Birding, genetic testing, and science’s battle against disease are among this season’s hot topics. Authors also consider the nature of time, humanity’s impact on the planet, and what the search for extraterrestrials says about life on Earth.
Amber Waves: The Extraordinary Biography of Wheat, from Wild Grass to
World Megacrop, Catherine Zabinski. Univ. of Chicago, Apr. 22 ($26, ISBN 978-0-226-55371-9)
For a sustainability-conscious readership, Zabinski looks at how wheat both enabled the food security necessary for civilization and created new ecological problems.
Biography of Resistance: The Epic Battle Between People and Pathogens
Muhammad H. Zaman. Harper Wave, Apr. 21 ($28.99, ISBN 978-0-06-286297-6)
Zaman warns of the rising number of antibiotic-resistant diseases, while discussing the personal and collective decisions behind a potential public health catastrophe.
The Bird Way: A New Look at How Birds Talk, Work, Play, Parent, and Think
Jennifer Ackerman. Penguin Press, May 5 ($28, ISBN 978-0-7352-2301-1)
In a season rife with bird books, Ackerman follows up The Genius of Birds with this look at how bird behavior and intelligence is, and is not, like that of humans.
The Clock Mirage: Our Myth of Measured Time
Joseph Mazur. Yale Univ., Apr. 21 ($28, ISBN 978-0-300-22932-5)
Exploring an Einsteinian observation—time’s relative nature—Mazur explores differing perceptions of time’s passage in varied settings, from the Amazon rainforest to a NASA space shuttle.
The Dream Universe: How Fundamental Physics Lost Its Way
David Lindley. Doubleday, Mar. 17 ($27.95, ISBN 978-0-385-54385-9)
As physics grows ever more complex and theoretical, Lindley charges his discipline with drifting too far away from its basis in measurable and observable phenomena.
Merlin Sheldrake. Random House, May 12 ($27, ISBN 978-0-525-51031-4)
In this debut, Sheldrake looks at the world of fungi, a form of life much different from any other easily observable by humans, and crucial to almost all organisms on Earth.
Fathoms: The World in the Whale
Rebecca Giggs. Simon & Schuster, July 28 ($26, ISBN 978-1-982120-69-6)
Giggs, another first-time author, shares her research into how whales communicate with each other and her observations on how humans interact with and affect these mammals.
The Lost Family: How DNA Testing Is Uncovering Secrets, Reuniting Relatives, and Upending Who We Are
Libby Copeland. Abrams, Mar. 3 ($27, ISBN 978-1-4197-4300-9)
Addressing the timely subject of personal genetic testing, Copeland explores the wider ramifications—for individuals, families, and societies—of an increasingly popular technology.
The Sirens of Mars: Searching for Life on Another World
Sarah Stewart Johnson. Crown, June 16 ($28.99, ISBN 978-1-101-90481-7)
Johnson, a Georgetown University planetary scientist, chronicles the century-spanning search for life on Mars and discusses the red planet as a mirror of earthly dreams and anxieties.
Mind, Matter, and Our Search for Meaning in an Evolving Universe
Brian Greene. Knopf, Feb. 18 ($30, ISBN 978-1-5247-3167-0)
The author of the bestselling The Elegant Universe considers the human search for meaning in the context of the full life span of the universe.
What Is Color? 50 Questions and Answers on the Science of Color by Arielle and Joann Eckstut (Apr. 28, $24.99, ISBN 978-1-4197-3451-9). The coauthors of The Secret Language of Color offer a graphics-heavy guide to the science of color, addressing 50 of the most commonly asked questions about the topic, across a number of different scientific disciplines.
The Bilingual Brain: And What It Tells Us About the Science of Language by Albert Costa, trans. by John W. Schwieter (May 1, $29.95, ISBN 978-0-241-39151-8). Noting that more than half of the people in the world are bilingual, Costa looks at this ability’s cognitive basis, drawing on numerous studies to explore bilingualism’s effect on the brain.
Sloths: A Celebration of the World’s Most Misunderstood Mammal by William Hartston (Mar. 1, $14.95 trade paper, ISBN 978-1-78649-425-2) covers the evolutionary history and extant scientific data on the sloth, whose appreciation among the general public has greatly increased in recent years.
The Remarkable Life of the Skin: An Intimate Journey Across Our Largest Organ by Monty Lyman (June 2, $27, ISBN 978-0-8021-2940-6) looks at the myriad functions and roles of the skin, reminding readers that it is not just a covering for flesh and bone, but a complex and dynamic organ in its own right.
