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What to Read in December

Stumped on what to get someone for the holidays? We’ve picked out our favorite books, one for each of the Twelve Days of Science.

By Gemma Tarlach
Nov 10, 2017 6:00 AMNov 18, 2019 3:55 AM


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1. The Planet Factory: Exoplanets and the Search for a Second EarthBy Elizabeth Tasker Want to understand how scientists find these distant worlds and what they might mean for our future? Astrophysicist Tasker delivers all the answers in this fast-paced primer.

2. The Zoomable Universe: An Epic Tour Through Cosmic Scale, From Almost Everything to Nearly NothingBy Caleb Scharf What do a common cold-causing virus, an adult blue whale and the red supergiant star Betelgeuse have in common? They’re all examples that Scharf uses to walk readers through matters of size.

3. The Animals Among Us: How Pets Make Us HumanBy John Bradshaw From the dawn of domestication to pampered modern pets, anthrozoologist Bradshaw, author of the best-selling Cat Sense and Dog Sense, traces the evolution of predators into companions in this riveting read.

4. Soonish: Ten Emerging Technologies That’ll Improve and/or Ruin Everything By Kelly and Zach Weinersmith Fans of the Weinersmiths — parasitologist/podcaster Kelly and Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal cartoonist Zach — will revel in the couple’s humorous but science-serious take on the future.

5. The Electric Pickle: 50 Experiments From the Periodic Table, From Aluminum to ZincBy Joey Green Periodic table + puns galore = dozens of ways to wile away holiday break with hands-on fun. Definitely try this at home.

6. The Beauty of Numbers in Nature: Mathematical Patterns and Principles from the Natural WorldBy Ian Stewart The prolific and engaging mathematician uncovers formulas underpinning everything from mountains to music in a fun read.

7. The Runaway Species: How Human Creativity Remakes the World By Anthony Brandt and David Eagleman Neuroscientist Eagleman and composer Brandt explore the many manifestations of our most unique trait.

8. The Archipelago of Hope: Wisdom and Resilience From the Edge of Climate ChangeBy Gleb Raygorodetsky Relentless news of our imperiled planet can numb even the most optimistic person, but the keys to survival may lie in the traditions of indigenous people.

9. Swearing Is Good for You: The Amazing Science of Bad LanguageBy Emma Byrne Mom, put that bar of soap down. It turns out that having a potty mouth can boost your mood and your social network, among other benefits. Hell yeah, we’re serious.

10. Cræft: An Inquiry Into the Origins and True Meaning of Traditional CraftsBy Alexander Langlands With an archaeologist’s eye for detail, Langlands goes beyond the glue gun to explore the connection between our ancestors and modern makers.

11. The Quotable DarwinCollected and edited by Janet Browne

12. The Theory That Changed Everything: “On the Origin of Species” as a Work in ProgressBy Philip Lieberman Browne’s compendium of quotes from Darwin’s books and letters, arranged by theme, provide insight into his research, personality and dry sense of humor. Lieberman’s more provocative take examines Darwin’s breakthroughs and limitations through the lens of 21st-century science.

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