This fall’s science books strive to understand the imperiled world humans have made and the precarious future we are in the process of making.

Top 10

The Ascent of Gravity: The Quest to Understand the Force That Explains Everything

Marcus Chown. Pegasus, Nov. 7

Chown elucidates the great challenge in understanding gravity, journeying from its recognition as a force in 1666 to the 2015 discovery of gravitational waves.

The Butchering Art: Joseph Lister’s Quest to Transform the Grisly World of Victorian Medicine

Lindsey Fitzharris. FSG/Scientific American, Oct. 17

Fitzharris celebrates the visionary surgeon who transformed the shocking world of 19th-century surgery thanks to advances in germ theory and antiseptics.

Darwin’s Backyard: How Small Experiments Led to a Big Theory

James T. Costa. Norton, Sept. 5

Leading readers through Darwin’s life, Costa reveals how Darwin found universal evolutionary truths in simple experiments done at his longtime English home.

The Little Book of Black Holes

Steven S. Gubser and Frans Pretorius. Princeton Univ., Oct. 3

Describing black holes as astrophysical objects and theoretical laboratories, Gubser and Pretorius offer rare clarity of insight into these destructive manifestations of geometrical destiny.

The Planet Factory: Exoplanets and the Search for a Second Earth

Elizabeth Tasker. Bloomsbury Sigma, Nov. 7

Tasker leads readers through the ongoing search for worlds like Earth and hints of life elsewhere in the cosmos, one of the most rapidly growing fields in astronomy.

The River of Consciousness

Oliver Sacks. Knopf, Oct. 24

Sacks passionately engages with evolution, creativity, memory, time, consciousness, and experience in this, one of the two books he was working on when he died.

Significant Figures: The Lives and Work of Great Mathematicians

Ian Stewart. Basic, Sept. 12

Acclaimed mathematician Stewart details the lives of 21 pioneering mathematicians and the roles they played in creating, inventing, and discovering modern mathematics.

Spineless: The Science of Jellyfish and the Art of Growing a Backbone

Juli Berwald. Riverhead, Nov. 7

Berwald’s scientific memoir reveals how jellyfish act as a bellwether for human-inflicted ecological damage, calling for collective efforts to fix the problems we’ve created.

The Telescope in the Ice: Inventing a New Astronomy at the South Pole

Mark Bowen. St. Martin’s, Nov. 14

Bowen profiles the IceCube Observatory near the South Pole, the largest particle physics detector ever built, and its success making the first actual observations of high-energy neutrinos.

The Water Will Come: Rising Seas, Sinking Cities, and the Remaking of the Civilized World

Jeff Goodell. Little, Brown, Oct. 24

Goodell travels across 12 countries to report from the front lines of climate change, showing vivid scenes from what is already becoming a water world.

Science Listings


The Quantum Labyrinth: How Richard Feynman and John Wheeler Revolutionized Time and Reality by Paul Halpern (Oct. 17, hardcover, $20.99, ISBN 978-0-465-09758-6). Physicist Halpern shows how collaboration between the boisterous yet cautious Feynman and soft-spoken nonconformist Wheeler led to a complete rethinking of the nature of time and reality.

Significant Figures: The Lives and Work of Great Mathematicians by Ian Stewart (Sept. 12, hardcover, $27, ISBN 978-0-465-09612-1). Acclaimed mathematician Stewart describes the lives and work of 21 pioneering mathematicians, examining the roles they played in creating, inventing, and discovering the mathematics we use today.

Bloomsbury Sigma

The Planet Factory: Exoplanets and the Search for a Second Earth by Elizabeth Tasker (Nov. 7, hardcover, $27, ISBN 978-1-4729-1772-0) takes readers to the cutting edge of one of the most rapidly growing fields in astronomy: the ongoing search for worlds like Earth and hints of life elsewhere in the cosmos.

Wonders Beyond Numbers: A Brief History of All Things Mathematical by Johnny Ball (Oct. 10, hardcover, $27, ISBN 978-1-4729-3999-9). Britain’s most famous mathematician delivers a history of mathematics that brings to life the importance of numbers, shapes, and patterns in the world around us.