The Idea of the Brain: A History by Matthew Cobb (Apr. 21, $32, ISBN 978-1-5416-4685-8) traces evolving conceptions of the brain over the centuries, connecting these changing ideas to the emergence of new technologies—whereas today’s dominant metaphor for the brain is a computer, he observes, at one time it was a telegraph.
We Know It When We See It: What the Neurobiology of Vision Tells Us about How We Think by Richard Masland (Mar. 10, $30, ISBN 978-1-5416). A neuroscientist at Harvard explains the interface between the eye and the brain, looking at how this process converts light into information.
Mapping Humanity: How Modern Genetics Is Changing Criminal Justice, Personalized Medicine, and Our Identities by Joshua Z. Rappoport (July 7, $17.95 trade paper, ISBN 978-1-950665-08-2) explores the impact of the greatly increased amount of genetic information available to the public; from a professor of molecular cellular biology.
Life Changing: How Humans Are Altering Life on Earth by Helen Pilcher (Apr. 7, $28, ISBN 978-1-4729-5671-2) examines various ways in which humans have changed other species at the genetic level, from the breeding of domestic animals, to the developments of methods for directly intervening in DNA, as well as the new evolutionary pressures accompanying climate change.
Unfit for Purpose by Adam Hart (July 14, $28, ISBN 978-1-4729-7099-2). The biologist and broadcaster looks at the mismatch between humans’ evolved traits and their created world. Topics covered include the impact on the microbiome of indoor lifestyles and the psychological cost of the fight-or-flight response to stress.
The Dangerous Snakes of Africa by Steve Spawls and Bill Branch (June 16, $40, trade paper, ISBN 978-1-4729-6026-9) consists of a thorough guide to the venomous snakes of Africa. The authors look at 136 dangerous species, along with 70 species that are easily confused with venomous ones.
The Cosmic Revolutionary’s Handbook: (or: How to Beat the Big Bang) by Luke A. Barnes and Geraint F. Lewis (Feb. 29, $22.95, ISBN 978-1-108-48670-5) provides a tour of modern cosmology, while acknowledging the continuing debate over major tenets of the field, such as the big bang and dark matter.
Galaxies: Inside the Universe’s Star Cities by David J. Eicher (May 19, $30, ISBN 978-0-525-57431-6). The editor-in-chief of Astronomy looks at the characteristics and unusual features of different galaxies within the universe, illustrated by full-color photos from the magazine’s archives.
On the Prowl: In Search of Big Cat Origins by Mark Hallett and John M. Harris (June 2, $35, ISBN 978-0-231-18450-2) investigates the evolutionary history of big cats, emphasizing the often detrimental impact of humans. Hallett provides illustrations showing what paleontologists believe now-extinct kinds of big cats looked like.
Desert Notebooks: A Road Map for the End of Time by Ben Ehrenreich (July 7, $26, ISBN 978-1-64009-353-9) considers the issue of climate change in a narrative that combines the author’s personal experiences with considerations of geologies and ecologies of desert spaces, in particular Joshua Tree and the area outside of Las Vegas.
Trees in Trouble: Wildfires, Infestations, and Climate Change Hit the West by Daniel Mathews (Apr. 7, $26, ISBN 978-1-64009-135-1) examines the damaging effects environmental deterioration has had on the U.S.’s western pine forests, once-resilient and stable places now in the midst of large-scale and rapid change.
How the Brain Works: The Facts Visually Explained by the editors of DK (Mar. 10, $22, ISBN 978-1-4654-8979-1) aims to make the workings of the human mind accessible to a lay audience. This visual guide begins with the structure of the brain, before moving on to function, and also includes a chapter on brain disorders.
The Book of Eels: Our Enduring Fascination with the Most Mysterious Creature in the Natural World by Patrik Svensson (May 5, $27.99, ISBN 978-0-06-296881-4) reflects on the many puzzles surrounding the European eel, Anguilla anguilla, whose life cycle is still largely a mystery to science.
The Elements We Live By: How Iron Helps Us Breathe, Potassium Lets Us See, and Other Surprising Superpowers of the Periodic Table by Anja Røyne (May 26, $18.95, ISBN 978-1-61519-645-6). Physicist Røyne explains the role played by different elements within the human body, and visits various sites around the world where these elements can be found.
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
The Better Half: On the Genetic Superiority of Women by Sharon Moalem (Apr. 7, $27, ISBN 978-1-250-17478-9) looks at the edge enjoyed by females over males at multiple stages of life, in terms of resiliency, intellect, stamina, and immunity, and uses this data to argue against a male-centric approach to medicine.
Footprints: In Search of Future Fossils by David Farrier (Mar. 3, $27, ISBN 978-
0-374-15733-3) surveys the historical artifacts that modern-day human activity will leave behind for the distant future, such as carbon in the atmosphere and nuclear waste buried within the earth.
