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.


July 24: On this day in 1725 John Newton, the slave trader-preacher who wrote the hymn "Amazing Grace," was born.

Crime fiction legends Dennis Lehane and Michael Connelly discuss the new book that unites their beloved sleuths Patrick Kenzie and Harry Bosch.

Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
Paradise and Elsewhere

Canadian short story marvel Kathy Page emerges as the Alice Munro of the supernatural from these heartfelt tales of shapeshifting swimmers, mild-mannered cannibals, and personality-shifting viruses transmitted through kisses.


When a persuasive pastor arrives in a sleepy farm town, his sage influence has otherworldly results (talking sheep, a mayor who walks on water). But can he pull off the miracle of finding kindly local Liz Denny the love of her life?  Small wonder looms large in this charmer from Andre Alexis.

The Hundred-Year House

When a poetry scholar goes digging through the decrepit estate of his wife's family to uncover a bygone arts colony's strange mysteries, he awakens a tenacious monster: his mother-in-law. A wickedly funny take on aging aristocracies from author Rebecca Makkai (The Borrower).