No clear trend in subject stands out among this fall’s science books (aside from Norton’s strong list), but as one digs deeper a subtle connection emerges among many forthcoming titles: narrative. The role of storytelling within scientific disciplines is on the minds of science writers this season, including histories and debates both ancient and modern.

Whether this book should appear on our Science or History list is a question that reinforces my point. In Lives in Ruins: Archaeologists and the Seductive Lure of Human Rubble, Marilyn Johnson seeks out the seekers who dig through our ancestors’ garbage to piece together their stories.

When most people think about Aristotle, his Poetics or Politics or maybe even Metaphysics come to mind. But did you know he could also be considered the first biologist? Armand Marie Leroi intends to set the record straight with The Lagoon: How Aristotle Invented Science. Another pivotal figure to revisit is Copernicus, whose eponymous principle holds that Earth doesn’t occupy a privileged position in the universe, with spectacular philosophical implications. Caleb Scharf, however, believes new cosmological findings mean it’s time for some reconsideration, which he does in The Copernicus Complex: Our Cosmic Significance in a Universe of Planets and Probabilities.

Cosmological ideas can be difficult to convey, so I’m particularly intrigued by Roberto Trotta’s The Edge of the Sky: All You Need to Know About the All-There-Is. It’s an Oulipian take on explaining difficult scientific concepts in simple terms, in this case by using only the “ten hundred most used words” in the English language.

Physician Terrence Holt understands how hard it is to convey the realities of the medical world to laypersons and through fictionalized takes on real situations he’s faced, his Internal Medicine: A Doctor’s Stories seeks to better acquaint people with the decisions and scenarios doctors encounter. Jonathan Eig, meanwhile, chronicles one specific medical miracle in The Birth of the Pill: How Four Crusaders Reinvented Sex and Launched a Revolution. Perhaps the most important invention of the 20th century, “the pill” exists thanks to the efforts of and cooperation between an unlikely group of people.

New research in evolutionary biology always carries potential for controversy. Andreas Wagner looks to shake up natural selection’s narrative with Arrival of the Fittest: Solving Evolution’s Greatest Puzzle, in which he posits that robustness, rather than randomness, is key to understanding evolution. David Sloan Wilson examines a different aspect of evolution in Does Altruism Exist? Culture, Genes, and the Welfare of Others. If altruism does in fact exist within and between groups of organisms, what does that mean for human societies?

With a different take on the place of human societies, George Monbiot questions foundational assumptions of the environmental movement. His Feral: Rewilding the Land, the Sea, and Human Life seeks to reconceive environmentalism within a romantic vision for inviting nature back into our daily lives while also freeing whole regions from human influence.

Diane Ackerman synthesizes many of these themes and projects them into the future as she ponders The Human Age: The World Shaped by Us, exploring our shifting relationship with nature and participation in its continual unfolding.

PW’s Top 10: Science

Arrival of the Fittest: Solving Evolution’s Greatest Puzzle. Andreas Wagner. Penguin/Current, Oct. 2

The Birth of the Pill: How Four Crusaders Reinvented Sex and Launched a Revolution. Jonathan Eig. Norton, Oct. 13

The Copernicus Complex: Our Cosmic Significance in a Universe of Planets and Probabilities. Caleb Scharf. FSG/Scientific American, Sept. 9

Does Altruism Exist? Culture, Genes, and the Welfare of Others. David Sloan Wilson. Yale Univ., Jan. 13

The Edge of the Sky: All You Need to Know About the All-There-Is. Roberto Trotta. Basic, Sept. 23

Feral: Rewilding the Land, the Sea, and Human Life. George Monbiot. Univ. of Chicago, Sept. 26

The Human Age: The World Shaped by Us. Diane Ackerman. Norton, Sept. 13

Internal Medicine: A Doctor’s Stories. Terrence Holt. Norton/Liveright, Sept. 29

The Lagoon: How Aristotle Invented Science. Armand Marie Leroi. Viking, Sept. 25

Lives in Ruins: Archaeologists and the Seductive Lure of Human Rubble. Marilyn Johnson. Harper, Nov. 11

Science Listings

Basic Books

The Big Ratchet: How Humanity Thrives in the Face of Natural Crisis by Ruth DeFries (Sept. 9, hardcover, $28.99, ISBN 978-0465044979) relates how technologies and innovations, big and small, propelled our species from hunters and gatherers on the savannahs of Africa to shoppers in the aisles of the supermarket. 30,000-copy announced first printing.

