55 Books Scientific American Recommends in 2023

The Scientific American editorial team learned a lot this year. We debated why we’ll never live in space, explored the deep ocean (sort of), and asked how dinosaurs got so big. We also read a ton of books. While of course there were quite a few science fiction books (we can’t help ourselves), we also learned how to cook, fell in and out of love with intriguing fictional characters, and got the scoop on how many bears really exist, what our universe actually looks like and why we’re even here. 

Below is a collection of what SciAm staff read this year, including recent fiction and nonfiction, selections from our Reviews section, titles from some familiar faces and a bountiful backlist to keep your TBR list on its toes. 

Happy reading!

Book covers

Nonfiction

1. A City on Mars

by Kelly Weinersmith and Zach Weinersmith

Penguin Random House, 2023

(Tags: Space, Graphic Novel)

“Critically acclaimed, bestselling authors Kelly and Zach Weinersmith set out to write the essential guide to a glorious future of space settlements, but after years of research, they aren’t so sure it’s a good idea,” Penguin Random House says. “In a world hurtling toward human expansion into space, A City on Mars investigates whether the dream of new worlds won’t create nightmares, both for settlers and the people they leave behind. In the process, the Weinersmiths answer every question about space you’ve ever wondered about, and many you’ve never considered.”

“Hilarious, unputdownable book; though you may feel worse about possible space settlements, you’ll value living here on Earth all the more.” —Clara Moskowitz, Senior Editor, space and physics

2. Eight Bears

by Gloria Dickie

W.W. Norton, 2023

(Tags: History, Nature)

“In Eight Bears,” notes W.W. Norton, “journalist Gloria Dickie embarks on a globe-trotting journey to explore each bear’s story, whisking readers from the cloud forests of the Andes to the ice floes of the Arctic; from the jungles of India to the backwoods of the Rocky Mountain West.” 

“There are only eight true bears in the world?!” —Meghan Bartels, News Reporter

3. Perfectly Good Food

by Irene and Margaret Li

W.W. Norton, 2023

(Tags: Cooking, Reference) 

“Written by the chef-sisters behind Boston’s acclaimed Mei Mei Dumplings, this cookbook/field guide is a crucial resource for the thrifty chef, the environmentally mindful cook, and anyone looking to make the most of their ingredients,” the publisher says.

“I don’t have a lot of cookbooks, but this book is right next to The Joy of Cooking for me, it’s so helpful.” —Brianne Kane, Senior Editorial Coordinator 

4. The Man from the Future

by Ananyo Bhattacharya

W.W. Norton, 2022

(Tags: Biography, History, Mathematics)

“An electrifying biography of one of the most extraordinary scientists of the twentieth century and the world he made. The smartphones in our pockets and computers like brains. The vagaries of game theory and evolutionary biology. Nuclear weapons and self-replicating spacecrafts. All bear the fingerprints of one remarkable, yet largely overlooked, man: John von Neumann,” states W.W. Norton. 

“Incredible look at the mind and times of maybe the smartest person who ever lived.” —Gary Stix, Senior Editor, mind and brain

5. Period

by Kate Clancy

Princeton University Press, 2023

(Tags: Biology, Medicine, History)

Period counters the false theories that have long defined the study of the uterus, exposing the eugenic history of gynecology while providing an intersectional feminist perspective on menstruation science,” according to Princeton University Press.

“Worth reading if only for the demolition of the idea of a ‘normal’ 28-day cycle! She’s also great at considering the social implications of science.” —Meghan Bartels, News Reporter

6. Our Fragile Moment

by Michael Mann

Hachette, 2023

(Tags: Climate Change, Nature) 

“For the vast majority of its 4.54 billion years,” says the publisher, “Earth has proven it can manage just fine without human beings. Then came the first proto-humans, who emerged just a little more than 2 million years ago—a fleeting moment in geological time. What is it that made this benevolent moment of ours possible? Ironically, it’s the very same thing that now threatens us—climate change.”

“Really smart, clever and eye-opening look at the five most extreme shifts in Earth’s climate over 4.5 billion years, and the lessons those episodes have for our dramatic climate shift today.” —Mark Fischetti, Senior Editor, sustainability

7. The Patriarchs

by Angela Saini

Penguin Random House

(Tags: History, Sociology) 

“In this bold and radical book, award-winning science journalist Angela Saini explores the roots of what we call patriarchy, uncovering a complex history of how it first became embedded in societies and spread across the globe from prehistory into the present,” the publisher says.