Bloomsbury USA

Reading the Rocks: How Victorian Geologists Discovered the Secret of Life by Brenda Maddox (Nov. 21, hardcover, $28, ISBN 978-1-63286-912-8). Biographer and science writer Maddox illuminates the history of geology and its early practitioners, the people who first excavated from the layers of the world its buried history.

Chelsea Green

Tamed and Untamed: Brief Encounters of the Animal Kind by Sy Montgomery and Elizabeth Marshall Thomas (Sept. 27, trade paper, $17.95, ISBN 978-1-60358-755-6). Celebrated animal writers Montgomery and Thomas draw on tales of wild and domestic animals alike, exploring the minds, lives, and mysteries of a diverse list of creatures and the ways humans connect with them.

Chicago Review

Balance: A Dizzying Journey Through the Science of Our Most Delicate Sense by Carol Svec (Sept. 1, hardcover, $26.99, ISBN 978-1-61373-482-7). Wellness writer Svec examines every facet of balance in an entertaining, broadly accessible, and rigorously researched manner, using case studies, the latest research initiatives, the coolest gadgets used by researchers, and first-person accounts.


American Wolf: A True Story of Survival and Obsession in the West by Nate Blakeslee (Oct. 17, hardcover, $28, ISBN 978-1-101-90278-3) tells the gripping story of a wolf named O-Six, a charismatic alpha female among a resurgent population of wolves in the Rocky Mountains. Set in Yellowstone, this multigenerational wolf saga reveals a clash of values in the American West.


Quakeland: On the Road to America’s Next Devastating Earthquake by Kathryn Miles (Aug. 29, hardcover, $28, ISBN 978-0-525-95518-4) journeys around the U.S. seeking the truth about the threat of earthquakes, leading to spine-tingling discoveries, unnerving experts, and the kind of preparations that will actually help guide us through disasters.

The Experiment

A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived: The Human Story Retold Through Our Genes by Adam Rutherford (Sept. 19, hardcover, $25.95, ISBN 978-1-61519-404-9). In light of advances in genomics, science writer Rutherford rewrites all of human history, using genetics to shatter deeply held beliefs about human heritage and replace them with new answers to some of life’s biggest questions.

FSG/Scientific American

The Butchering Art: Joseph Lister’s Quest to Transform the Grisly World of Victorian Medicine by Lindsey Fitzharris (Oct. 17, hardcover, $27, ISBN 978-0-374-11729-0) reveals the shocking world of 19th-century surgery and shows how it was transformed by advances in germ theory and antiseptics between 1860 and 1875. Historian Fitzharris celebrates the triumph of this visionary surgeon.

The Zoomable Universe: An Epic Tour Through Cosmic Scale, from Almost Everything to Nearly Nothing by Caleb Scharf, illus. by Ron Miller (Oct. 17, hardcover, $27, ISBN 978-0-374-71571-7). Astrobiologist Scharf and artist Miller take readers on a cutting-edge, full-color visual journey through all known scales of reality, from the largest possible magnitude to the smallest.

Harvard Univ.

Life Through Time and Space by Wallace Arthur, illus. by Stephen Arthur (Aug. 7, hardcover, $29.95, ISBN 978-0-674-97586-6), brings together the latest discoveries in both biology and astronomy to examine humankind’s deepest questions about where we came from, where we are going, and whether we are alone in the cosmos.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Birding Without Borders: An Obsession, a Quest, and the Biggest Year in the World by Noah Strycker (Nov. 7, hardcover, $27, ISBN 978-0-544-55814-4) follows the birder in 2015 as he travels to 41 countries with a backpack and binoculars, becoming the first person to see more than half the world’s 10,000 species of birds in one year.

Indiana Univ.

UFOs, Chemtrails, and Aliens: What Science Says by Donald R. Prothero and Timothy D. Callahan (Aug. 10, hardcover, $28, ISBN 978-0-253-02692-7) explores why demonstrably false beliefs about UFOs, crop circles, chemtrails, and other paranormal phenomena thrive despite decades of education and scientific debunking.


Firestorm: How Wildfire Will Shape Our Future by Edward Struzik (Oct. 5, hardcover, $30, ISBN 978-1-61091-818-3). Making the case for a radically different approach to managing wild fires, Struzik weaves a heart-pumping narrative of science, economics, politics, and human determination. Humans and forest-dwellers around our cities and towns might yet flourish in an age of growing megafires.

