Need something new to read? Check out these ten top-rated books for 2022
Title: An Immense World: How Animal Senses Reveal the Hidden Realms Around Us
Author: Ed Yong
The Earth teems with sights and textures, sounds and vibrations, smells and tastes, electric and magnetic fields. In An Immense World, Ed Yong coaxes us beyond the confines of our own senses to encounter beetles that are drawn to fires, turtles that can track the Earth’s magnetic fields, fish that fill rivers with electrical messages, and even humans who wield sonar like bats. We discover that a crocodile’s scaly face is as sensitive as a lover’s fingertips, that the eyes of a giant squid evolved to see sparkling whales, that plants thrum with the inaudible songs of courting bugs, and that even simple scallops have complex vision. We learn what bees see in flowers, what songbirds hear in their tunes, and what dogs smell on the street. We listen to stories of pivotal discoveries in the field, while looking ahead at the many mysteries that remain unsolved.
Title: There Are Places in the World Where Rules Are Less Important Than Kindness: And Other Thoughts on Physics, Philosophy and the World
Author: Carlo Rovelli
Written with his usual clarity and wit, this journey ranges widely across time and space: from Newton's alchemy to Einstein's mistakes, from Nabokov’s lepidopterology to Dante’s cosmology, from mind-altering psychedelic substances to the meaning of atheism, from the future of physics to the power of uncertainty. Charming, pithy, and elegant, this book is the perfect gateway to the universe of one of the most influential minds of our age.
Title: Eating to Extinction: The World's Rarest Foods and Why We Need to Save Them
Author: Dan Saladino
In Eating to Extinction, the distinguished BBC food journalist Dan Saladino travels the world to experience and document our most at-risk foods before it’s too late. He tells the fascinating stories of the people who continue to cultivate, forage, hunt, cook, and consume what the rest of us have forgotten or didn’t even know existed. Take honey―not the familiar product sold in plastic bottles, but the wild honey gathered by the Hadza people of East Africa, whose diet consists of eight hundred different plants and animals and who communicate with birds in order to locate bees’ nests. Or consider murnong―once the staple food of Aboriginal Australians, this small root vegetable with the sweet taste of coconut is undergoing a revival after nearly being driven to extinction. And in Sierra Leone, there are just a few surviving stenophyllatrees, a plant species now considered crucial to the future of coffee.
Title: How the World Really Works
Author: Vaclav Smil
In this ambitious and thought-provoking book we see, for example, that globalization isn’t inevitable—the foolishness of allowing 70 per cent of the world’s rubber gloves to be made in just one factory became glaringly obvious in 2020—and that our societies have been steadily increasing their dependence on fossil fuels, such that any promises of decarbonization by 2050 are a fairy tale. For example, each greenhouse-grown supermarket-bought tomato has the equivalent of five tablespoons of diesel embedded in its production, and we have no way of producing steel, cement or plastics at required scales without huge carbon emissions.
Title: The Last Days of the Dinosaurs
Author: Riley Black
Picture yourself in the Cretaceous period. It’s a sunny afternoon in the Hell Creek of ancient Montana 66 million years ago. A Triceratops horridus ambles along the edge of the forest. In a matter of hours, everything here will be wiped away. Lush verdure will be replaced with fire. Tyrannosaurus rex will be toppled from their throne, along with every other species of non-avian dinosaur no matter their size, diet, or disposition. They just don’t know it yet.
Title: Atoms and Ashes
Author: Seri Plkhy
In Atoms and Ashes, Serhii Plokhy recounts the dramatic history of Three Mile Island and five more accidents that that have dogged the nuclear industry in its military and civil incarnations: the disastrous fallout caused by the testing of the hydrogen bomb in the Bikini Atoll in 1954; the Kyshtym nuclear disaster in the USSR, which polluted a good part of the Urals; the Windscale fire, the worst nuclear accident in the UK’s history; back to the USSR with Chernobyl, the result of a flawed reactor design leading to the exodus of 350,000 people; and, most recently, Fukushima in Japan, triggered by an earthquake and a tsunami, a disaster on a par with Chernobyl and whose clean-up will not take place in our lifetime.
Title: A Taste for Poison
Author: Neil Bradbury, Ph.D.
In a fascinating blend of popular science, medical history, and true crime, Dr. Neil Bradbury explores this most morbidly captivating method of murder from a cellular level. Alongside real-life accounts of murderers and their crimes―some notorious, some forgotten, some still unsolved―are the equally compelling stories of the poisons involved: eleven molecules of death that work their way through the human body and, paradoxically, illuminate the way in which our bodies function.
Title: Life Between the Tides
Author: Adam Nicolson
In Life Between the Tides, Adam Nicolson investigates one of the most revelatory habitats on earth. Under his microscope, we see a prawn’s head become a medieval helmet and a group of “winkles” transform into a Dickensian social scene, with mollusks munching on Stilton and glancing at their pocket watches. Or, rather, is a winkle more like Achilles, an ancient hero, throwing himself toward death for the sake of glory? For Nicolson, who writes “with scientific rigor and a poet’s sense of wonder” (The American Scholar), the world of the rock pools is infinite and as intricate as our own.
Title: A Portrait of the Scientist as a Young Woman
Author: Lindy Elkins-Tanton
The journey that brought her to this place is extraordinary.Amid a childhood of terrible trauma, Elkins-Tanton fell in love with science as a means of healing and consolation. But still she wondered, was forced to wonder: as a woman, was science “for her”? In answering that question, she takes us from the wilds of the Siberian tundra to the furthest reaches of outer space, from the Mayo Clinic, where Elkins-Tanton battled ovarian cancer while writing the Psyche proposal, to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where her team brought that proposal to life.
Title: How Minds Change
Author: David McRaney
When self-delusion expert and psychology nerd David McRaney began a book about how to change someone’s mind in one conversation, he never expected to change his own. But then a diehard 9/11 Truther’s conversion blew up his theories—inspiring him to ask not just how to persuade, but why we believe, from the eye of the beholder. Delving into the latest research of psychologists and neuroscientists, HOW MINDS CHANGE explores the limits of reasoning, the power of groupthink, and the effects of deep canvassing. Told with McRaney’s trademark sense of humor, compassion, and scientific curiosity, it’s an eye-opening journey among cult members, conspiracy theorists, and political activists, from Westboro Baptist Church picketers to LGBTQ campaigners in California—that ultimately challenges us to question our own motives and beliefs. In an age of dangerous conspiratorial thinking, can we rise to the occasion with empathy?