Nature and Science
Down from the Mountain: The Life and Death of a Grizzly Bear by Bryce AndrewsWho is she? Millie, a 500-pound grizzly sow (and mother of two cubs) from Montana's Mission Valley.
What does she want? Corn! Montana's grizzly bear population is addicted to the crop, which lures them from their isolated habitats into more populous areas, resulting in conflicts with local farmers.
You might also like: Nate Blakeslee's American Wolf, which similarly explores tensions between humans and wildlife by recounting the life and death of a charismatic animal.
Why You Like It: The Science and Culture of Musical Taste by Nolan GasserWhat it's about: the science of music (what it is) and the sociology of musical taste (why we like what we like and what it says about us).
About the author: Musicologist Nolan Gasser is the architect of Pandora’s Music Genome Project.
Is it for you? Readers with some background in music theory or practice will get the most out of this eclectic and comprehensive book.
Sprout Lands: Tending the Endless Gift of Trees by William Bryant LoganWhat it is: an arborist's lyrical examination of the lost arts of coppicing and pollarding, tree pruning techniques that once formed the basis of a mutually beneficial relationship between humans and trees.
What sets it apart: the author's travels to California, Japan, Norway, and the Basque country to learn firsthand about traditional forest management practices.
For fans of: Peter Wohlleben's The Hidden Life of Trees.
The Human Swarm: How Our Societies Arise, Thrive, and Fall by Mark W. MoffettWhat it's about: the development of human civilization from "individual recognition societies" characterized by small and intimate groups (think chimpanzees) to modern-day "collective marker" societies based on distinctions between in-groups and out-groups.
Further reading: For other recent perspectives on this topic, check out Edward O. Wilson's Genesis: The Deep Origins of Societies or Nicholas A. Christakis' Blueprint: The Evolutionary Origins of a Good Society.
Wayfinding: The Science and Mystery of How Humans Navigate the World by M.R. O'ConnorWhat it is: a multidisciplinary examination of wayfinding, which includes spatial orientation, navigation, perception, and culturally specific practices of interacting with one's environment.
What else it is: a thought-provoking book that frames maps, compasses, and other navigation technologies as tools of European imperialism.
Read it for: the author's interactions with experts in traditional navigation from the Arctic, Australia, and the South Pacific.
Infinite Powers: How Calculus Reveals the Secrets of the Universe by Steven StrogatzWhat it is: an applied mathematician's surprisingly accessible guide to calculus, which outlines its basic concepts while recounting its history.
Food for thought: "If anything deserves to be called the secret of the universe, calculus is it."
You might also like: Mathematician Amir Alexander's similarly engaging Infinitesimal, which also explores a world-changing concept.
Adventures in Human Being: A Grand Tour From the Cranium to the Calcaneum by Gavin FrancisWhat it is: a head-to-toe survey of the human body by a physician.
Want a taste? "I was nineteen years old when I first held a human brain. It was heavier than I had anticipated; grey, firm, and laboratory-cold."
For fans of: the blend of medical writing and memoir in Henry Marsh's Do No Harm; the philosophical tone of F. Gonzalez-Crussi's Notes of an Anatomist.
Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow by Yuval Noah HarariThe big question: So now that we've mitigated the effects of famine, plague, and war, what's next for human beings?
About the author: Israeli historian Yuval Noah Harari is the author of the bestselling Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind.
Is it for you? Believers in the march of human progress should be aware that Home Deus forecasts several possible futures for our species, most of them downright dystopian.
Human Errors: A Panorama of Our Glitches, From Pointless Bones to Broken Genes by Nathan H. LentsWhat it is: an offbeat and entertaining catalog of the design flaws and anatomical oddities of the human body, courtesy of natural selection.
Such as? Knees ill-adapted to bipedal locomotion; DNA riddled with errors, redundancies, and extraneous material; and reproductive processes as scattershot as they are hazardous...to name just a few.
Words of wisdom: "Evolution is a constant game of trade-offs. Most innovations come at a cost."
The Upright Thinkers: The Human Journey from Living in Trees to Understanding the Cosmos by Leonard MlodinowWhat it is: a history of scientific discovery that makes a case for human curiosity about the universe as a defining attribute of our species.
Topics covered: the evolution of the human brain, a grand tour of the sciences (featuring greats minds from Aristotle to Heisenberg), and a brief introduction to quantum physics.
For fans of: the accessible presentation of science in Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything.
Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst by Robert M. SapolskyWhat it is: an interdisciplinary study of human behavior by neurobiologist and primatologist Robert Sapolsky.
What it does: Behave explores human behavior by taking a single (re)action and examining what's going on in the brain and body in the seconds, minutes, hours, days, and even years before it occurs.
Don't miss: the author's top ten strategies for reducing violence in our species.
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