There’s no end to meditations on and investigations of humankind’s big questions. Examinations of the self, human nature, and our place in the universe abound in these notable spring science titles.
Aroused: The History of Hormones and How They Control Just About Everything
Randi Hutter Epstein. Norton, June 26
Epstein tours the strange science of hormones and the age-old quest to control them, introducing readers to leading scientists in the field as she explains the functions of various hormones.
The Big Ones: How Natural Disasters Have Shaped Us (and What We Can Do About Them)
Lucy Jones. Doubleday, Apr. 17
Seismologist Jones looks at some of history’s most influential natural disasters, assesses their impact on our culture, and proposes new ways of thinking about the ones to come.
Exactly: A Brief History of Precision
Simon Winchester. Harper, May 8
Winchester shares the stories of the people who conceived the relatively new and largely unexplored idea of precision and the ways in which it has shaped the modern world.
The Order of Time
Carlo Rovelli. Riverhead, May 8
Rovelli pulls from literature, philosophy, and science to deliver a rich appreciation of both the mysteries of time and those who’ve tried to puzzle out the nature of this phenomenon.
Our Universe: An Astronomer’s Guide
Jo Dunkley. Harvard Univ./Belknap, Mar. 12
Dunkley charts the universe’s evolution and explains an array of perplexing phenomena, illuminating many mysteries about some of the deepest questions humans have ever asked.
Rising: Dispatches from the New American Shore
Elizabeth Rush. Milkweed, June 12
Rush guides readers through America’s disappearing wetland ecosystems, blending firsthand accounts of those experiencing these changes with eyewitness reporting and scientific research.
The Seabird’s Cry: The Lives and Loves of the Planet’s Great Ocean Voyagers
Adam Nicolson. Holt, Feb. 6
Nicolson fuses the poetic and the scientific as he follows 10 species to understand their voyages, their ability to navigate over the oceans, and the ways they use smell to find food and home.
Searching for Stars on an Island in Maine
Alan Lightman. Pantheon, Mar. 27
Meditating on religion and science, Lightman probes the tension between a human yearning for certainty and the uncertainty of nature, as well as the ways we’ve approached these concepts.
She Has Her Mother’s Laugh: What Heredity Is, Is Not, and May Become
Carl Zimmer. Dutton, May 29
Zimmer recounts the history of understanding heredity and how it has shaped society, tackling ethical quandaries, as well as presumptions about our selves and future along the way.
You Can Stop Humming Now: A Doctor’s Stories of Life, Death, and in Between
Daniela J. Lamas. Little, Brown, Mar. 27
Lamas, a critical care doctor, investigates what it really means to be saved by modern medicine as she shares intimate accounts of patients, their families, and the situations they face.
Plant Revolution: How Plants Have Already Invented Our Future by Stefano Mancuso (Mar. 27, hardcover, $28, ISBN 978-1-5011-8785-8) uncovers some essential truths about plants and reveals the surprisingly sophisticated ability of plants to innovate, remember, and learn. Plants, Mancuso notes, may offer creative solutions to the most vexing technological and ecological problems of today.
The Biological Mind: How Brain, Body, and Environment Collaborate to Make Us Who We Are by Alan Jasanoff (Mar. 13, hardcover, $30, ISBN 978-0-465-05268-4). The brain is a bodily organ and cannot be separated from its surroundings, posits pioneering neuroscientist Jasanoff. Only when people come to terms with this reality, he asserts, can they grasp the true nature of their humanity.
Lost in Math: How Beauty Leads Physics Astray by Sabine Hossenfelder (June 12, hardcover, $30, ISBN 978-0-465-09425-7) argues that the physics world’s preoccupation with beauty has become so dogmatic that it now conflicts with scientific objectivity. Hossenfelder writes that only by embracing messiness and complexity can science discover the truth, not as one might prefer it, but as it is.
