Nature and Science
Light of the Stars: Alien Worlds and the Fate of the Earth by Adam FrankWhat it's about: According to author Adam Frank, civilizations are "just another thing the universe does." By his calculations, there exist some 10 billion trillion planets with the potential for civilizations to develop. What can such planets tell us about ourselves -- and our fate?
About the author: Adam Frank is an astrophysicist and the founder of NPR's 13.7: Cosmos and Culture blog.
Spying on Whales: The Past, Present, and Future of Earth's Most Awesome Creatures by Nick PyensonWhat it's about: Paleontologist Nicholas Pyenson recounts the evolution of whales from four-legged, dog-sized, land-dwelling creatures to today's aquatic leviathans, while contemplating their uncertain future.
Why you might like it: part natural history, part travelogue, Spying on Whales offers a glimpse at a hidden underwater world.
You might also like: Philip Hoare's The Whale: In Search of the Giants of the Sea; Micheline Jenner's The Secret Life of Whales.
Still Waters: The Secret World of Lakes by Curt StagerWhat it is: a deep dive into the ecology of lakes, ponds, and inland seas by science writer Curt Stager, who reveals the "secret worlds within worlds hiding in plain sight."
Read it for: a highly literate and philosophical tour of the world's lakes, from Walden Pond to Lake Victoria.
For fans of: Annie Dillard's Pilgrim at Tinker Creek.
The Secret Life of Cows by Rosamund YoungWhat it's about: Author Rosamund Young of Kite's Nest farm in Worcestershire, England introduces readers to her cattle and their personalities, while advocating for the humane treatment of animals and sustainable farming practices.
Read it for: the friendly and conversational writing style, and a herd of charmingly named cows ("Baby Jane," "Red Rum," and "The Bishop of Durham," among others.)
You might also like: Alice Walker's The Chicken Chronicles, in which the award-winning writer chronicles life with a flock of hens.
Leaving Orbit: Notes from the Last Days of American Spaceflight by Margaret Lazarus DeanWhat it's about: Margaret Lazarus Dean travels to Florida's Space Coast to witness the final days of the Shuttle program and reflects on America's retreat from human spaceflight.
Why you might like it: Eschewing technical jargon, Dean's behind-the-scenes tour of NASA focuses on the people who made space exploration a reality.
Book buzz: Leaving Orbit won the Graywolf Press Nonfiction Prize in 2015.
How to Make a Spaceship: A Band of Renegades, an Epic Race, and the Birth of... by Julian GuthrieWhat it's about: the new 21st-century space race, in which billionaires compete to launch rockets and reap the financial rewards of doing business in space.
Featuring: American entrepreneur Peter Diamandis and his $10 million XPrize; the eventual winning team and their experimental spaceplane SpaceShipOne.
You might also like: Joe Pappalardo's Spaceport Earth: The Reinvention of Spaceflight, another optimistic book about the nascent commercial space industry.
Rise of the Rocket Girls: The Women Who Propelled Us, From Missiles to the Moon... by Nathalia HoltIntroducing: Barby Canright, Macie Roberts, Helen Yee Chow, Barbara Lewis, Janez Lawson, Susan Finley, and others.
Why they matter: This talented group of women calculated rocket trajectories, designed satellites, and analyzed massive amounts of experimental data for NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
For fans of: Margot Lee Shetterly's Hidden Figures, another collective biography of the unsung heroines of the U.S. space program.
Sally Ride: America's First Woman in Space by Lynn SherrWhat it is: a biography of the first American woman astronaut to go to space, written by a journalist who followed Sally Ride's career for decades.
Did you know? That Ride was a nationally ranked college tennis player? That she was the first (known) gay astronaut? That on her famous first flight she suffered from space sickness?
Want a taste? "Sally was very good at keeping secrets."
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