Johns Hopkins Univ.

Making the Most of the Anthropocene: Facing the Future by Mark Denny (Sept. 3, hardcover, $24.95, ISBN 978-1-4214-2300-5) tackles the hard truth of human-made climate change head-on and considers such burning questions as how did we reach our present technological and ecological state? And how are we going to cope with our uncertain future?


Life 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence by Max Tegmark (Aug. 29, hardcover, $28, ISBN 978-1-101-94659-6). AI is transforming work, laws, and weapons, as well as the dark side of computing (hacking and viral sabotage). Tegmark raises questions about suprahuman intelligence and autonomous systems that urgently need to be addressed.

The River of Consciousness by Oliver Sacks (Oct. 24, hardcover, $27.95, ISBN 978-0-385-35256-7). In one of two books Sacks was working on up to his death, he passionately engaged with core concepts of human endeavor: evolution, creativity, memory, time, consciousness, and experience.

Little, Brown

The Water Will Come: Rising Seas, Sinking Cities, and the Remaking of the Civilized World by Jeff Goodell (Oct. 24, hardcover, $28, ISBN 978-0-316-26024-4). Traveling across 12 countries and reporting from the front lines of climate change, Goodell employs fact, science, and first-person, on-the-ground journalism to show vivid scenes from what already is becoming a water world.

Zapped: From Infrared to X-rays, the Curious History of Invisible Light by Bob Berman (Aug. 8, hardcover, $26, ISBN 978-0-316-31130-4) tells the story of the light we cannot see, tracing infrared, microwaves, ultraviolet, X-rays, gamma rays, radio waves, and other forms of radiation from their historic, world-altering 19th-century discoveries to their central role in our 21st-century lives.

Milkweed Editions

A Year in the Wilderness by Dave Freeman and Amy Freeman (Sept. 12, hardcover, $30, ISBN 978-1-57131-366-9). In this passionate and beautifully illustrated account of a year in Minnesota’s Boundary Waters region, the Freemans show readers the value of wilderness areas and why they must be protected.


Foolproof, and Other Mathematical Meditations by Brian Hayes (Sept. 15, hardcover, $24.95, ISBN 978-0-262-03686-3) argues that mathematics is not only an essential tool for understanding the world but also a world unto itself, filled with objects and patterns that transcend earthly reality.

Plato and the Nerd: The Creative Partnership of Humans and Technology by Edward Ashford Lee (Sept. 4, hardcover, $29.95, ISBN 978-0-262-03648-1). Writing for both literate technologists and numerate humanists, Lee makes a case for engineering—creating technology—as a deeply intellectual and fundamentally creative process.

National Geographic

The Story of Innovation: How Yesterday’s Discoveries Lead to Tomorrow’s Breakthroughs by James Trefil (Oct. 24, hardcover, $40, ISBN 978-1-4262-1705-0). This comprehensive sweep through modern science and technology makes for solid reference, covering the most important innovations and inventions in engineering, physics, medicine, chemistry, biology, and more.

New Press

The Climate Swerve: Reflections on Mind, Hope, and Survival by Robert Jay Lifton (Oct. 10, hardcover, $22.95, ISBN 978-1-62097-347-9) presents evidence for how, in the face of climate change, we might call upon the human mind to translate a growing species awareness into action to sustain our habitat and civilization.


Darwin’s Backyard: How Small Experiments Led to a Big Theory by James T. Costa (Sept. 5, hardcover, $27.95, ISBN 978-0-393-23989-8) takes readers on a journey from Darwin’s youth and travels on the HMS Beagle to Down House, his bustling home of 40 years, revealing how he found universal evolutionary truths in simple yet ingenious homespun experiments.

Why You Eat What You Eat: The Science Behind Our Relationship with Food by Rachel Herz (Dec. 26, hardcover, $25.95, ISBN 978-0-393-24331-4) mixes the social with the scientific to uncover how psychology, neurology, and physiology shape our relationship with food and how food alters the relationships we have with ourselves and each another.


