are very appealing characters while Phineas the pheasant, Tom the postman, and young Edward add color and charm. This heartwarming debut novel is sure to be popular. The author plays the harp, and her love of music and Exmoor shine through.

Brenda

Joyful

Joyful: The Surprising Power of Ordinary Things to Create Extraordinary Happiness by Ingrid Fetell Lee

I enjoyed reading about how small, joyful moments can lift our mood and make our day.  The author describes how  seemingly ordinary objects or experiences like balloons, confetti, rainbows, circles, flowers, and vibrant yet harmonious decor can spark joy while sharp edges, minimalist decor and clutter can make us edgy and uncomfortable. It’s certainly pleasant reading that may make me take an extra moment to enjoy a sunset or a butterfly.

Brenda

 

The Hidden Life of Trees

The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate

by Peter Wohlleben

An absorbing, leisurely read, about how trees grow and communicate. If you enjoy a walk in the woods of area forest preserves or the Morton Arboretum, you may enjoy spending time with German forester Peter Wohlleben. I was interested to learn that trees, even of different species, can communicate with each other through scent and chemical signals sent through the fungal network around their roots. They can send signals of attacks by insect pests or herbivores, and even share sugar when another tree is stressed or injured. They also compete for sunlight and space, migrate (very slowly) when the climate changes, react to storms, drought, and injuries, and take risks deciding when it’s best to grow taller or shed their leaves. The likelihood of a single seedling growing up to be a mature tree is very small, but it can be supported by its parent tree as it grows. Urban trees have more challenges, but still manage to communicate, though they aren’t likely to live hundreds of years like a beech or oak tree in a forest. Wohlleben even has a 500-year plan to create thriving forests, which may be aided by getting his many readers to think about and see trees differently.

Brenda

 

H is for Hawk

h is for hawk jacketH is for Hawk by Helen MacDonald

Historian Helen is shattered by the sudden death of her father, a news photographer. An experienced falconer, she retreats from human society and begins training a young female goshawk, Mabel. Goshawks are bigger and deadlier than other hawks she has handled, and Helen turns to old books on falconry for inspiration, including medieval books and  T. H. White’s memoir, The Goshawk. White, the author of The Once and Future King, is a very unhappy person, although an interesting one, and I would have liked more of Helen’s story and less about White. I wasn’t really sure I wanted to read this well-reviewed book, because I thought it would mostly be about hunting with a hawk. Later in the book, there are detailed hunting scenes, but the book is much more about grief and getting in touch with nature. Mabel is terrified of her new world and Helen needs to become first invisible and then familiar in order to work with her. At one point, Helen is identifying more with the hawk then with her human friends and family, but thankfully she regains some balance. Finishing a research fellowship at Cambridge, Helen explores the land around the university with Mabel, seeing it  from a new perspective. I thought this book was moving, beautifully written, and in parts, a page-turner, as I really wanted to find out what happened with Mabel and Helen.

Brenda