The Edge of the Sky: All You Need to Know About the All-There-Is by Roberto Trotta (Sept. 23, hardcover, $19.99, ISBN 978-0465044719). A blend of literary experimentation and science popularization, this delightful book tells the story of the universe on a human scale. 35,000-copy announced first printing.

Eureka: Discovering Your Inner Scientist by Chad Orzel (Dec. 30, paper, $17.99, ISBN 978-0465074969). By revealing the connection between the everyday activities and processes used to make great scientific discoveries, Orzel shows that by recognizing scientific processes as something familiar, we better appreciate scientific discoveries and thinking. 35,000-copy announced first printing.

Black Dog & Leventhal

(dist. by Workman)

Molecules: The Elements and the Architecture of Everything by Theodore Gray, photos by Gray and Nick Mann (Oct. 7, hardcover, $29.95, ISBN 978-1579129712) explores, through fascinating stories and stunning photography, the most interesting, essential, useful, and beautiful of the millions of chemical structures that make up every material in the world.

Deep Space: Beyond the Solar System to the End of the Universe and the Beginning of Time by Govert Schilling (Nov. 4, hardcover, $29.95, ISBN 978-1579129781) explores the mysteries of space that lie beyond our solar system on this mind-bending trip to nebulae, galaxies, black holes, and the edge of the observable universe.

Bloomsbury USA

Don’t Even Think About It: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Ignore Climate Change by George Marshall (Aug. 19, hardcover, $27, ISBN 978-1620401330). A witty, insightful, and original take on one of the most urgent questions of our time asks: for those of us who believe climate change is real, why do we so easily ignore it?

Whatever Happened to the Metric System? How America Kept Its Feet by John Bemelmans Marciano (Aug. 5, hardcover, $26, ISBN 978-1608194759). The intriguing tale of why the United States has never adopted the metric system, and what that says about us.

Chicago Review

(dist. by IPG)

Silent Witnesses: The Often Gruesome but Always Fascinating History of Forensic Science by Nigel McCrery (Sept. 1, paper, $16.95, ISBN 978-1613730027). A crime novelist and former police officer provides an account of all the major areas of forensic science from around the world over the past two centuries.

Columbia Univ.

Flying Dinosaurs: How Fearsome Reptiles Became Birds by John Pickrell (Sept. 30, hardcover, $29.95, ISBN 978-0231171786). Mixing colorful portraits with news on the latest fossil findings and interviews with leading paleontologists in the United States, China, Europe, and Australia, Pickrell details dinosaurs’ development of flight, which introduced a whole new range of abilities and helped them survive.

Race Unmasked: Biology and Race in the Twentieth Century by Michael Yudell (Sept. 9, hardcover, $40, ISBN 978-0231168748). Through rigorous historical research, Yudell reveals how genetics and related biological disciplines formed and preserved ideas of race and, at times, racism throughout the 20th century.

Four Revolutions in the Earth Sciences: From Heresy to Truth by James Lawrence Powell (Jan. 6, hardcover, $35, ISBN 978-0231164481). This absorbing scientific history describes the evolution of deep time, continental drift, meteorite impact, and global warming, showing how science works in practice and how it inevitably corrects the mistakes of its practitioners.

Cornell Univ.

What Galileo Saw: Imagining the Scientific Revolution by Lawrence Lipking (Nov. 25, hardcover, $35, ISBN 978-0801452970) offers a new perspective on how to understand the scientific revolution of the 17th century, emphasizing the role that imagination played in the birth of modern science and modern ways of viewing the world.

FSG/Scientific American

The Copernicus Complex: Our Cosmic Significance in a Universe of Planets and Probabilities by Caleb Scharf (Sept. 9, hardcover, $26, ISBN 978-0374129217). Weaving together cutting-edge science and classic storytelling, historical accounts and speculations on what the future holds, Scharf presents a groundbreaking revision of the Copernican principle.


Lives in Ruins: Archaeologists and the Seductive Lure of Human Rubble by Marilyn Johnson (Nov. 11, hardcover, $25.99, ISBN 978-0062127181). With a piercing eye and charming wit, Johnson looks to the real-life Indiana Joneses who sort through the muck and mire of swamps, ancient landfills, volcanic islands, and other dirty places to reclaim history. 35,000-copy announced first printing.

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari (Jan. 27, hardcover, $29.99, ISBN 978-0062316097). From a renowned historian comes a fresh narrative of humanity’s creation and evolution that explores the ways in which biology and history have defined us and enhanced our understanding of what it means to be human. 25,000-copy announced first printing.

Harvard Univ.