The Truth About Animals: Stoned Sloths, Lovelorn Hippos, and Other Tales from the Wild Side of Wildlife by Lucy Cooke (Apr. 17, hardcover, $28, ISBN 978-0-465-09464-6). Few people have probably considered whether moose get drunk, penguins cheat on their mates, or worker ants lay about. Cooke takes readers on a worldwide journey to discover the strange secret habits of the animal kingdom.
Fallout: Disasters, Lies, and the Legacy of the Nuclear Age by Fred Pearce (May 22, hardcover, $26.95, ISBN 978-0-8070-9249-1). Environmental journalist Pearce travels the globe to investigate humankind’s complicated, seven-decade-long relationship with nuclear technology, including weaponry, accidents, and waste. His examination surveys the relationship between a powerful technology and human politics, foibles, fears, and arrogance.
A Wilder Time: Notes from a Geologist at the Edge of the Greenland Ice by William E. Glassley (Feb. 13, trade paper, $17.99, ISBN 978-1-942658-34-4). Glassley recounts his and two fellow geologists’ travels to Greenland to collect evidence to prove a contested theory that plate tectonics is a much more ancient process than some believed.
Lamarck’s Revenge: How Epigenetics Is Revolutionizing Our Understanding of Evolution’s Past and Present by Peter Ward (July 17, hardcover, $28, ISBN 978-1-63286-615-8). Advances in the study of DNA and RNA have resurrected epigenetics, a complex process regarding heritable genetic mutations that paleontologist and astrobiologist Ward breaks down for general readers.
Catching Stardust: Comets, Asteroids and the Birth of the Solar System by Natalie Starkey (June 5, hardcover, $27, ISBN 978-1-4729-4400-9) takes a deep look at comets to gauge how these ancient voyagers can be better used to understand our place in the solar system. According to Starkey, comets reveal how Earth became the planet it is today.
Eye of the Shoal: A Fish-Watcher’s Guide to Life, the Ocean and Everything by Helen Scales (July 3, hardcover, $27, ISBN 978-1-4729-3684-4) shares the secrets of fish, presenting them as clever, emotional, singing, thoughtful creatures. Scales leads an underwater expedition to watch these creatures going about the hidden but glorious business of being a fish.
Making the Monster: The Science Behind Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein by Kathryn Harkup (Feb. 6, hardcover, $27, ISBN 978-1-4729-3373-7). To mark the centenary of the publication of Frankenstein: Or, Modern Prometheus by Mary Shelley, Harkup examines the science and scientists that influenced Shelley and inspired her most famous creation.
Sustainable Medicine: Whistle-Blowing on 21st-Century Medical Practice by Sarah Myhill (Mar. 7, trade paper, $19.95, ISBN 978-1-60358-789-1) seeks to empower people to heal themselves by addressing the underlying causes of their illnesses. Myhill’s work moves from identifying symptoms, through understanding underlying mechanisms, to relevant means for tackling root causes.
The Doctor Will See You Now: Essays on the Changing Practice of Medicine by Cory Franklin (Apr. 1, trade paper, $16.99, ISBN 978-0-89733-929-2). This eclectic collection of 50 short essays explores evolving patient-physician relationships and reporting on medicine. Dr. Franklin open his office to readers, discussing the modern practice of medicine and how it changes.
A Matter of Taste: A Farmer’s Market Devotee’s Semi-reluctant Argument for Inviting Scientific Innovation to the Dinner Table by Rebecca Tucker (Apr. 24, trade paper, $13.95, ISBN 978-1-55245-367-4) questions whether farmer’s markets, locavorism, organic eating, CSAs, whole foods, and Whole Foods are producing food that is morally, environmentally, and economically sustainable.
The Big Ones: How Natural Disasters Have Shaped Us (and What We Can Do about Them) by Lucy Jones (Apr. 17, hardcover, $26.95, ISBN 978-0-385-54270-8) looks at some of history’s most influential natural disasters, assesses their impact on culture, and proposes new ways of thinking about the ones to come.