The Origins of Creativity by Edward O. Wilson (Oct. 3, hardcover, $24.95, ISBN 978-1-63149-318-8). Chronicling the evolution of creativity from primates to humans, Wilson shows how the humanities, in large part spurred by the invention of language, have played a previously unexamined role in defining our species.

Oxford Univ.

The Calculus Story: A Mathematical Adventure by David Acheson (Jan. 23, hardcover, $16.95, ISBN 978-0-19-880454-3). This wide-ranging picture of calculus and its applications, from antiquity to the present, reveals the method as both the key to much of modern science and engineering, and something of a mathematical adventure.

A Farewell to Ice: A Report from the Arctic by Peter Wadhams (Sept. 1, hardcover, $21.95, ISBN 978-0-19-069115-8) reveals to readers ice’s role on our planet, its history, and the true dimensions of the current global crisis, offering concrete advice about what people can do, and what must be done.


The Friendly Orange Glow: The Untold Story of the PLATO System and the Dawn of Cyberculture by Brian Dear (Nov. 21, hardcover, $40, ISBN 978-1-101-87155-3) is the story of the brilliant, eccentric designers, developers, and denizens of the PLATO system, a computer-assisted instruction platform and network far ahead of its time that has faded almost entirely from public view.


The Ascent of Gravity: The Quest to Understand the Force That Explains Everything by Marcus Chown (Nov. 7, hardcover, $26.95, ISBN 978-1-68177-537-1). Bringing readers up to speed on the greatest challenge ever to confront physics, Chown leads an unforgettable journey from the recognition of the force of gravity in 1666 to the discovery of gravitational waves in 2015.

Following Fifi: My Adventures Among Wild Chimpanzees: Lessons from Our Closest Relatives by John Crocker (Dec. 5, hardcover, $27.95, ISBN 978-1-68177-568-5) raises thought-provoking questions about the evolution of human behavior, reveals the importance of patience and strong family bonds, and provides a greater understanding of what it means to be human.

Penguin/Blue Rider

Defying Reality: The Inside Story of the Virtual Reality Revolution by David M. Ewalt (Sept. 12, hardcover, $26, ISBN 978-1-101-98371-3) chronicles VR’s origins in Cold War military laboratories, and traces it through decades of hype and failed products, to a 19-year-old video-game aficionado whose advancements made the recent breakthroughs in VR possible.

Penguin Press

Soonish: Ten Emerging Technologies That’ll Improve and/or Ruin Everything by Zach Weinersmith and Kelly Weinersmith (Oct. 17, hardcover, $30, ISBN 978-0-399-56382-9). The creators of the popular web comic Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal highlight this hilarious illustrated investigation into the technologies of the near future, including deep space travel and 3-D organ printing.

Princeton Univ.

A Different Kind of Animal: How Culture Transformed Our Species by Robert Boyd (Oct. 30, hardcover, $27.95, ISBN 978-0-691-17773-1) argues that culture—humans’ ability to learn from each other—has been the essential ingredient in becoming Earth’s most dominant species. A unique combination of cultural adaptation and large-scale cooperation has transformed our species and assured our survival

The Little Book of Black Holes by Steven S. Gubser and Frans Pretorius (Oct. 3, hardcover, $19.95, ISBN 978-0-691-16372-7) introduces the basics of the special and general theories of relativity. Gubser and Pretorius describe black holes as astrophysical objects and theoretical laboratories in which physicists can test their understanding of gravitational, quantum, and thermal physics.


Inheritors of the Earth: How Nature Is Thriving in an Age of Extinction by Chris D. Thomas (Sept. 5, hardcover, $28, ISBN 978-1-61039-727-8) complicates the standard picture of today’s ecological reality, revealing that we are actually witnessing the first stages of a new mass acceleration of ecological and evolutionary diversity.


Spineless: The Science of Jellyfish and the Art of Growing a Backbone by Juli Berwald (Nov. 7, hardcover, $27, ISBN 978-0-7352-1126-1) blends personal memoir with crystal-clear distillations of science, revealing how jellyfish are a bellwether for the damage humans are inflicting on the Earth and calling for collective efforts to fix the problems we’ve created.


