Becca’s Reading List: The Armchair Scientist – Nature

A quarterly roundup of the latest updates to our science collection with a spotlight on: Nature


The Earth

The Ground Beneath Us: From the Oldest Cities to the Last Wilderness, What Dirt Tells Us About Who We Are (March 2017)

How many of us have given much thought to the ground beneath our feet? Author Paul Bogard has, and the end result is this manifesto on the things we dig up in the dirt. The book takes a below-ground-level look at our industrial cities as well as places where humanity has yet to put down roots as it considers what’s living — and dying — in the soil below us.

Growing a Revolution: bringing our soil back to life (May 2017)

A different take on dirt — author David R. Montgomery discusses one of the oldest quandaries of agriculture: soil degradation. Montgomery explains that today’s degradation is happening on “a global scale,” but all is not yet lost. Conservation agriculture puts the power of soil restoration back into the hands of farmers around the world. Here Montgomery outlines theories and practices that could reverse the trend and save our soil.


The Sky

The Enigma of the Owl : An Illustrated Natural History (February 2017)

This beautiful book written by BBC award-winning natural history writer Michael Unwin takes a look into the lives of fifty-three different species of owls from around the world. It also includes over 200 colored photographs of owls in the wild, making it just as much a visual thrill as it is a fascinating look into one of the world’s most mysterious and enigmatic birds.

Raptor: A Journey Through Birds (November 2016)

“My eyes are always quivering for birds of prey. I have always been turned to their presence.” So says author James Macdonald Lockhart, winner of The Royal Society of Literature Jerwood Award for Nonfiction. In this book, Lockhart looks at British raptors, the wild birds of prey, he has carried on his lifelong fascination with. Equal parts poetry and natural science, Raptor has been called the natural heir to J.A. Baker’s The Peregrine. Those who loved Helen MacDonald’s H is for Hawk may want to give it a look.

Vulture: The Private Life of an Unloved Bird (March 2017)

Not much has been written on what author Katie Fallon calls “the world’s most unpopular bird,” but Fallon sets out to change all that with Vulture. This book takes an in-depth look at the Turkey Vulture, one of the world’s most “widely distributed and abundant scavenging birds of prey on the planet.” Those who enjoy ornithological tales and natural science may find themselves thinking better of this noble flyer.


The Space In Between

The Songs of Trees: Stories from Nature’s Great Connectors (April 2017)

This book by author David George Haskell takes a closer look at the relationship between trees all over the world and their surroundings. By examining individual trees and their connection to the land and life around them, Haskell shows that no tree is in fact an island, whether in a rural or an urban setting. And don’t think we humans are exempt — according to Publishers Weekly, “Haskell’s study of interconnectedness reveals as much about humans as it does trees.”

Witness Tree: Seasons of Change with a Century-old Oak (April 2017)

Another look at life within the leaves, this book studies a single tree and its growth over the course of a century. Author Lynda Mapes goes in depth, documenting how a single tree has evolved the structure of its leaves and bloom time in response to a changing climate. The book’s publisher, Bloomsbury, touts it as “An intimate look at one majestic hundred-year-old oak tree through four seasons–and the reality of global climate change it reveals.”

Monarchs and Milkweed: A Migrating Butterfly, a Poisonous Plant, and Their Remarkable Story of Coevolution (March 2017)

This book explores the unlikely symbiotic relationship between the world’s most famous butterfly and one of its least popular plants. “Anurag Agrawal presents a vivid investigation into how the monarch butterfly has evolved closely alongside the milkweed—a toxic plant named for the sticky white substance emitted when its leaves are damaged—and how this inextricable and intimate relationship has been like an arms race over the millennia, a battle of exploitation and defense between two fascinating species.” — Princeton University Press