Strange Bedfellows: Adventures into the Science, History, and Surprising Secrets of STDs by Ina Park (July 28, $27.99, ISBN 978-1-250-20662-6). A professor at UCSF and medical director at the California Prevention Training Center explores sexually transmitted diseases on the cellular, individual, and population level, delivering safety tips and illustrative stories from history. 50,000-copy announced first printing.
From Here to There: The Art and Science of Finding and Losing Our Way by Michael Bond (May 12, $29.95, ISBN 978-0-674-24457-3) draws on research from psychologists, neuroscientists, animal behaviorists, and anthropologists to explore the cognitive roots of humans’ navigational and spatial abilities.
The Scientific Method: An Evolution of Thinking from Darwin to Dewey by Henry M. Cowles (Apr. 14, $35, ISBN 978-
0-674-97619-1) examines the history of the idea that a single, teachable scientific method exists across disciplines. Finding that this concept is just over a century old, Cowles looks at how it took hold in laboratories and schools.
The Tragedy of American Science: From Truman to Trump by Clifford D. Conner (May 5, $26.95, ISBN 978-1-64259-127-9). A historian of science critiques American science as being overly corporatized and militarized, and having caused significant harm since WWII in such areas as food, water, air, medicine, and the climate.
Becoming Wild: How Animal Cultures Raise Families, Create Beauty, and Achieve Peace by Carl Safina (Apr. 14, $32.50, ISBN 978-1-250-17333-1). Proposing that culture is not strictly a human feature, conservationist Safina looks at the cultures of three different species: sperm whales, scarlet macaws, and chimpanzees.
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
White Feathers: The Nesting Lives of Tree Swallows by Bernd Heinrich (Feb. 18, $27, ISBN 978-1-328-60441-5). The author of Ravens in Winter and A Naturalist at Large scrutinizes the lives of wild birds through his interactions with a pair of tree swallows who nest at his Maine cabin.
Birder on Berry Lane: Three Acres, Twelve Months, Thousands of Birds by Robert Tougias
(Mar. 17, $19.99, ISBN 978-1-62354-541-3). A birder and naturalist provides a month-by-month guide to the birds that flock to the backyard of his house in suburban Connecticut.
The Future We Choose: Surviving the Climate Crisis by Christiana Figueres and Tom Rivett-Carnac (Feb. 25, $23, ISBN 978-0-525-65835-1). The architects of the 2015 Paris Climate Change Agreement explain how the world can become carbon neutral, and what the consequences will be if it does not. 75,000-copy announced first printing.
What It’s Like to Be a Bird: What Birds Are Doing, and Why—From Flying to Nesting, Eating to Singing by David Allen Sibley (Apr. 14, $40, ISBN 978-0-307-95789-4) addresses frequently asked questions about commonly seen species, gearing discussion toward nonbirders. More than 430 illus. by the author. 60,000-copy announced first printing.
Little, Brown Spark
Rivers of Power: How a Natural Force Raised Kingdoms, Destroyed Civilizations, and Shapes Our World by Laurence C. Smith (Apr. 21, $29, ISBN 978-0-316-41200-1). The geographer and professor of earth, planetary, and space sciences gives a natural history of rivers that reveals their profound effect on the course of human history.
The Alchemy of Us: How Humans and Matter Transformed One Another by Ainissa Ramirez (Mar. 10, $27.95, ISBN 978-0-262-04380-9) discusses eight inventions—clocks, steel rails, copper communication cables, photographic film, light bulbs, hard disks, scientific labware, and silicon chips—and their societal impact.
The Matter of Facts: Skepticism, Persuasion, and Evidence in Science by Gareth and Rhodri Leng (May 12, $29.95, ISBN 978-0-262-04388-5) addresses recent questions about modern science’s reliability by giving a detailed account of how scientists produce and use evidence, and explaining how problems, such as bias, can arise in data.
When Blood Breaks Down: Lessons from Leukemia by Mikkael A. Sekeres (Apr. 21, $29.95, ISBN 978-0-262-04372-4). A cancer specialist and writer for the New York Times explores the science of leukemia and its treatment through the stories of three patients.
National Geographic Society
Gory Details: Adventures from the Dark Side of Science by Erika Engelhaupt (May 12, $26, ISBN 978-1-4262-2097-5). The blogger for National Geographic’s Gory Details takes a humorous look at the odd, morbid, and even stomach-churning aspects of biology, anatomy, space exploration, nature, and other scientific fields.