The Future of Humanity: Terraforming Mars, Interstellar Travel, Immortality, and Our Destiny Beyond Earth by Michio Kaku (Feb. 20, hardcover, $28.95, ISBN 978-0-385-54276-0) details the process by which humanity may gradually move away from the planet and develop a sustainable civilization in outer space. Kaku reveals cutting-edge developments in robotics, nanotechnology, and biotechnology.
The Plant Messiah: Adventures in Search of the World’s Rarest Species by Carlos Magdalena (Apr. 10, hardcover, $26.95, ISBN 978-0-385-54361-3) spans the globe in search of rare and vulnerable flora species. Back in the lab, Magdalena develops groundbreaking techniques to rescue species from extinction, encouraging them to propagate and thrive.
Pleasure Shock: The Rise of Deep Brain Stimulation and Its Forgotten Inventor by Lone Frank (Mar. 20, hardcover, $28, ISBN 978-1-101-98653-0) uncovers lost documents and accounts of Robert Heath’s pioneering and controversial brain pacemaker, which the Tulane psychiatrist developed in the 1950s and 1960s. Frank discusses the history and resurgence of deep brain stimulation.
She Has Her Mother’s Laugh: What Heredity Is, Is Not, and May Become by Carl Zimmer (May 29, hardcover, $30, ISBN 978-1-101-98459-8) runs through the history of our understanding of heredity and how it has shaped society. Zimmer tackles urgent bioethical quandaries as well as presumptions about who we are and what we can share with future generations.
A Feast of Science: Intriguing Morsels from the Science of Everyday Life by Joe Schwarcz (May 22, trade paper, $17.95, ISBN 978-1-77041-192-0) aims to demystify the world of chemistry and satiate readers’ hunger for credible and useful scientific knowledge. Schwarcz shows that chemical should not be confused with toxic.
Atom Land: A Guided Tour Through the Strange (and Impossibly Small) World of Particle Physics by Jon Butterworth (Mar. 20, hardcover, $19.95, ISBN 978-1-61519-373-8) makes the unbelievably small world of particle physics fun and accessible. CERN physicist Butterworth conjures a rich landscape of electron ports, boson continents, and hadron islands in the subatomic sea.
What the Future Looks Like: Leading Science Experts Reveal the Surprising Discoveries and Ingenious Solutions That Are Shaping Our World, edited by Jim Al-Khalili (Apr. 17, trade paper, $14.95, ISBN 978-1-61519-470-4), covers an array of cutting-edge scientific developments and attempts to solve intractable problems. Al-Khalili’s team of experts discusses genomics, robotics, interstellar travel, and more.
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Evolutions: Fifteen Myths That Explain Our World by Oren Harman (June 5, hardcover, $26, ISBN 978-0-374-15070-9) assesses how the language of science has replaced old mythologies and sets out to reawaken, through modern science, a sense of wonder and terror at the wider world.
When Einstein Walked with Gödel: Excursions to the Edge of Thought by Jim Holt (May 15, hardcover, $28, ISBN 978-0-374-14670-2) probes the mysteries of quantum mechanics, the quest for the foundations of mathematics, and the nature of logic and truth. Holt crafts intimate biographical sketches of an array of celebrated and neglected thinkers.
Natural Causes: An Epidemic of Wellness, the Certainty of Dying, and Our Illusion of Control by Barbara Ehrenreich (Apr. 10, hardcover, $27, ISBN 978-1-4555-3591-0) topples the shibboleths that guide people’s attempts to live a long, healthy life. Ehrenreich’s razor-sharp polemic presents a new understanding of our bodies, ourselves, and our place in the universe.
Exactly: A Brief History of Precision by Simon Winchester (May 8, hardcover, $28.99, ISBN 978-0-06-265255-3) examines the seldom-considered and relatively recent development of the notion of precision. Winchester shares the stories of the people who conceived the idea of precision and the ways in which it has shaped the modern world.
