Lists

The Best Science Books of Winter and Spring 2018

 

Cover detail, Searching for Stars on an Island in Maine © Penguin Random House

It’s a new year, which means a whole bunch of new book releases! There are some amazing science books releasing this winter. Space is my particular passion, so I’m really excited to see some new perspectives on both the modern-day space program as well as important moments in our history. We’ve also got pop culture science (a personal favorite), as well as multiple books that ask “Why are we here, and how did we get here?” I absolutely love when scientists and science communicators tackle that question from a narrow angle, based on their expertise. Hopefully you’ll find a book or two (or five) that pique your interest and inspire you to pick them up.

  • The cover of the book Bringing Columbia Home: The Untold Story of a Lost Space Shuttle and Her Crew

    Bringing Columbia Home: The Untold Story of a Lost Space Shuttle and Her Crew

    February 1st is the fifteenth anniversary of the destruction of the Space Shuttle Columbia, and this new book takes a look at the accident, its immediate aftermath, and the incredible story of recovering the remains of the orbiter and her crew, which were scattered across multiple states. One of the co-writers, Michael Leinbach, was the Launch Director at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, and he was an important figure in the search and recovery. I’ve read this, and it’s not an easy read, as you can imagine, but how we come together after tragedy is an important piece of our space program. It’s important to remember our mistakes and darkest periods, rather than brushing them under the rug.

    (January 23)

     
  • The cover of the book The Spinning Magnet

    The Spinning Magnet

    The Electromagnetic Force That Created the Modern World--and Could Destroy It

    If you’re a fan of pop science, then this history of electromagnetism should be right in line with your interests. Electromagentism is one of the fundamental forces of the universe; it’s incredibly powerful, and this examination of the force shows how it’s shaped our history and culture. Not only that, but it delves into what will happen when the magnetic poles switch, and how it will be catastrophic for civilization (goodbye, protection from solar storms and radiation!)

    (January 30)

     
  • The cover of the book The Earth Gazers: On Seeing Ourselves

    The Earth Gazers: On Seeing Ourselves

    There were many incredible things to come out of the Apollo program, from advances in science and technology to a wide-eyed wonder at the fact that we truly could be an interstellar species. One of those facets was the breathtaking photography of the program; from the famous Earthrise picture to the Blue Marble, seeing our home planet for the first time from space was a powerful moment. Now, Christopher Potter has written a history of the photography of the Apollo program, discussing who took those pictures, when and why, and how they mattered.

    (February 6)

     
  • The cover of the book The Future of Humanity

    The Future of Humanity

    Terraforming Mars, Interstellar Travel, Immortality, and Our Destiny BeyondEarth

    Michio Kaku’s science books are always well worth the read, and his new one sounds fascinating. The renowned physicist tackles the difficult topic of colonizing space, discussing how exactly that might occur and what would be involved. Kaku examines the current technology that could be further developed and refined to make this possible, as well as what the future might hold.

    (February 20)

     
  • The cover of the book Close Encounters with Humankind: A Paleoanthropologist Investigates Our Evolving Species

    Close Encounters with Humankind: A Paleoanthropologist Investigates Our Evolving Species

    In this thought-provoking read, Korea’s first paleoanthropologist, Sang-Hee Lee, takes a look at the big picture questions about our evolution and how we got here. He discusses what fossils can tell us about how our early ancestors lived and worked, as well as what the record can tell us about social structure and more. The key here is that Lee examines everything we thought we knew from fresh angles, delivering a new perspective on our early ancestors and the evolutionary process.

    (February 20)

     
  • The cover of the book Rocket Billionaires: Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and the New Space Race

    Rocket Billionaires: Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and the New Space Race

    As a space journalist, I often reflect on what an exciting time we live in when it comes to what’s going on in the stars. It really feels like we are on the cusp of becoming a spacefaring civilization, and Tim Fernholz (who reports on science and the economy at Quartz) chronicles how two larger-than-life billionaires are affecting and driving the new space race.

    (March 20)

     
  • The cover of the book What Is Real? The Unfinished Quest for the Meaning of Quantum Physics

    What Is Real? The Unfinished Quest for the Meaning of Quantum Physics

    Everyone’s heard of quantum mechanics, but what is it, exactly? It turns out that even the most illustrious scientists had trouble agreeing on its meaning. Becker, who is a science communicator with a PhD in astrophysics, takes readers on a deep dive into the battle for the heart of quantum physics. It tells a story that spans history, one of scientists who were brave enough to defy tradition in order to find a new understanding, rather than merely accepting the status quo about the reality underlying quantum mechanics.

    (March 20)

     
  • The cover of the book Who We Are and How We Got Here

    Who We Are and How We Got Here

    Ancient DNA and the New Science of the Human Past

    This is another science book that examines the big picture questions of where we came from, but instead of taking a look at the fossil record, it analyzes DNA. New techniques and improvements in technology have allowed scientists to actually extract ancient DNA and analyze it. While they aren’t constructing Jurassic Park (at least, let’s hope), they are discovering extraordinary things about our own genome, and what it means to be human.

    (March 27)

     
  • The cover of the book Searching for Stars on an Island in Maine

    Searching for Stars on an Island in Maine

    Alan Lightman is a theoretical physicist who has been able to bridge that gap between science and the humanities; in fact, he was the first MIT professor to be appointed to both disciplines. In his latest book, Lightman takes a close look at the relationship between religion and science, from our quest for facts to our yearning for something greater and immaterial.

    (March 27)