Insect Cuisine: Changing the Future of Food, Farming, and Nutrition by Robert Nathan Allen and Justin Butner (Apr. 7, $18.95 trade paper, ISBN 978-1-62317-403-3). The authors explain why insects, a long-time dietary staple of different cultures around the world, are attracting increased interest from American chefs, farmers, and scientists, as a sustainable food source.
The Incredible Journey of Plants by Stefano Mancuso, trans. by Gregory Conti (Mar. 17, $24.99, ISBN 978-1-63542-991-6). Mancuso, an Italian neurobiologist, shares stories of how plants have migrated around the world, via a variety of methods: dispersal by wind, rolling on the ground, being carried by animals or water, or a simple fall.
DNA Demystified: Unraveling the Double Helix by Alan McHughen (June 1, $29.95, ISBN 978-0-19-009296-2). Addressing an era that finds personal genetic testing kits in homes and GMO foods in stores, McHughen corrects widespread errant beliefs about genetics and DNA—such as that genes can “skip a generation”—and explains basic facts.
Some Assembly Required: Decoding Four Billion Years of Life, from Ancient Fossils to DNA by Neil Shubin (Mar. 17, $26.95, ISBN 978-1-101-87133-1). The author of Your Inner Fish gives a new view of the evolution of human and animal life informed by evidence both from archaic fossils and new DNA technology.
Alien Oceans: The Search for Life in the Depths of Space by Kevin Hand (Apr. 7, $27.95, ISBN 978-0-691-17951-3). A NASA scientist looks to the water-rich moons of Jupiter and Saturn, such as Europa, Titan, and Enceladus, as promising sites for the search for life beyond the Earth.
The World According to Physics by Jim Al-Khalili (Mar. 3, $16.95, ISBN 978-0-691-18230-8). A quantum physicist and BBC host introduces modern physics by explaining its fundamental concepts of space, time, energy, and matter, then describing the field’s three pillars—quantum theory, relativity, and thermodynamics.
How to Understand E=mc2 by Christophe Galfard (June 9, $9.99, ISBN 978-1-78648-495-6). A Stephen Hawking–trained theoretical physicist seeks to explain the implications of Albert Einstein’s most famous equation in an accessible and topical manner, in this entry in Quercus’s Little Ways to Live a Big Life series.
Hacking Planet Earth: How Geoengineering Can Help Us Reimagine the Future by Thomas M. Kostigen (Mar. 24, $27, ISBN 978-0-593-18754-8) delves into the technological tools for mitigating climate change—giant parasols hovering above the Earth; lasers shot up into clouds to elicit rainfall—and also profiles the scientists behind these methods.
Univ. of Alabama
André Michaux in North America: Journals and Letters, 1785–1797, trans. and edited by Charlie Williams, Eliane M. Norman, and Walter Kingsley Taylor (Mar. 10, $54.95, ISBN 978-0-8173-2030-0), is the first complete English-language edition of French naturalist Michaux’s journals of his botanical expeditions through North America, during which time he found hundreds of plant species previously unknown to science.
Univ. of Chicago
The Chemical Age: How Chemists Fought Famine and Disease, Killed Millions, and Changed Our Relationship with the Earth by Frank Von Hippel (Apr. 22, $29, ISBN 978-0-226-69724-6) recounts how scientists have used chemistry against famine and disease, beginning in the 1840s, when the potato blight in Ireland impelled the development of pesticides, the unintended consequences of which were discovered only later.
Univ. of Washington
The Great Quake Debate: The Crusader, the Skeptic, and the Rise of Modern Seismology by Susan Hough (July 1, $29.95, ISBN 978-0-295-74736-1) shares a story from the research seismologist’s profession’s early years, in the first few decades of the 20th century, when two scientists clashed over a consequential question—Southern California’s susceptibility to earthquakes.
The Conservation Revolution: Radical Ideas for Saving Nature Beyond the Anthropocene by Bram Buscher and Robert Fletcher (Feb. 11, $24.95 trade paper, ISBN 978-1-78873-771-5) places the concept of the Anthropocene within an anticapitalist context, proposing nonmarket-based methods for conserving endangered species and avoiding the “sixth extinction” crisis that some observers fear.
Charles Darwin’s Barnacle and David Bowie’s Spider: How Scientific Names Celebrate Adventurers, Heroes, and Even a Few Scoundrels by Stephen B. Heard, illus. by Emily S. Damstra (Mar. 17, $28, ISBN 978-0-300-23828-0), looks at amusing and illustrative stories of taxonomic nomenclature, going back to Carl Linnaeus’s 18th-century creation of the binomial system of scientific names.
This article has been updated with new bibliographic information for some titles.