Superbugs: An Arms Race Against Bacteria by William Hall, Anthony McDonnell, and Jim O’Neill (Apr. 9, hardcover, $29.95, ISBN 978-0-674-97598-9) outlines the systemic failures that have led to a crisis of antibiotic-resistant superbugs. The authors propose countering this threat through agricultural policy changes, an industrial research stimulus, and other broad-scale economic and social incentives.
Universe in Creation: A New Understanding of the Big Bang and the Emergence of Life by Roy R. Gould (May 7, hardcover, $24.95, ISBN 978-0-674-97607-8) adopts a fresh perspective on how the universe came to be, evolved, and gave rise to life. Gould investigates whether life was written into the most basic laws of nature.
Our Universe: An Astronomer’s Guide by Jo Dunkley (Mar. 12, hardcover, $25.95, ISBN 978-0-674-98428-8) illuminates the structure and history of the universe, as well as enduring mysteries about some of the deepest questions humans have ever asked. Astrophysicist Dunkley charts the universe’s evolution and explains an array of perplexing phenomena.
The Seabird’s Cry: The Lives and Loves of the Planet’s Great Ocean Voyagers by Adam Nicolson (Feb. 6, hardcover, $32, ISBN 978-1-250-13418-9) follows 10 bird species in a poetic and scientific journey to understand these birds’ epic voyages, their astonishing ability to navigate over the oceans, and the ways they use smell to find food and home.
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Human Errors: A Panorama of Our Glitches, from Pointless Bones to Broken Genes by Nathan H. Lents (May 1, hardcover, $27, ISBN 978-1-328-97469-3) tours the physical imperfections that make humans human. Biologist Lents runs the gamut of evolutionary history’s litany of mistakes and how humans have dealt with them.
Naturalist at Large: The Best Essays of Bernd Heinrich by Bernd Heinrich (May 8, hardcover, $25, ISBN 978-0-544-98683-1) spans several decades as it collects essays on ravens and other birds, insects, trees, elephants, and more. This is an engaging record of a life spent in close observation of the natural world.
The Curious Life of Krill: A Conservation Story from the Bottom of the World by Stephen Nicol (May 8, hardcover, $30, ISBN 978-1-61091-853-4) uses humor and personal stories to reveal the biology and beauty of krill—one of Earth’s most abundant creatures, yet also one of it’s most enigmatic and poorly understood.
Johns Hopkins Univ.
The Fears of the Rich, the Needs of the Poor: My Years at the CDC by William H. Foege (May 13, hardcover, $24.95, ISBN 978-1-4214-2529-0). The former CDC director shares stories of pivotal moments in public health, including the eradication of smallpox and the discovery of Legionnaires’ disease, Reye syndrome, toxic shock syndrome, and HIV/AIDS.
Kings of the Yukon: One Summer Paddling Across the Far North by Adam Weymouth (May 22, hardcover, $28, ISBN 978-0-316-39670-7) recounts the author’s 2016 canoe voyage up the length of the Yukon River to learn the story of salmon, their remarkable journey, and the communities and people whose lives depend on them.
You Can Stop Humming Now: A Doctor’s Stories of Life, Death, and in Between by Daniela J. Lamas (Mar. 27, hardcover, $28, ISBN 978-0-316-39317-1) scrutinizes the complex answers to the question of what it means to be saved by modern medicine. Lamas shares intimate accounts of patients, their families, and the situations they face.
Rising: Dispatches from the New American Shore by Elizabeth Rush (June 12, trade paper, $18, ISBN 978-1-57131-367-6) guides readers through America’s disappearing wetland ecosystems, including in Louisiana, Miami, Staten Island, and the Bay Area. Rush blends firsthand accounts of those experiencing these changes with scientists’ voices and eyewitness reporting.
The Synthetic Age: Outdesigning Evolution, Resurrecting Species, and Reengineering Our World by Christopher J. Preston (Mar. 9, hardcover, $25.95, ISBN 978-0-262-03761-7) describes a range of technologies that will reconfigure the Earth in drastic ways, arguing that the most startling aspect of this coming epoch is how much deliberate shaping humans will start to do.
