The Brilliant Abyss

The scope of The Brilliant Abyss is impressive, rivaling that of the deep sea itself. Helen Scales covers the deep from a variety of angles: biology, history, geology, medicine, carbon capture, exploration, mining, plastic, and conservation. I’m sure she gets this a lot, but Scales is a great name for a marine biologist and ocean-focused writer. And she is a good one.

Why Sharks Matter

A Deep Dive With the World’s Most Misunderstood Predator David Shiffman, PhD Find it on Bookshop Summary This book is true to its title: a deep dive into why sharks matter. A man who loves sharks, science, and public outreach has written a book at the intersection of those things. So much about what you … Read more

An Immense World

We, as humans, interact with the world mostly through our vision, which is relatively good. We see the world, literally, as visible light. Other animals, however, have biases toward other senses. They may “see” the world as electric or magnetic fields, or as echoes, or as scents wafting through the air.

An Immense World is a beautiful exploration of what life is like for other animals. Whether it’s a dog sniffing the ground, or a seal twitching its whiskers, or a lost lobster heading home, Ed Yong gets inside their heads to understand how they perceive the world.

The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs

Most of the time when I learn about dinosaurs from someone, I get either way too much information about them or not nearly enough. This book strikes the balance perfectly.

We get a high-level, non-technical overview of all the different eras of dinosaurs in chronological order. From the first to appear, to those that evolved, to those that dominated until they were wiped out, and finally those that survived enough to carry on. Brusatte truly covers the rise, domination, and eventual fall of the group of animals we know as dinosaurs.

Eating to Extinction

The globalized food system of modern times relies on a surprisingly small number of plants, which we are quickly eating to extinction.
Pretty much anywhere you go, you will find the same varieties of bananas, wheat, tomatoes, and so on. This is great for world travelers who want access to familiar foods, but there are drawbacks.
Such dependence on low diversity puts humanity’s staple crops at a higher risk of disease and climate effects. Because of this, the indirect effects of climate change will include food shortages on a global scale.
In addition to reducing the strength of our food system, the low variety of foods we eat is not good for our health. Wild foods are richer in nutrients and good bacteria. The biodiversity of our internal microbiomes reflects the biodiversity of our food, which reflects the biodiversity of our planet.
How did we get the food system we have today, and what should the future of our food look like? How do we protect our food from eating to extinction?

The Nature of Nature

Have you always loved nature whether you chose it for a career or not? Enric Sala’s latest book, The Nature of Nature, is a well-written, future-focused Ecology 101 for any background, with a bias to the marine realm that I can appreciate.
If I can pull from the acknowledgements up front, Sala points out that writing a book is a good metaphor for an ecosystem. There are many moving parts, and many contributions from different players, some known and some unknown. They all work together to form the product you see in front of you.
The Nature of Nature is a quick and fairly easy read that gives modern real world examples. You’ve heard that climate change and human impacts are bad but exactly how and why? Sala shows us how it can play out in an ecosystem with cascading effects.


Another fun and informative read from Mary Roach, this time about animals that don’t follow human rules, and “break the law” (Fuzz, get it?). If you live in North America, you’re probably familiar with raccoons and bears getting into trash, or seagulls stealing food, but did you know that albatrosses are a nuisance for military operations at Midway? Or that monkeys are a real danger to tourists in Asia?

Under a White Sky

Elizabeth Kolbert’s latest work asks how the “nature of the future” will look– ecosystems fundamentally different under a changing climate. The answer she unfolds shows entire regions overrun with invasive species, flooded cities, conservation-reliant species, and, the origin of the title, human interference with the atmosphere resulting in a sky that is not blue, but white.

Her talent with language creates vivid imagery of a present and future that makes the reader think twice about the natural world and our role in it. Some of our current solutions may be worse than the problems themselves. We can do better.