After Physics by David Z. Albert (Jan. 5, hardcover, $35, ISBN 978-0674731264). A philosopher and physicist argues that the difference between past and future can be understood as a mechanical phenomenon of nature and that quantum mechanics makes it impossible to present the entirety of what can be said about the world as a narrative of “befores” and “afters.”

Harvard Univ./Belknap

Making Space: How the Brain Knows Where Things Are by Jennifer M. Groh (Nov. 5, hardcover, $27.95, ISBN 978-0674863217) traces how the brain works out the tiny details of spatial relationships, creating our sense of location, and makes the case that the brain’s systems for thinking about space may be the systems of thought itself.

Alien Landscapes? Interpreting Disordered Minds by Jonathan Glover (Sept., hardcover, $35, ISBN 978-0674368361). Blending philosophy, science, literature, and art, Glover delivers a sustained defense of humanistic psychological interpretation and an example of the rich and generous approach to mental life for which it argues.


Animal Weapons: The Evolution of Battle by Douglas J. Emlen, illus. by David J. Tuss (Nov. 11, hardcover, $32.50, ISBN 978-0805094503) is the story behind the extreme weapons we see in the animal world—teeth and horns and claws—and what they can tell us about the way humans develop and use arms and other weapons.

Johns Hopkins Univ.

Science Unshackled: How Obscure, Abstract, Seemingly Useless Scientific Research Turned Out to Be the Basis for Modern Life by C. Renée James (Oct. 2, hardcover, $24.95, ISBN 978-1421415000) makes the case for “pure research” or “basic science,” drawing connections between practical applications of science and their roots in the seemingly impractical realm of nonapplied science.

The Large Hadron Collider: The Extraordinary Story of the Higgs Boson and Other Stuff That Will Blow Your Mind by Don Lincoln (Sept. 1, hardcover, $29.95, ISBN 978-1421413518). This guide to particle physics and the Large Hadron Collider explains how the collider works and what it has taught us, with insights into the birth of the universe.

Generic: The Unbranding of Modern Medicine by Jeremy A. Greene (Sept. 25, hardcover, $29.95, ISBN 978-1421414935) is the first book-length account concerning the social, political, and cultural history of generic drugs. Greene explores the continuing controversy over brand name, generic, and “me-too” prescription drugs, and what it means for individuals, health care policy, and society at large.

Pathologist of the Mind: Adolf Meyer and the Origins of American Psychiatry by S.D. Lamb (Oct. 23, hardcover, $44.95, ISBN 978-1421414843). As important as Freud but less well-known, Meyer is rescued from obscurity as Lamb illuminates the great legacy of the man who laid the philosophical and clinical approach to psychiatry that’s still taught and practiced at Johns Hopkins.


Cheap and Clean: How Americans Think About Energy in the Age of Global Warming by Stephen Ansolabehere and David M. Konisky (Aug. 15, hardcover, $27.95, ISBN 978-0262027625) argues that the local and immediate nature of people’s energy concerns can be the starting point for a new approach to energy and climate change policy.

Collision Course: Endless Growth on a Finite Planet by Kerryn Higgs (Aug. 22, hardcover, $29.95, ISBN 978-0262027731) examines how society’s commitment to growth has marginalized scientific findings on the limits of growth, casting them as bogus predictions of imminent doom.

New Press

(dist. by Perseus)

Our Daily Poison: From Pesticides to Packaging, How Chemicals Have Contaminated the Food Chain and Are Making Us Sick by Marie-Monique Robin, trans. by Allison Schein and Lara Vergnaud (Dec. 9, hardcover, $26.95, ISBN 978-1595589095). The prize-winning author of The World According to Monsanto renders a shocking account of the dangerous chemical compounds that have infiltrated our food systems.


The Quantum Moment: How Planck, Bohr, Einstein, and Heisenberg Taught Us to Love Uncertainty by Robert P. Crease and Alfred Scharff Goldhaber (Oct. 13, hardcover, $29.95, ISBN 978-0393067927). The fascinating story of how quantum mechanics went mainstream.

The Myth of Mirror Neurons: The Real Neuroscience of Communication and Cognition by Gregory Hickok (Aug. 18, hardcover, $26.95, ISBN 978-0393089615) is an essential reconsideration of one of the most far-reaching theories in modern neuroscience and psychology.

The Birth of the Pill: How Four Crusaders Reinvented Sex and Launched a Revolution by Jonathan Eig (Oct. 13, hardcover, $27.95, ISBN 978-0393073720). The story of the people whose dramatic scientific breakthrough was so universal that it’s known simply as “the pill.”

