The Science of Superheroes: The Secrets Behind Speed, Strength, Flight, Evolution, and More by Mark Brake
Science communicator and educator Mark Brake covers more than fifty topics, from talking trees like Groot, to real life mutants, to the calories Superman would need to consume, to Thor’s hammer, to the engineering needed to make a Batmobile. The book comes from decades of research, from 1999, when Brake set up the first science-and-science-fiction degree program, to today.
Natural Causes: An Epidemic of Wellness, the Certainty of Dying, and Killing Ourselves to Live Longer by Barbara Ehrenreich
In this critical eye on “wellness” and “mindfulness” trends, Barbara Ehrenreich (PhD in cellular immunology) looks at the basis of aging and shows how little control we have over it. This book uses current scientific literature, sociological trends, and pop culture to examine the ways in which we are obsessed with overcoming death. Kale only offers the illusion of control. Also available on audio.
Kirkus Reviews (starred review) says, “Throughout the text, [Ehrenreich] employs the erudition that earned her degree, the social consciousness that has long informed her writing, and the compassion that endears her to her many fans…A powerful text that floods the mind with illumination-and with agonizing questions.”
Superbugs: An Arms Race against Bacteria by William Hall, Anthony McDonnell, and Jim O’Neill
Superbugs outlines the systematic failures that have led to bacteria that is immune to our antibiotics, as well as solutions to tackle these global issues in the government, industry, and public health sector. Superbugs argues for mounting an offense against this threat through agricultural policy changes, an industrial research stimulus, and other broad-scale economic and social incentives.
Former UK Prime Minister David Cameron calls this book, “a compelling story about the battle against what could become a mass killer of humanity.”
No Immediate Danger: Volume One of Carbon Ideologies by William T. Vollmann
Through first person research that Vollmann made over seven years by traveling to contaminated zones, No Immediate Danger studies the nuclear power responsible for man-made climate change first, before turning an eye to the other causes of global warming: industrial manufacturing, agricultural practices, fossil fuel extraction, economic demand for electric power, and the human desire to live in comfort. This is first in the Carbon Ideologies series.
Booklist (starred review) says, “Vigilant in his precision, open-mindedness, and candor, Vollmann takes on global warming . . . [His] careful descriptions, touching humility, molten irony, and rueful wit, combined with his addressing readers in ‘the hot dark future,’ makes this compendium of statistics, oral history, and reportage elucidating, compelling, and profoundly disquieting.”
A Shadow Above: The Fall and Rise of the Raven by Joe Shute
In this cultural history of the raven, Joe Shute interviews biologists, descendants of Vikings, and sheep farmers to find out how ravens became ingrained in us as omens of death and why they’re making a comeback, after near extinction.