The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs: A New History of a Lost World by Stephen Brusatte (Apr. 24, hardcover, $29.99, ISBN 978-0-06-249042-1) tells the grand story of the dinosaurs, analyzing their origins, habitats, extinction, and legacy. Paleontologist Brusatte offers thrilling accounts from his decadelong journey studying these legendary beasts.
Aroused: The History of Hormones and How They Control Just About Everything by Randi Hutter Epstein (June 26, hardcover, $26.95, ISBN 978-0-393-23960-7) tours the strange science of hormones and the age-old quest to control them. Epstein introduces readers to leading scientists in the field as she explains the functions various hormones.
Losing the Nobel Prize: A Story of Cosmology, Ambition, and the Perils of Science’s Highest Honor by Brian Keating (Apr. 24, hardcover, $27.95, ISBN 978-1-324-00091-4) tells the inside story of the BICEP (Background Imaging of Cosmic Extragalactic Polarization) experiments, while discussing the various ways that the Nobel Prize hampers scientific progress.
Burning Planet: The Story of Fire Through Time by Andrew C Scott (June 1, hardcover, $27.95, ISBN 978-0-19-873484-0) relates the full story of fire’s impact on Earth’s atmosphere, climate, vegetation, ecology, and the evolution of plant and animal life. Scott examines fire today and looks toward the future.
Deadly Companions: How Microbes Shaped Our History by Dorothy H. Crawford (Apr. 8, trade paper, $12.95, ISBN 978-0-19-881544-0). Microbes have shaped human culture through infection, disease, and pandemic, but Crawford shows that we have also influenced their evolution as she traces the interlinked history of microbes and humans.
Elastic: Flexible Thinking in a Time of Change by Leonard Mlodinow (Mar. 20, hardcover, $27.95, ISBN 978-1-101-87092-1). Drawing on the latest research in neuroscience and psychology, Mlodinow traces the mechanics of our own minds. He describes “elastic thinking” and lays out how it may help people navigate a fast-changing world.
Searching for Stars on an Island in Maine by Alan Lightman (Mar. 27, hardcover, $25, ISBN 978-1-101-87186-7). Meditating on religion and science, Lightman probes the tension between a human yearning for certainty and the uncertain nature of the world, as well as the ways humans have approached these concepts historically.
The Secret Life of Cows by Rosamund Young (June 12, hardcover, $23, ISBN 978-0-525-55731-9) distills a lifetime of wisdom gained while operating an organic farm in Worcestershire, England, describing the surprising personalities of her cows and other animals. Young shares how these creatures love, play games, and form lifelong friendships.
Genetics in the Madhouse: The Unknown History of Human Heredity by Theodore M. Porter (May 29, hardcover, $35, ISBN 978-0-691-16454-0) reveals the previously untold story of how collecting and sorting hereditary data in mental hospitals, schools for “feebleminded” children, and prisons gave rise to the science of human heredity.
Unnatural Selection by Katrina Van Grouw (June 5, hardcover, $45, ISBN 978-0-691-15706-1) fuses art, science, and history as it pays tribute to Darwin’s monumental work, The Variation of Animals and Plants under Domestication, on the 150th anniversary of its publication.
My Plastic Brain: One Woman’s Yearlong Journey to Discover If Science Can Improve Her Mind by Caroline Williams (Mar. 13, hardcover, $24, ISBN 978-1-63388-391-8) investigates the concept of “neuroplasticity,” using the author herself as a guinea pig, to find out whether she can make meaningful, lasting changes to the way her brain works.
Turning Points: How Critical Events Have Driven Human Evolution, Life, and Development by Kostas Kampourakis (Feb. 6, hardcover, $25, ISBN 978-1-63388-329-1) introduces to laypersons central concepts in the study of evolution. Kampourakis aims to dispel misconceptions as he presents current research in accessible terms.
