Authors take on urgent issues this fall, such as climate change and, of course, disease. They also consider timeless themes, including life’s first appearance on Earth and humanity’s aspirations toward the stars.

Top 10

The Alignment Problem: Machine Learning and Human Values

Brian Christian. Norton, Oct. 6 ($27.95, ISBN 978-0-393-63582-9)

Christian, who’s already hit bestseller charts exploring tech’s wider implications, most recently in Algorithms to Live By, discusses reconciling Big Data–based systems with human values and ethics.

The Atlas of Disappearing Places: Our Coasts and Oceans in the Climate Crisis

Christina Conklin and Marina Psaros. New Press, Nov. 3 ($29.99, ISBN 978-1-62097-456-8)

To drive home the climate change threat, Conklin and Psaros share images from and text about some of the places threatened by rising sea levels, from Shanghai to Houston.

Breath from Salt: A Deadly Genetic Disease, a New Era in Science, and the Patients and Families Who Changed Medicine Forever

Bijal P. Trivedi. BenBella, Sept. 8 ($28.95, ISBN 978-1-948836-37-1)

Introducing a possible new route for combating genetic diseases, Trivedi recounts how the fight against cystic fibrosis led to a breakthrough in gene therapy treatments.

Every Life Is On Fire: How Thermodynamics Explains the Origins of Living Things

Jeremy England. Basic, Sept. 15 ($28, ISBN 978-1-5416-9901-4)

Physicist England argues that the law of entropy is the key to the long-standing question of how life arose.

The Human Cosmos: Civilization and the Stars

Jo Marchant. Dutton, Sept. 1 ($28, ISBN 978-0-593-18301-4)

Marchant proposes that stargazing is an essential human activity and looks at how it has influenced science and culture throughout history.

The Great Inoculator: The Untold Story of Daniel Sutton and His Medical Revolution

Gavin Weightman. Yale Univ., Sept. 22 ($30, ISBN 978-0-300-24144-0)

For a world awaiting delivery of one particular vaccine, Weightman’s look at the 18th-century physician who laid the groundwork for vaccination in general holds heightened relevance.

Metazoa: Animal Life and the Birth of the Mind

Peter Godfrey-Smith. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Nov. 10 ($28, ISBN 978-0-374-20794-6)

Following up 2016’s acclaimed Other Minds, which explored how octopuses think, Godfrey-Smith broadens his concern to animal consciousness in general.

The Mission: A True Story

David W. Brown. Custom House, Jan. 26 ($29.99, ISBN 978-0-06-265442-7)

Brown reveals a lesser-known saga of modern science: the long road to launching NASA’s ambitious projected mission to Jupiter’s moon Europa, a possible incubator of life.

An Outsider’s Guide to Humans: What Science Taught Me About What We Do and Who We Are

Camilla Pang. Viking, Dec. 1 ($27, ISBN 978-1-984881-63-2)

Pang, who was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder at an early age, describes how she approaches human interactions using the intellectual tools provided by her work as a scientist.

The Story of Life in 10 1/2 Species

Marianne Taylor. MIT, Oct. 20 ($29.95, ISBN 978-0-262-04448-6)

Science writer Taylor considers biology from a novel perspective: that of an alien intelligence visiting this planet and selecting its most representative specimens of life.



Searching for the Snow Leopard: Guardian of the High Mountains, edited by Shavaun Mara Kidd and Björn Persson (Oct. 6, $35, ISBN 978-1-950691-67-8). Published in conjunction with the Snow Leopard Conservancy, this volume assembles images from wildlife photographers and text from conservationists to introduce readers to this elusive big cat.


Phallacy: Life Lessons from the Animal Penis by Emily Willingham (Sept. 22, $27, ISBN 978-0-593-08717-6) is a humorous survey of penises throughout the animal world, with an emphasis on the more bizarre specimens and a topical message that the male sex organ does not define what it is to be a man.


The Janus Point: A New Theory of Time by Julian Barbour (Dec. 1, $30, ISBN 978-0-465-09546-9). Physicist Barbour proposes a new view of time in light of the Big Bang and the second law of thermodynamics. Where most physicists see the universe becoming gradually more bogged down in disorder, Barbour believes that order is ever increasing.

