We’re quickly approaching the end of the year (that happened fast!), which means quite a few awesome books will be coming out in time for the holiday season. In fact, it was hard to pick and choose which books to include on this list just because there are so many good ones out soon. If you or someone in your life is a fan of science books (and especially astronaut memoirs) you should definitely check out this list and maybe keep a book or two in mind as we’re getting into the gift-giving season.
An Astronaut Photographs the World
Terry Virts, with a Foreword by Buzz Aldrin
If you love spectacular images, then Terry Virts’ photographic memoir is for you. Virts flew in space multiple times and served as commander of the International Space Station. While there, he took a record number of photographs — over 319,000. This gorgeous, high-quality book will be right at home on your coffee table; it serves as both a memoir and an incredible glimpse of his time in space.
Tim Peake is a British astronaut with the European Space Agency who also served aboard the ISS. Now that he’s back on Earth, he’s written a guide to living in space. Since returning from the space station, Peake has received countless questions about what it’s like to live in space. This book addresses a number of those questions while also serving as a memoir of his time preparing for and residing in space.
A Year in Space, A Lifetime of Discovery
I’ve actually been lucky enough to read an early copy of Endurance, Scott Kelly’s chronicle of the year he spent on the International Space Station, and I can tell you that this book is simply breathtaking. Kelly expertly explores the beauty and wonder of spending a year on the ISS, but he isn’t afraid to be frank about its mundanity. There are real frustrations to being an astronaut, not the least of which is being away from your family for an entire year. I appreciated how honest he was with the reader, and how much I learned from this incredible memoir.
The Quest to Understand the Force that Explains Everything
What is gravity? It’s a force that is all around us and governs our everyday lives. It’s a contradiction: Gravity is extremely weak here on Earth, yet it’s one of the most powerful forces in the universe. Gravity is how we can tell that dark matter exists. Yet for all we know about gravity, there’s a lot more that we don’t know — and that’s what Chown’s popular science history tackles. He takes us through a history of gravity, from its discovery by Isaac Newton to the implications of gravitational waves to where science might take us from here.
It’s hard to imagine that just fifteen years ago, we had no idea if there were planets outside our solar system. Scientists figured there had to be, but we hadn’t found any yet and just didn’t know for sure. Now, we’ve found thousands of exoplanets, with more being discovered every day. This book tells the story of these planets outside our solar system — how they’re formed, how we find them, and what we’ve discovered about them so far. It’s an overview of the search for exoplanets and what we hope to discover — a planet similar to our own.
Antarctica may be known for ice, penguins, and climate change, but there’s also some cutting-edge space science going on at the bottom of the world. This is the story of IceCube Observatory, located near the Amundsen-Scott Research Station at the South Pole, that’s observing neutrinos. It uses ice about a kilometer below the surface to detect these high-energy particles. This book tells the story of the people involved in their detection and research, as well as the implications these discoveries have for our understanding of the universe.
AI is not a thing of the future. It’s already here, and changing the way we work, play, and build. The question is, how to we ensure that our machine companions don’t begin to seek world domination? How do we coexist peacefully with machines that are growing smarter by the day? Amir Husain, a technologist and entrepreneur, tackles this difficult subject, transforming the lens through which we speak about it. Instead of focusing on the robots we build, he asks what is our role as creator? How are we reflected in what we create? It’s an existential look at what AI means to the human race.
Ten Emerging Technologies That'll Improve and/or Ruin Everything
Kelly and Zach Weinersmith
Technology is changing pretty rapidly, but what will be the next tech to affect our lives in a big way? That’s what duo Zach Weinersmith and Dr. Kelly Weinersmith tackle in their book Soonish. Zach is the creator behind the popular webcomic Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal, and together, the two give the reader a look at some of the most interesting tech out there that has the potential to impact our daily lives. They combine comics, interviews with scientists, and Dr. Weinersmith’s own research to tell a smart and compelling tale of what’s going on with the tech that could affect us all.
It’s an exciting time to be a fan of spaceflight. While it’s not currently clear what NASA’s goals are or where we’re going, private spaceflight such as SpaceX and Blue Origin is taking off (pun intended). Joe Pappalardo, who is an editor at Popular Mechanics, takes us through the ins and outs of space travel — where we are now, but also where we’re going. This book is part history, part science, and part travelogue, as the author visits evert spaceport in the US to discover the future of spaceflight.
It’s always fun to read about science as an adult (it is, I swear), but it’s also important to foster a love of STEM topics in kids. After all, if children think that science and engineering are boring, they are closing themselves off to some incredibly interesting stuff, not to mention limiting their future career paths. That’s why This Book Isn’t Safe! is a delight. It features YouTube star Colin Furze as he directs kids through building ten different strange inventions wit the basic stuff you have around the house, along with a tool kit that is accessible and affordable.
Jaron Lanier is the person who popularized (or perhaps even created) the term virtual reality, and now he’s written a book about spending a lifetime with it. This book is hard to categorize, but the most apt descriptor is probably “science memoir.” It combines Lanier’s life story with his experience working with and developing technology, as well as how virtual reality can change our lives and enhance it for the better.