The Sentient Machine: The Coming Age of Artificial Intelligence by Amir Husain (Nov. 21, hardcover, $28, ISBN 978-1-5011-4467-7). Technologist and inventor Husain addresses broad existential questions surrounding the coming of AI, positing that humankind is on the cusp of writing its next, and greatest, creation myth.

Simon & Schuster/TED

Why Dinosaurs Matter by Ken Lacovara (Sept. 19, hardcover, $16.99, ISBN 978-1-5011-2010-7). This eye-opening look into the strange and calamitous event that wiped out the dinosaurs weaves together the story of their existence on Earth with our own. Paleontologist Lacovara explains how understanding dinosaurs can help us better understand our own biology—and our future.


Return of the Grizzly: Sharing the Range with Yellowstone’s Top Predator by Cat Urbigkit (Nov. 7, hardcover, $24.99, ISBN 978-1-5107-2747-2) tells the story of the successful effort to recover this large carnivore, the policy changes and disputes between bear managers and bear advocates, and what recovery means for the people who now live among grizzlies.


Venom: The Secrets of Nature’s Deadliest Weapon by Ronald Jenner and Eivind Undheim (Oct. 10, trade paper, $19.95, ISBN 978-1-58834-454-0) brings readers face to face with some of the most dangerous creatures on the planet as it uncovers the story of venom, as well as its origins, evolution, and uses—by both animals and humans.

St. Martin’s

The Telescope in the Ice: Inventing a New Astronomy at the South Pole by Mark Bowen (Nov. 14, hardcover, $27.99, ISBN 978-1-137-28008-4). IceCube Observatory, a South Pole instrument making the first actual observations of high-energy neutrinos, is the largest particle physics detector ever built. Bowen chronicles the struggle to understand the neutrino and the pioneers and inventors of neutrino astronomy.

Ten Speed

What We See in the Stars: An Illustrated Tour of the Night Sky by Kelsey Oseid (Sept. 26, hardcover, $16.99, ISBN 978-0-399-57953-0). Combining art, mythology, and light science, this richly illustrated guide to the myths, histories, and interpretations of the night sky features stories and information about constellations, planets, comets, the northern lights, and more.

Univ. Of Chicago

Planet of Microbes: The Perils and Potential of Earth’s Essential Life Forms by Ted Anton (Oct. 24, hardcover, $25, ISBN 978-0-226-35394-4) journeys through the most recent discoveries about microbes, revealing their unexpected potential to address some of science’s most pressing problems, including how to combat climate change, clean up the environment, and fight a variety of diseases.

The Science of Sleep: What It Is, How It Works, and Why It Matters by Wallace B. Mendelson (Sept. 20, hardcover, $35, ISBN 978-0-226-38716-1). Addressing one of the major public health issues of the day with cutting-edge research and empathetic understanding, Mendelson offers a definitive illustrated reference guide to sleep science.

Univ. of North Carolina

Runaway: Gregory Bateson, the Double Bind, and the Rise of Ecological Consciousness by Anthony Chaney (Oct. 2, hardcover, $32.95, ISBN 978-1-4696-3173-8) blends intellectual biography with an ambitious reappraisal of the 1960s, using anthropologist Bateson’s life and work to explore the idea that a postmodern ecological consciousness is the true legacy of the decade.

Univ. Press of New England/ForeEdge

Squid Empire: The Rise and Fall of the Cephalopods by Danna Staaf (Oct. 3, hardcover, $27.95, ISBN 978-1-61168-923-5). Before there were fish in the sea, there were cephalopods, and this oceanic adventure spans hundreds of millions of years, from the marine life of the primordial ocean to the calamari on tonight’s menu.

Yale Univ.

The Aliens Among Us: How Invasive Species Are Transforming the Planet—and Ourselves by Leslie Anthony (Oct. 24, hardcover, $30, ISBN 978-0-300-20890-0). With a focus on scientific issues and ecological, health, and other challenges, science journalist Anthony looks at the rapidly growing issue of invasive plants, animals, and microbes around the globe.

Our Senses: Gateways to Consciousness by Robert DeSalle, illus. by Patricia J. Wynne (Nov. 28, hardcover, $30, ISBN 978-0-300-23019-2). This lively, accessible, and unconventional work explores our senses, how they work, what is revealed when they don’t, and how they connect us to the world.