Meteorite: How Stones from Outer Space Made Our World by Tim Gregory (Oct. 13, $30, ISBN 978-1-5416-4761-9) explores the significance of meteorites for understanding the early development of the solar system, of the Earth, and of life on Earth. Gregory, a geologist, also delves into the diversity of rock types among meteorites.

What to Expect When You’re Expecting Robots: The Future of Human-Robot Collaboration by Laura Major and Julie Shah (Oct. 13, $30, ISBN 978-1-5416-9911-3) represents two robot designers’ look at how their field should be incorporated into everyday life. Major and Shah reckon with the coming rise of robots capable of performing complex tasks without direct human oversight.


The Secret Language of Cells: What Biological Conversations Tell Us about the Brain-Body Connection, the Future of Medicine, and Life Itself by Jon Lieff (Sept. 22, $26.95, ISBN 978-1-948836-04-3). A doctor and neuroscientist seeks to illuminate the connection between body and mind by looking at how communication occurs at the cellular level.


Ageless: The New Science of Getting Older Without Getting Old by Andrew Steele (Dec. 29, $27.95, ISBN 978-0-385-54492-4). Steele, research fellow at the U.K.’s Francis Crick Institute, looks at the science of aging, and at the prospects for medicine effecting a dramatic expansion both in human lifespan and seniors’ quality of life.


Math Without Numbers by Milo Beckman (Oct. 27, $27, ISBN 978-1-5247-4554-7) is a guide to the three main branches of abstract math: topology, analysis, and algebra. Beckman uses accessible examples and philosophical questions to provide those less than enthusiastic about math a way into the subject.


The Fragile Earth: Writing from the New Yorker on Climate Change, edited by David Remnick and Henry Finder (Oct. 6, $29.99, ISBN 978-0-06-301754-2), showcases climate-themed pieces from the magazine’s last three decades, including Bill McKibben’s seminal “The End of Nature,” along with pieces from Jonathan Franzen, Elizabeth Kolbert, Kathryn Schulz, and others.


Canadarm and Collaboration: How Canada’s Astronauts and Space Robots Explore New Worlds by Elizabeth Howell (Oct. 20, $19.95 trade paper, ISBN 978-1-77041-442-6) chronicles Canada’s involvement in international space exploration, pinpointing the major turning point toward a larger role as the country’s 1981 contribution of the Canadarm robotic arm for the space shuttle.

The Experiment

The Hidden Life of Ice: Dispatches from a Disappearing World by Marco Tedesco, with Alberto Flores d’Arcais (Aug. 18, $19.95, ISBN 978-1-61519-699-9). Tedesco shares scientific and historical insight into Arctic ice, discussing the hardy microorganisms that live in it, the famed explorers behind major discoveries about the ice, and the threat posed by climate change.


Strange Sea Creatures by Erich Hoyt (Sept. 1, $24.95, ISBN 978-0-228-10297-7). Hoyt (Creatures of the Deep) discusses unusual marine life forms, from those inhabiting near-surface waters, to those dwelling on the ocean floor. His discussions are supplemented with 90 photographs.


Angry Weather: Heat Waves, Floods, Storms, and the New Science of Climate Change by Friederike Otto, trans. by Sarah Prybus (Sept. 15, $26.95, ISBN 978-1-77164-614-7). University of Oxford researcher Otto introduces attribution science, the new method for identifying what part human-caused climate change plays in triggering extreme weather events.

The Reign of Wolf 21: The Saga of Yellowstone’s Legendary Druid Pack by Rick McIntyre (Sept. 29, $26.95, ISBN 978-1-77164-524-9) looks at the project to reintroduce wolves to Yellowstone Park through the dramatic story of two wolves’ relationship, from their initial meeting to their rise to become alpha male and female of a powerful Yellowstone pack.

The Heartbeat of Trees: Embracing Our Ancient Bond with Forests and Nature by Peter Wohlleben, trans. by Jane Billinghurst (Oct. 13, $26.95, ISBN 978-1-77164-689-5). The follow-up to The Hidden Life of Trees examines the age-old bond between humans and the natural world, drawing on new research into how this relationship benefits people.