The Human Age: The World Shaped by Us by Diane Ackerman (Sept. 10, hardcover, $27.95, ISBN 978-0393240740) confronts the unprecedented fact that the human race is now the single dominant force of change on the planet, and introduces us to many of the people and ideas now creating—perhaps saving—our future.


Internal Medicine: A Doctor’s Stories by Terrence Holt (Sept. 29, hardcover, $24.95, ISBN 978-0871408754). A collection of gripping and exquisitely rendered stories that captures life on the front lines of medicine.

The Meaning of Human Existence by Edward O. Wilson (Oct. 6, hardcover, $23.95, ISBN 978-0871401007). Challenging a purely mechanistic view of human existence, Wilson examines what makes human beings supremely different from all other species.

Oxford Univ.

Ocean Worlds: The Story of Seas on Earth and Other Planets by Jan Zalasiewicz and Mark Williams (Jan. 1, hardcover, $29.95, ISBN 978-0199672882) describes what we know of their origin and development on Earth, oceans on other planets, and what the future might hold for our own.

Ancestors in Our Genome: The New Science of Human Evolution by Eugene E. Harris (Dec. 1, hardcover, $27.95, ISBN 978-0199978038). An up-to-date account of the evolution of the human genome among the primate group, from the perspective of population genetics.

One Plus One Equals One: Symbiosis and the Evolution of Complex Life by John Archibald (Aug. 26, hardcover, $27.95, ISBN 978-0199660599) chronicles the revolutionary insights provided by modern molecular biology, especially rapid DNA sequencing.

Confronting Contagion: Our Evolving Understanding of Disease by Melvin Santer (Oct. 1, hardcover, $34.95, ISBN 978-0199356355). A history of disease theory, from classical antiquity to modern times, discusses the various causes to which people of different eras attributed disease.

Sustainability: A History by Jeremy L. Caradonna (Sept. 1, hardcover, $27.95, ISBN 978-0199372409). The first history of the movement that dominates today’s thinking about the environment, with roots that are centuries old.

Why Humans Like to Cry: Tragedy, Evolution, and the Brain by Michael Trimble (Oct. 28, paper, $16.95, ISBN 978-0198713494) looks at the physiology and evolution of this unique human behavior, exploring its links with language, consciousness, empathy, and religious practices.


Arrival of the Fittest: Solving Evolution’s Greatest Puzzle by Andreas Wagner (Oct. 2, hardcover, $27.95, ISBN 978-1591846468). Natural selection means the fittest survive, but how do the fit happen to exist in the first place? A renowned biologist explains that nature’s innovation occurs more rapidly than randomness would allow.


The Malaria Project: The U.S. Government’s Secret Mission to Find a Miracle Cure by Karen M. Masterson (Oct. 7, hardcover, $26.95, ISBN 978-0451467324). The in-depth story of America’s secret mission to combat malaria during WWII reveals a scientific campaign modeled on Nazi experiments, tested on mental patients and convicted felons, and supported by top U.S. pharmaceutical companies.

Princeton Univ.

Do Zombies Dream of Undead Sheep? A Neuroscientific View of the Zombie Brain by Timothy Verstynen and Bradley Voytek (Sept. 21, hardcover, $19.95, ISBN 978-0691157283). The authors, neuroscientists and zombie enthusiasts, combine tongue-in-cheek analysis with modern neuroscientific principles to show how zombism can be understood in terms of current knowledge regarding how the brain works.

The Future of the Brain: Essays by the World’s Leading Neuroscientists, edited by Gary Marcus and Jeremy Freeman (Nov. 23, hardcover, $24.95, ISBN 978-0691162768). Original essays by leading researchers shed light on the breathtaking implications of brain science for medicine, psychiatry, and human consciousness.

Prometheus Books

In the Light of Science: Our Ancient Quest for Knowledge and the Measure of Modern Physics by Demetris Nicolaides (Nov. 4, paper, $19, ISBN 978-1615922253) chronicles the birth of science in ancient Greece, showing that Greek philosophers anticipated much that later science developed and continues to pursue to this day.

God and the Multiverse: Humanity’s Expanding View of the Cosmos by Victor J. Stenger (Sept. 9, hardcover, $26, ISBN 978-1616149703). A veteran physicist and New York Times bestselling author explains the concept of the multiverse for lay readers and considers the implications for religion and traditional worldviews.

Rare: The High-Stakes Race to Satisfy Our Need for the Scarcest Metals on Earth by Keith Veronese (Jan. 6, hardcover, $25, ISBN 978-1616149727) examines the rare earth metals inside consumer products, medical devices, and weapon systems, and the geopolitical consequences of their unsustainable use and waning supply.

