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8 Science Books Out This Summer That You Don’t Want to Miss

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Jaime Herndon


Jaime Herndon finished her MFA in nonfiction writing at Columbia, after leaving a life of psychosocial oncology and maternal-child health work. She is a writer, editor, and book reviewer who drinks way too much coffee. She is a new-ish mom, so the coffee comes in extra handy. Twitter: @IvyTarHeelJaime

Ah, science. I love science, which is funny to think about because as a freshman in college, the class that everyone termed “baby Bio” scared me so much I dropped it the first time I signed up for it, and if I recall correctly (it’s been a while), I ended up white-knuckling it and earning a C in the course.

But like so many things in college and in life, that didn’t really matter in the long run. I went on to earn graduate degrees in the sciences and have worked in the field in various ways — I just had to find my own way in. That’s the thing about science: there are so many varied paths within the field, and I think that’s one of the things I really love about it.

This is evident in the books that are out this summer. Within the eight that I’ve chosen, there is climate change and ecology, cell/developmental biology, astrophysics, mathematics, nature, marine geology and oceanography, and much more. Don’t let the topics scare you off. They’re all perfect to bring to the beach or curl up with in the A/C. The authors have made the topics accessible and fascinating, if not deeply immersive. After all, what good is a book or a topic if people aren’t able to understand it or get excited about it?

If you love science as much as I do, are curious about an area of science, or just want to try something new, grab a cold drink and a snack, and check out these science books coming out!

cover of Life on Other Planets

Life on Other Planets: A Memoir of Finding My Place in the Universe by Dr. Aomawa Shields

I love reading about people’s paths to the job they’re in or their journey to finding their passion, and this book does just that. Shields wanted to be an astronaut as a kid, but one year into an astrophysics PhD, she left due to a mix of self-doubt, misogyny, and racism. She became a professional actor for 10 years before returning to a PhD program to pursue her long-held dreams. As a parent, I especially liked reading about her experiences as a scientist and a mother. I think it’s so rare we get to read books that illustrate our multifaceted lives in this particular way. I can’t wait to see what Shields writes next.

cover of Plants to the Rescue!

Plants to the Rescue!: The Plants, Trees, and Fungi That Are Solving Some of the World’s Biggest Problems by Dr. Vikram Baliga and Brian Lambert

New science books aren’t just for adults! This beautifully illustrated book for kids is packed with cool information about all kinds of plants, what they can do, and how they can help us with various ecological problems. There are fungi that feed on oil spills, a cactus that can be turned into a bag, and spinach that can send email! It’s a fun and educational book that will capture the interest of anyone who reads it, no matter what your age.

cover of Is Math Real?

Is Math Real?: How Simple Questions Lead Us to Mathematics’ Deepest Truths by Eugenia Cheng (August 15th)

I’ll be honest: math is not a favorite of mine. It actually makes me very anxious, and I will avoid it whenever I can. When I got the advanced copy of this, I wasn’t sure I’d actually read it, but I gave it a try and it ended up being a fantastic, thought-provoking read. Cheng is the kind of mathematician and writer who performs some sort of creative magic that enables you to understand what you thought you couldn’t, and makes math fascinating. She says that we learn math through curiosity and asking questions, and breathes new life into the field by showing how human curiosity is at the core of the discipline.

Cover of From One Cell

From One Cell: A Journey into Life’s Origins and the Future of Medicine by Ben Stanger (August 8th)

All of us originated from just one cell. In this book, Stanger writes about what scientists are learning about how we develop from this single cell, and how these evolutions and changes can help change medicine forever. How do cells pick what they want to do? Can they change their course? What does this mean for humans? By studying cells, scientists can potentially solve medical mysteries, create breakthrough medications, and change the way we use medicine. It’s a fascinating look at the tiniest components.

cover of The Quickening

The Quickening: Creation and Community at the Ends of the Earth by Elizabeth Rush

In 2019, a group of scientists set out for Thwaites Glacier, which has the ominous nickname of Doomsday Glacier, in the Antarctic. It had never been visited before by humans, and the goal was to gather as much information as possible. The glacier itself is suspected to be deteriorating, which could have catastrophic effects on sea levels. Rush not only documents the scientific journey and gives voice to various crew members, but also explores what it means to bring a new life into the world, as she starts to contemplate motherhood in the time of climate change.

cover of Meetings with Remarkable Mushrooms

Meetings With Remarkable Mushrooms: Forays with Fungi Across Hemispheres by Alison Pouliot (September 5th)

Pouliot, an ecologist, works in both the Northern and Southern hemispheres so that she can utilize two autumns and spend as much time as possible studying fungi. In this book, she takes us with her all over the world as she brings fungi to life with lush descriptions, infectious enthusiasm, and gorgeous pictures. But she also shows the reader just how important fungi are to the natural world, as well as what they do for humans.

cover of California AGainst the Sea

California Against the Sea: Visions for Our Vanishing Coastline by Rosanna Xia (Sept 26th)

Okay, so this doesn’t come out until September, but I’m very excited for it anyway. Xia, an environmental journalist and Pulitzer Prize finalist, explores California’s contemporary coastline and the effects of overdevelopment, engineered landscapes, and the encroaching Pacific Ocean. She writes about the activists and business people, Indigenous leaders, politicians, and environmental scientists involved, carefully documenting the problems they face, the decisions they grapple with, and thoughts on the future. It’s a beautifully written, highly relevant book about not just our relationship with and how we think about the natural world, but also how we relate to each other.

cover of Time and Turtles

Of Time and Turtles: Mending the World, Shell by Shattered Shell by Sy Montgomery and Matt Patterson (September 19th)

Yes, it’s another one coming out in September, but technically it’s still a summer book! When you see a Sy Montgomery book, you know it’s going to be a good one. Montgomery, a naturalist, and Patterson, a wildlife artist, go to Turtle Rescue League and find hundreds of turtles recovering from illness and injury. While they work to help the turtles, Montgomery also dives into questions and explorations about the history of turtles, why people love them so much, and why we’re so fascinated with things like their long lives, which can be 100 years or more. This is a deeply human book and one that invites us to slow down and really take a look around us — which is much needed in a society urging us to do more and go faster.

If you’re looking for even more science-related books, check out this post about 25 popular science books, and this post on nonfiction science comics.