Harper Wave

The Cancer Code by Jason Fung (Nov. 10, $27.99, ISBN 978-0-06-289400-7). The author of the bestsellers The Diabetes Code and The Obesity Code issues recommendations for how the medical establishment should pursue the fight against cancer, while decrying the mistakes he sees as having been made in the past. 100,000-copy announced first printing.


Origins of the Universe: The Cosmic Microwave Background and the Search for Quantum Gravity by Keith Cooper (Nov. 10, $15.95 trade paper, ISBN 978-1-78578-642-6). Nearly 60 years ago, scientists discovered the cosmic microwave background, or CMB, radiation dating back to near the Big Bang. Cooper charts the ongoing scientific efforts to understand what the CMB reveals about time and space.

Space 2069: After Apollo: Back to the Moon, to Mars... and Beyond by David Whitehouse (Oct. 13, $27, ISBN 978-1-78578-646-4). Science journalist Whitehouse forecasts the next 50 years in human involvement with the Moon, based on the recent discovery of ice at the lunar south pole and the greater viability for human settlement there.

Johns Hopkins Univ.

Supermath: The Power of Numbers for Good and Evil by Anna Weltman (Sept. 1, $24.95, ISBN 978-1-4214-3819-1) examines math’s many positive applications outside the realm of pure numbers, including by enabling communication, empowering disenfranchised groups, and aiding the fight against disease. Weltman adds a cautionary note by pointing out math’s socially detrimental effects as well.


Not Necessarily Rocket Science: A Beginner’s Guide to Life in the Space Age by Kellie Gerardi (Nov. 17, $22.95, ISBN 978-1-64250-410-1) shares Gerardi’s adventures as an astronaut candidate, such as training for Mars landing missions and testing spacesuits in microgravity, and provides inspiration and guidance for others aspiring to work in aerospace.


Cosmic Odyssey: How Intrepid Astronomers at Palomar Observatory Changed Our View of the Universe by Linda Schweizer (Nov. 24, $39.95, ISBN 978-0-262-04429-5). Astronomer Schweizer chronicles the history of Palomar Obser-vatory in Southern California, discussing how scientists using the observatory’s four telescopes have made discoveries about black holes, exploding stars, colliding galaxies, and more.

Ever Smaller: Nature’s Elementary Particles, from the Atom to the Neutrino and Beyond by Antonio Ereditato, trans. by Erica Segre and Simon Carnell (Oct. 20, $34.95, ISBN 978-0-262-04386-1). Neutrino physicist Ereditato seeks to make the insights of the “particle revolution” in physics accessible to a general audience, introducing the major discoveries, theories, and remaining questions of his field.


Bones: Inside and Out by Roy A. Meals (Oct. 20, $27.95, ISBN 978-1-324-00532-2). The orthopedic surgeon provides biological information on how bones function and discusses the medical advances that have helped physicians better deal with bone-related injuries.

The Light Ages: The Surprising Story of Medieval Science by Seb Falk (Nov. 17, $30, ISBN 978-1-324-00293-2). Falk, a Cambridge science historian, offers a fresh perspective on both the Middle Ages and science by emphasizing that an era better known for plague and brutality also had a strong scientific culture whose inventions are still significant today.

Oxford Univ.

Is Einstein Still Right? Black Holes, Gravitational Waves, and the Quest to Verify Einstein’s Greatest Creation by Clifford M. Will and Nicolás Yunes (Oct. 1, $22.95, ISBN 978-0-19-884212-5) looks at how the current generation of scientists is putting Einstein’s theory of general relativity to the test, in relation to another field he helped pioneer—that of quantum mechanics.

Origin of Life: What Everyone Needs to Know by David W. Deamer (Sept. 1, $18.95 trade paper, ISBN 978-0-19-009900-8) introduces general readers to mainstream scientific theory about life’s emergence on Earth, while also proposing the author’s own theory—namely, that life did not arise from the ocean but in freshwater hot springs.

Penguin Books

Super Fly: The Unexpected Lives of the World’s Most Successful Insects by Jonathan Balcombe (Nov. 10, $18 trade paper, ISBN 978-0-14-313427-5). Biologist Balcombe seeks to show that flies are more than pests by discussing their various ecological roles and significance for evolutionary research.