“A powerful show of how the patriarchy is made and remade, over and over again.” —Meghan Bartels, News Reporter

8. The Warped Side of Our Universe

by Kip Thorne, Lia Halloran

Liveright, 2023

(Tags: Space/Physics, Art) 

“Epic verse and pulsating paintings merge to shed light on time travel, black holes, gravitational waves and the birth of the universe. Nearly two decades in the making, The Warped Side of Our Universe marks the historic collaboration of Nobel Laureate Kip Thorne and award-winning artist Lia Halloran. It brings to vivid life the wonders and wildness of our universe’s ‘Warped Side,’” according to Liveright, an imprint of W.W. Norton.

“I thought I was getting another book on black holes; instead I discovered a delightful explosion of illustrations, science and verse.” —Dan Vergano, Senior Opinion Editor

9. The Possibility of Life

by Jaime Green

HarperCollins, 2023

(Tags: Astronomy, Philosophy)

From the publisher: “In The Possibility of Life, acclaimed science journalist Jaime Green traces the history of our understanding, from the days of Galileo and Copernicus to our contemporary quest for exoplanets. Along the way, she interweaves insights from science fiction writers who construct worlds that in turn inspire scientists.… The Possibility of Life explores our evolving conception of the cosmos to ask an even deeper question: What does it mean to be human?”

“I know Jaime, so I’ve been waiting for this book for a long time, and it was worth the wait!” —Meghan Bartels, News Reporter

10. Grace in All Simplicity

by Chris Quigg and Robert Cahn

Pegasus Books, 2023

(Tags: Physics, History)

Grace in All Simplicity narrates the saga of how we have prospected for some of Nature’s most tightly held secrets, the basic constituents of matter and the fundamental forces that rule them. In these pages we will meet scientists of both past and present. These men and women are professional scientists and amateurs, the eccentric and the conventional, performers and introverts. Scientists themselves, Cahn and Quigg convey their infectious joy as they search for new laws of nature,” states Pegasus Books.

“A fascinating and accessible description of the incredible revolution physicists have made in understanding the world’s smallest pieces.” —Clara Moskowitz, Senior Editor, space and physics

Fiction

1. Girlfriend on Mars

by Deborah Willis

W.W. Norton, 2023

(Tags: Space, Romance) 

Girlfriend on Mars is at once a satirical indictment of our pursuit of fame and wealth amidst environmental crisis, and an exploration of humanity’s deepest longing, greatest quest, and most enduring cliché: love,” the publisher says.

“I loved this book, and hated how I related to both main characters Amber and Adam.” —Brianne Kane, Senior Editorial Coordinator 

2. Harold

by Steven Wright

Simon & Schuster, 2023

(Tags: Humor, Historical Fiction) 

“Harold documents the meandering, surreal, often hilarious, and always thought-provoking stream-of-consciousness ruminations of the title character during a single day in class,” notes the publisher. “This novel will change the way you perceive your daily existence.”

“It’s definitely a fun read but fans of his comedy might enjoy it more. Takes place in the mind of a young boy in just one day in school, oddly enough, bird lovers might enjoy it. You’ll have to find out why!” —Silvia De Santis, Prepress and Quality Manager 

3. I Am Homeless If This Is Not My Home

by Lorrie Moore

Knopf, 2023

(Tags: Historical Fiction, Magical Realism)

 “Bold, meditative, theatrical, this new novel is an inventive, poetic portrait of lovers and siblings as it questions the stories we have been told which may or may not be true. I Am Homeless If This Is Not My Home takes us through a trap door, into a windswept, imagined journey to the tragic-comic landscape that is, unmistakably, the world of Lorrie Moore,” according to publisher Knopf, an imprint of Penguin Random House.

“A road-trip novel about the inevitability of entropy—in our shared physical world and in our private emotional ones” —Angelique Rondeau, Senior Copy Editor 

4. Other People’s Clothes

by Calla Henkel

Penguin Random House, 2022

(Tags: Mystery, LGBTQ+, Historical Fiction) 

“Hoping to escape the pain of the recent murder of her best friend, art student Zoe Beech finds herself studying abroad in the bohemian capital of Europe—Berlin. Rudderless, Zoe relies on the arrangements of fellow exchange student Hailey Mader, who idolizes Warhol and Britney Spears and wants nothing more than to be an art star,” the publisher says. “Other People’s Clothes brilliantly illuminates the sometimes dangerous intensity of female friendships, as well as offering an unforgettable window into millennial life and the lengths people will go to in order to eradicate emotional pain.”