The Order of Time by Carlo Rovelli (May 8, hardcover, $20, ISBN 978-0-7352-1610-5) pulls from literature, philosophy, and science to deliver a rich appreciation of the mysteries of time. Rovelli invites readers to join physicists and philosophers in puzzling out the nature of this phenomenon.
Simon & Schuster
The Human Instinct: How We Evolved to Have Reason, Consciousness, and Free Will by Kenneth R. Miller (Apr. 17, hardcover, $26, ISBN 978-1-4767-9026-8) argues for rejecting the idea that human biological heritage means that thought, action, and imagination are predetermined. Miller instead offers an evolutionary trajectory that considers the creatures that humans have evolved alongside and our own self-awareness.
The Tangled Tree: A Radical New History of Life by David Quammen (July 10, hardcover, $30, ISBN 978-1-4767-7662-0) assesses how recent discoveries in molecular biology may change our understanding of evolution and the history of life, with potential repercussions for human health and even human nature.
Don’t Give Guns to Robots: Choosing Our Future Before It Chooses Us by Adam Savage and Drew Curtis (May 8, hardcover, $27, ISBN 978-1-5011-7053-9) takes a look at many possible unanticipated repercussions of technological innovation. Mythbuster Savage and tech pioneer Curtis address the surprises, threats, and challenges humans will likely face.
Generation Robot: A Century of Science Fiction, Fact, and Speculation by Terri Favro (Feb. 6, hardcover, $24.99, ISBN 978-1-5107-2310-8) offers new perspective on how people’s relationships with robotics and futuristic technologies has shifted over time, letting readers ponder the way techno-triumphs and resulting anxieties bleed into the fantasies of our collective culture.
Darwin’s Fossils: The Collection That Shaped the Theory of Evolution by Adam Lister (Apr. 10, trade paper, $19.95, ISBN 978-1-58834-617-9) accessibly relays how Darwin’s pioneering work on fossils, his adventures in South America, and his relationship with the scientific establishment shaped his scientific thinking and led to his development of the theory of evolution.
Hype: A Doctor’s Guide to Medical Myths, Exaggerated Claims and Bad Advice—How to Tell What’s Real and What’s Not by Nina Shapiro and Kristin Loberg (May 1, hardcover, $26.99, ISBN 978-1-250-14930-5) appraises the nature of health myths and dispels many of them while teaching readers how to navigate the labyrinth of health advice and potential sources of misinformation.
Wayfinding: The Science and Mystery of How Humans Navigate the World by M.R. O’Connor (May 1, hardcover, $26.99, ISBN 978-1-250-09696-8) seeks out neuroscientists, anthropologists, and master navigators to understand how navigation helped shape who we are. O’Connor charts how humans’ deep capacity for exploration, memory, and storytelling results in a love of place.
Univ. of Chicago
Risingtidefallingstar: In Search of the Soul of the Sea by Philip Hoare (Apr. 2, trade paper, $20, ISBN 978-0-226-56052-6). This unconventional book eschews argument and genre as it adopts the characteristics of the seas upon which the author meditates. Readers will encounter nature and travel writing, lyrical memoir, American and English history, and much more.
No Immediate Danger: Volume One of Carbon Ideologies by William T. Vollmann (Apr. 10, hardcover, $40, ISBN 978-0-399-56349-2) reports on the myriad causes of climate change, including industrial manufacturing and agricultural practices, fossil fuel extraction, economic demand for electric power, and the yearning of people all over the world to live in comfort.
Breakpoint: Reckoning with America’s Environmental Crises by Jeremy B.C. Jackson and Steve Chapple (Apr. 24, hardcover, $26, ISBN 978-0-300-17939-2) travels the length of the Mississippi River engaging with farmers, fishermen, scientists, and policymakers to better understand the America’s mounting environmental problems.
Correction: The subtitle for the book Rising: Dispatches from the New American Shore was incorrect in an earlier version of this article.