Penguin Press

Fundamentals: Ten Keys to Reality by Frank Wilczek (Jan. 12, $26, ISBN 978-0-7352-2379-0). Nobel Prize winner Wilczek reveals 10 insights from modern science that he believes every well-informed person should be familiar with and that have the potential to reshape one’s worldview.

Scribe Us

The Still-Burning Bush by Stephen Pyne (Sept. 1, $16 trade paper, ISBN 978-1-950354-48-1) is an examination of how fire has reshaped Australia’s ecosystem, both as a human tool and through unplanned, and sometimes uncontrollable, conflagrations, such as the catastrophic 2019–2020 bushfire season.


Envisioning Exoplanets: Searching for Life in the Galaxy by Michael Carroll (Oct. 13, $34.95, ISBN 978-1-58834-691-9) recounts the search for planets capable of hosting life outside the solar system. The text is accompanied by Carroll’s illustrations of exoplanets, and with images contributed by the International Association of Astronomical Artists.

Lost Animals: Extinct, Endangered, and Rediscovered Species by John Whitfield (Oct. 6, $35, ISBN 978-1-58834-698-8) surveys fascinating creatures from different epochs in Earth’s history, from the Cambrian era to the present, using photos and scientific drawings to discuss both vanished species and those recently discovered to be still in existence, after having long been thought extinct.


The Last Stargazers: The Enduring Story of Astronomy’s Vanishing Explorers by Emily Levesque (Aug. 4, $25.99, ISBN 978-1-4926-8107-6) describes the author’s career in astronomy and those of some of her notable colleagues in the field, sharing colorful anecdotes and reflecting on the passion for stargazing that drives her profession.


The Doomsday Book: The Science Behind Humanity’s Greatest Threats by Marshall Brain (Oct. 6, $27.95, ISBN 978-1-4549-3996-2) collects commonly discussed doomsday narratives, including human-caused catastrophes, such as nuclear or electromagnetic-pulse attacks; natural disasters, such as solar flares or super-volcano eruptions; and science fiction scenarios, such robot uprisings or extraterrestrial incursions.

St. Martin’s

The Mutant Project: Inside the Global Race to Genetically Modify Humans by Eben Kirksey (Oct. 20, $28.99, ISBN 978-1-250-26535-7). Anthropologist Kirksey considers the ethical issues raised by genetic engineering, interviewing scientists, lobbyists, and businesspeople promoting it, as well as physicians, activists, and patients with dissenting views on the technology.

Univ. of Chicago

The Genesis Quest: The Geniuses and Eccentrics on a Journey to Uncover the Origin of Life on Earth by Michael Marshall (Oct. 22, $26, ISBN 978-0-226-71523-0) traces the ongoing efforts of scientists to explain exactly how life first arose on Earth. Marshall introduces the field’s major theories, figures, and controversies.

Univ. of Florida

Lunar Outfitters: Making the Apollo Space Suit by Bill Ayrey (Oct. 6, $35, ISBN 978-0-8130-6657-8). A spacesuit test engineer at ILC Dover uses original documentation and photos to relate his company’s involvement in this essential part of the Apollo space program.

Univ. of Washington

The Grizzly in the Driveway: The Return of Bears to a Crowded American West by Rob Chaney (Dec. 24, $29.95, ISBN 978-0-295-74793-4). Montana journalist Chaney looks at the restoration of the American West’s grizzly bear population over the past four decades under the Endangered Species Act and at the implications for future conservation efforts.


How to Astronaut: An Insider’s Guide to Leaving Planet Earth by Terry Virts (Sept. 15, $27.95, ISBN 978-1-5235-0961-4). Virts, a former astronaut, space shuttle pilot, and International Space Station commander, provides astronomy buffs with a humorous look at the process of preparing for and then embarking on space travel.

Yale Univ.

We Alone: How Humans Have Conquered the Planet and Can Also Save It by David Western (Nov. 24, $30, ISBN 978-0-300-25116-6). Drawing on decades of advocacy and research in Kenya toward the cause of animal conservation, Western makes a case that safeguarding other species is not just the right thing to do, but vital for humanity’s future.

Return to the main feature.