Random House

Mind Change: How Digital Technologies Are Leaving Their Mark on Our Brains by Susan Greenfield (Jan. 27, hardcover, $26, ISBN 978-0812993820). A riveting and timely look at how digital technologies are changing our brains that will alter how we think about our screens and our minds.

Simon & Schuster/TED

How We’ll Live on Mars by Stephen Petranek (Nov. 4, hardcover, $14.99, ISBN 978-1476784762) makes the case that living on Mars is not just plausible but inevitable, thanks to new technology and the competitive spirit of the world’s most forward-looking entrepreneurs.

St. Martin’s

Reaching Down the Rabbit Hole: A Renowned Neurologist Explains the Mystery and Drama of Brain Disease by Allan Ropper and Brian Burrell (Sept. 30, hardcover, $25.99, ISBN 978-1250034984). Neurologist Ropper pulls back the curtain at a renowned hospital to reveal how brain diseases offer some of the greatest diagnostic challenges in medicine.

St. Martin’s/Dunne

Your Atomic Self: The Invisible Elements That Connect You to Everything Else in the Universe by Curt Stager (Oct. 14, hardcover, $25.99, ISBN 978-1250018847). A transformative new view of how our lives—and our connections to the world around us—look from the atomic level.

Univ. of California

The Walking Whales: From Land to Water in Eight Million Years by J.G.M. “Hans” Thewissen (Jan. 2, hardcover, $34.95, ISBN 978-0520277069). A sweeping account of how whales evolved, from herbivorous forest-dwelling ancestors that looked like tiny deer to carnivorous monsters stalking lakes and rivers, and serpentlike denizens of the coast.

Concrete Jungle: New York City and Our Last Best Hope for a Sustainable Future by Niles Eldredge and Sidney Horenstein (Oct. 23, hardcover, $34.95, ISBN 978-0520270152) demonstrates that, though cities have voracious appetites for such resources as food and water, they also represent the last hope for conserving healthy remnants of the world’s ecosystems and species.

Univ. of Chicago

Feral: Rewilding the Land, the Sea, and Human Life by George Monbiot (Sept. 26, hardcover, $25, ISBN 978-0226205557). Guardian columnist Monbiot felt too separated from nature, so he set out to find it. He takes us on a tour of locations throughout Europe and around the globe that have been rewilded.

Planet of the Bugs: Evolution and the Rise of Insects by Scott Richard Shaw (Sept. 23, hardcover, $27.50, ISBN 978-0226163611). If you aren’t already aware that bugs rule the planet, you will be after you read this: Shaw tells us all about their evolutionary prowess and indomitability, along with gross, amazing photos.

Earth’s Deep History: How It Was Discovered and Why It Matters by Martin J.S. Rudwick (Oct. 22, hardcover, $30, ISBN 978-0226203935). Science historian Rudwick looks at the story of how we learned the Earth’s actual age, and how we still understand it through a Judeo-Christian lens.

Vaccine Nation: America’s Changing Relationship with Immunization by Elena Conis (Oct. 21, hardcover, $27.50, ISBN 978-0226923765). This clear-headed history of America’s ever-changing relationship to vaccination shows how the triumphs over polio and smallpox led to widespread enthusiasm for vaccination—an enthusiasm that is now up against the viral marketing of the antivaccine movement.


The Lagoon: How Aristotle Invented Science by Armand Marie Leroi (Sept. 25, hardcover, $27.95, ISBN 978-0670026746) is a study of Aristotle as a biologist.

The Invisible History of the Human Race: How DNA and History Shape Our Identities and Our Futures by Christine Kenneally (Oct. 9, hardcover, $27.95, ISBN 978-0670025558). From ancient encounters to modern mass migrations and medical diagnoses, Kenneally explains how the forces that shaped the history of the world shape the individuals who inhabit it.

Yale Univ.

Life’s Blueprint: The Science and Art of Embryo Creation by Benny Shilo (Oct. 28, hardcover, $35, ISBN 978-0300196634). An accessible way of looking at recent major advances in the science of embryonic development.

Does Altruism Exist? Culture, Genes, and the Welfare of Others by David Sloan Wilson (Jan. 13, hardcover, $27.50, ISBN 978-0300189490). A powerful treatise that demonstrates the existence of altruism in nature, with surprising implications for human society.

Banned: A History of Pesticides and the Science of Toxicology by Frederick Rowe Davis (Nov. 25, hardcover, $40, ISBN 978-0300205176). Silent Spring catalyzed an environmental movement in the 1960s and achieved a ban on DDT, but are the alternatives any less toxic?