The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert

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Originally published in: 2014

What it’s about: Kolbert talks about how we (humans) may be orchestrating the sixth major mass extinction on Earth and the possible consequences.

What made me pick it up: I tried to read The Ends of the World and while it was good, I didn’t finish it. When I found this book available on audio I remembered it being similar in theme and highly recommended by Jon Stewart a few years ago so picked it up.

My favorite things: I learned so much about past extinction events (the ones before the dinosaurs) as well as the diverse evolutionary backgrounds of humans (I might be 4% Neanderthal). It does a great job of exploring how other extinctions occurred and why our current situation appears to be the same, if happening at a faster clip. It’s horrifying to think that more species than we are aware of are presently dying out without our knowledge, but honestly not all that surprising. Tl;dr – this isn’t good for humans either so let’s get it together.

Who it’s great for: Readers interested in the history of Earth. People concerned for the future of our planet and our species. Animal and plant lovers. Science nerds.

Erica’s rating: four-shells


Get this book from your local library or from Amazon.


 

The Universe in Your Hand by Christophe Galfard

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Originally published in: 2015

What it’s about: Galfard, protégé to renowned astrophysicist Stephen Hawking, takes readers on a journey through space to broaden their understanding.

What made me pick it up: I saw my coworker checking out the audio CDs from the library and I loved the font on the cover and then I saw the word universe and got my Google on. Another book about astrophysics? Yes please!

My favorite part: Galfard brings together imagination and analogy to help readers visualize complex astrophysical concepts. It also contains a fair bit of humor. I just love all the different books about these concepts and gobble them up. This one definitely had me texting friends things like “part of space is opaque” when I read interesting new tidbits. I still can’t totally explain string theory to dinner party guests but this book was fun and I’m recommending it to everyone.

Who it’s great for: Space nerds. Science geeks. People like me who have wandered into an astrophysics book bunny trail and want to keep going.

Erica’s rating: four-shells


Find this book on Amazon (affiliate link) or in your local library.


 

Sea Otter Heroes by Patricia Newman

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Originally published in: 2017

What it’s about: Proof that otters are even more amazing than we thought (because they save ecosystems).

What made me pick it up: I don’t know if you know this yet, but I really, really like otters.

My favorite things: I appreciated how much scientific explanation was in this book. It was a little text heavy for a picture book but perfectly detailed for an older reader. It’s separated into chapters to make reading with your little one easier by breaking it up into segments. And of course, I’m always rooting for the otters. I’m so glad they are being protected so we can discover how beneficial it is to have them around.

Who it’s great for: Budding scientists. Otter lovers.

Erica’s rating: four-shells


Find this book on Amazon (affiliate link) or in your local library.


 

Before I Forget by B. Smith, Dan Gasby and Michael Shnayerson

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This post contains affiliate links.

Originally published in: 2016

What it’s about: Model, restaurateur, and lifestyle guru Smith and her fight against early onset Alzheimer’s.

What made me pick it up: A patron called asking about it and it sounded interesting. I originally thought it was Smith writing about her husband’s early onset diagnosis. I was incorrect.

My favorite things: This is powerful. It is mainly told by Gasby with small sections by Smith. I listened to the audio and hearing how slightly vacant she sounds is heartbreaking. I appreciated their honesty about difficulties they face with her new capabilities and how her continued decline is likely inevitable since the science isn’t ready to fight back quite yet. I admired Gasby’s dedication to Smith even after losing her as the partner she used to be. It made a strong impression of the importance of health insurance, health education, and fundraising for more research to be done. It reminded me a little of Pat Summit’s memoir after her early onset diagnosis which stays with me to this day. I also was glad to learn that there now is a definitive diagnostic test on live patients for Alzheimer’s, although it is cost prohibitive and not usually covered by insurance. *sigh*

Who it’s great for: Individuals or family members of someone with Alzheimer’s. Those curious about the disease.

Erica’s rating: four-shells


Find this title at Amazon or in your local library.


 

What Erica Has On Hold

To Download

Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper because I had someone tell me they were his favorites from childhood and I’d never heard of them.
To Provence with Love by T.A. Williams because I am all about everything France.
Swing Time by Zadie Smith because a coworker told me she thought I’d identify strongly with it.
Second Star to the Right by Mary Alice Monroe because Peter Pan.
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho because my friend said she loved it and I haven’t read it.
The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande because I’m all about lists.
Give and Take by Adam Grant because it’s about giving and I’m a huge fan of Grant.
Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue because Oprah said so.
My Life With Bob by Pamela Paul because book about books.
The Radium Girls by Kate Moore because women in science.
The Princess Saves Herself in This One by Amanda Lovelace because female empowerment.
The Jane Austen Project by Kathleen A. Flynn because Jane Austen and sci-fi.
The Liberal Redneck Manifesto by Trae Crowder because I’m curious.
The Death and Life of the Great Lakes by Dan Egan because I grew up a stone’s throw from Ontario and I wish we cared for these amazing ecosystems as we should.
The Rules Do No Apply by Ariel Levy
Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon because movie and good press and I read The Sun Is Almost a Star and it was pretty good.
Word by Word by Kory Stamper because words.
Blockade Billy by Stephen King because it’s short and about baseball and I’ve never actually read it.

