The Best Science & Nature Books of 2009

 

Denialism: How Irrational Thinking Hinders Scientific Progress, Harms the Planet, and Threatens Our...

Michael Specter

 

Despite progress in medicine, genetic engineering, and other fields over the last century, a rising tide of "denialists," including organic food enthusiasts to vaccine skeptics, ignore science to the potential detriment of society. New Yorker writer Michael Specter does not just rebut their claims but describes the root of this mistrust in corporate malfeasance, weak-kneed policymakers, and, sometimes, scientists themselves.

 

 

The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon

David Grann

 

It's easy to get lost in this riveting tale of a monomaniacal explorer intent on discovering the ruins of a lost civilization in the Amazon basin. On his final expedition in 1925, Percy Fawcett, his son, and a companion, vanished -- and over the years since many have attempted to trace his footsteps and followed in his demise.

 

 

 

 

Ivory's Ghosts: The White Gold of History and the Fate of Elephants

John Frederick Walker

 

In this provocative book, journalist John Frederick Walker tells the gaudy and irresponsible history of the elephant ivory trade in Africa -- from billiard balls to piano keys -- but he makes a powerful plea that ending the ban on ivory is in fact the only way to save elephants in the long term.

 

 

 

 

The Fallen Sky: An Intimate History of Shooting Stars

Christopher Cokinos

 

Few things are more mysterious than a hunk of rock from outer space. In this panoramic history, poet and author Christopher Cokinos traveled the globe to document man's enduring fascination with meteorites as both scientific specimens and collector's items.

 

 

 

 

 

A Brilliant Darkness: The Extraordinary Life and Mysterious Disappearance of Ettore Majorana

João Magueijo

 

A theoretical physicist recounts his investigation into the 1938 disappearance -- and likely suicide -- of Ettore Majorana, a Sicilian nuclear physicist who some observers rank with Galileo and Newton. Majorana's story has been told many times before in Italian, but this entertaining and humorous book marks the first comprehensive treatment in English.

 

April 19: "What you see first, after the starting gun's crack, is a column of bobbing runners, thousands of them, surging downhill..."

Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch is the winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. James Parker calls this Dickensian coming-of-age novel "an enveloping…

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Poems That Make Grown Men Cry

And women too.  Luminaries from Colin Firth to Nick Cave and Jonathan Franzen chose the poems that bring them to tears, and the result is a stunning collection of poignant verse from writers like Auden, Whitman, Bishop, Larkin, Neruda and many others.  Warning: choking-up hazard.

The King of Pain

Trapped beneath his entertainment system, reality TV mastermind Rick Salter reflects on his life and tries to piece together the events of the previous evening. Seth Kaufman’s romp is an outrageous meditation on pain and entertainment in a deranged world in which the two are often interchangeable.

The Good Inn

Frank Black, frontman for the Pixies, has written a transgressive historical fiction with shades of Thomas Pynchon (focused as it is on the history of explosives and cinematic pornography), all set in a hallucinatory Edwardian Europe.