In Print

Beartown by Fredrik Backman because I like his other stuff.
Whereas by Layli Long Soldier because Native American poetry.
White Working Class by Joan C. Williams because I read White Trash and am just on a jaunt on that subject.

Picture books Blue Sky White Stars by Sarvinder Naberhaus, The Banana-leaf Ball by Katie Milway, This is Edinburgh by Miroslav Sasek, and Sea Otter Heroes by Patricia Newman because they looked interesting and also ‘merica, play, otters, and Scotland.

Unstoppable by Bill Nye

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Originally published in: 2015

What it’s about: Everybody’s favorite television scientist has some solutions to global warming.

What made me pick it up: I spent many a morning in my younger years entranced by Bill Nye and his entertaining scientific antics. I was moving books in this section of the library when I found this and took it home.

My favorite things: This book really packs a punch. Nye isn’t condemning anyone, he’s more here to cheer us on to greater scientific breakthroughs regarding energy usage and encourage us to take simple steps to reduce our usage. He makes it sound easy and doable and, more important than anything, extremely urgent. I snapped many pics during my reading and texted them to friends. This book is a must-read if you feel like there is nothing you can do, or not enough being done, about climate change.

Who it’s great for: Environmentalists. Concerned citizens. Homeowners who want to start small to make change. Bill Nye fans from way back.

Erica’s rating: four-shells


Find this book on Amazon (affiliate link) or in your local library.


 

Reality is Not What It Seems by Carlo Rovelli

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Originally published in: 2017

What it’s about: Physics. Historical developments, current view, and future speculations.

What made me pick it up: I’m a bit of a physics reading bender right now. I had read and enjoyed Rovelli’s previous book Seven Brief Lessons on Physics, so when I saw this was coming out I placed a hold.

My favorite things: This book has a great audio reader, which makes it all the more accessible. I enjoy this author’s books because I come away actually knowing and understanding more about physics. Both the history of the science and discoveries in it but also current concepts and research. It can be a little mind bending but the way concepts are explained makes sense and it makes it more acceptable that time doesn’t exist.

Who it’s great for: Citizen scientists. Anyone who wants interesting facts to share at dinner parties. The generally curious.

Erica’s rating: four-shells


Get Seven Brief Lessons On Physics and Reality Is Not What It Seems on Amazon (affiliate links) or at your local library.


 

Storm in a Teacup by Helen Czerski

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Originally published in: 2017

What it’s about: This book tackles the ‘physics of everyday life’ by using small-scale examples (like why teacups slosh) to illustrate large-scale themes.

What made me pick it up: I had read Seven Brief Lessons on Physics and was waiting for the next book by that author when I saw this, so I placed a hold.

My favorite things: First off, this audio reader is excellent. Who knew a cheery British accent would make learning physics fun? She explains concepts in very easy to understand ways and relates them to common occurrences like getting a static electric shock so you understand the principles. She also drops a lot of fun experiments into the text anecdotally that you might want to try. (The raisin one is quite fun and you might already have the supplies).

Who it’s great for: Anyone interested in physics or science or learning more about our world. Teachers or librarians or parents looking for some fun STEM program/project ideas.

Erica’s rating: four-shells


Find Storm in a Teacup or Seven Brief Lessons on Physics at Amazon (affiliate links) or your local library.


 

Women in Science by Rachel Ignotofsky

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Originally published in: 2016

What it’s about: Notable female scientists throughout history.

What made me pick it up: I think I saw it on Twitter. It was about women scientists and I placed a hold immediately because I immensely enjoyed Lab Girl and Headstrong. 

My favorite things: This book is like a good mixed drink: smooth, flavorful, and designed to be sipped slowly. I only read a few pages a day so I could savor the unique illustrations and layouts as well as the mostly new-to-me knowledge of these amazing scientists. The message is empowering for girls of any age and the colors are fabulous. It’d make a great gift for any young devotee of STEM in your life.

Who it’s great for: Those interested in women’s contributions to science. Readers of all ages. Fans of great illustrations. Graphic novel readers who want a nonfiction book. Girls, girls, girls.

Erica’s rating: four-and-a-half-shells


Pick up copies of the books mentioned above at Amazon using our affiliate links: Lab Girl; Headstrong; Women in Science or look for them in your local library.


 

Lab Girl by Hope Jahren

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Originally published in: 2016

What it’s about: Jahren’s journey to be a scientist who has her own lab, which is also her journey to become herself.

What made me pick it up: It had a lot of holds. I’d heard about it a little. It was about trees or plants or something I was interested in reading about at the time. Little reasons.

My favorite things: Like her blog says, Hope Jahren sure can write. This is beautiful. Jahren writes so well about things that are so hard and complicated. I was floored with how realistically she was able to portray her mental illness, especially her episodes. It brought tears to my eyes. I also appreciated the story of the enduring friendship she built with her longtime assistant Bill. That story of how friends become family always warms my heart. Mostly, I liked how forthright she is. How she makes you want to keep going even though it’s tough because of how frequently she did the same. It will inspire you.

Who it’s great for: Teens. Adults. Anyone who is pursuing something but isn’t sure it will work out. Those who struggle with mental illness. Lovers of trees. You, if you want to read a great story of finding your place and your people.

Erica’s rating: five-shells


Find a copy of Lab Girl at Amazon (affiliate link) or in your local library.