“This book could totally be turned into a series/movie!” —Isabella Bruni, Digital Producer 

5. Prophet  

by Sin Blaché and Helen Macdonald

Grove, 2023

(Tags: Mystery, LGBTQ+, Romance) 

From the publisher: “Adam Rubenstein and Sunil Rao have been reluctant partners since their Uzbekistan days. Adam is a seemingly unflappable American Intelligence officer and Rao is an ex-MI6 agent, an addict and rudderless pleasure hound, with the uncanny ability to discern the truth of things—about everyone and everything other than Adam. When an American diner turns up in a foggy field in the U.K. after a mysterious death, Adam and Rao are called in to investigate, setting into motion the most dangerous and otherworldly mission of their lives.”

“I could not put this book down and nearly threw it across the room when I finished it!” —Brianne Kane, Senior Editorial Coordinator 

6. The Road to Roswell

by Connie Willis

Penguin Random House, 2023

(Tags: Humor, Romance, Fantasy) 

The Road to Roswell is packed full of Men in Black, Elvis impersonators, tourist traps, rattlesnakes, chemtrails, and Close Encounters of the Third, Fourth, and Fifth kind,” the publisher notes. “Can Francie, stuck in a neon green bridesmaid’s dress, save the world—and still make it back for the wedding?”

“Do you want to drive aimlessly around New Mexico under the dictatorship of a well-meaning alien and the friends he picks up along the way?” —Meghan Bartels, News Reporter

7. Archangel

by Andrea Barrett

W.W. Norton, 2023

(Tags: Short Stories, Historical Fiction) 

 “A young boy comes of age amid an explosion of homespun investigations. A widowed science writer tries to reconcile the influence of emotion on scientific theory. A famous biologist finds himself outpaced by his students, even as he seeks to teach them. Throughout these deftly plotted stories, Andrea Barrett weaves subtle connections among the tales within this collection and characters in her earlier works,” the publisher says.

“The stories in this collection explore how people react when new scientific theories sweep onto the scene: Some embrace the fresh ideas, others defend the more established orthodoxies at all costs. And in between such debates, life—work, children, war—keeps on happening.” —Sophie Bushwick, Associate Editor, technology 

8. The Terraformers

by Annie Newitz

Macmillan

(Tags: Science Fiction, Speculative Fiction) 

“Destry’s life is dedicated to terraforming Sask-E. As part of the Environmental Rescue Team, she cares for the planet and its burgeoning eco-systems as her parents and their parents did before her. But the bright, clean future they’re building comes under threat when Destry discovers a city full of people that shouldn’t exist, hidden inside a massive volcano,” writes the publisher. “The Terraformers will take you on a journey spanning thousands of years and exploring the triumphs, strife, and hope that find us wherever we make our home.”

“A delightful, world-building science-fiction book about—world-building, as in terraforming new worlds for future human habitation. I fell for the main characters right away, human and nonhuman.” —Laura Helmuth, Editor in Chief 

9. The Nature Book

by Tom Comitta

Coffee House Press, 2023

(Tags: Nature, Speculative Fiction)

“Part sweeping evocation of Earth’s rhythms, part literary archive, part post-human novel, The Nature Book collages descriptions of the natural world into a singular symphonic paean to the planet,”says Coffee House Press. “What does our nature writing say about us, and more urgently, what would it say without us?”

“Easily one of the most creative literary works I’ve ever read, this will be on my bedside table maybe forever.” —Brianne Kane, Senior Editorial Coordinator 

10. This Time Tomorrow

by Emma Straub

Penguin Random House, 2022

(Tags: Time Travel, History)

“On the eve of her fortieth birthday, Alice’s life isn’t terrible,” writes the publisher. “But her father is ailing, and it feels to her as if something is missing. When she wakes up the next morning, she finds herself back in 1996, reliving her sixteenth birthday. But it isn’t just her adolescent body that shocks her, or seeing her high school crush—it’s her dad, the vital, charming, forty-something version of her father with whom she is reunited. Now armed with a new perspective on her own life and his, some past events take on new meaning. Is there anything that she would change if she could?”

“I’ll read almost anything that involves a woman going back to the recent past, and everyone I know kept telling me not to miss this one” —Brianne Kane, Senior Editorial Coordinator 

Book covers

Selections from Review Section

1. For Blood and Money

by Nathan Vardi

W.W. Norton, 2023

(Tags: Business, Medicine, Technology) 

For Blood and Money tells the little-known story of how an upstart biotechnology company created a one-in-a-million cancer drug, and how members of the core team—denied their share of the profits—went and did it again. In this epic saga of money and science, veteran financial journalist Nathan Vardi explains how the invention of two of the biggest cancer drugs in history became (for their backers) two of the greatest Wall Street bets of all time,” the publisher says. 

“One can already imagine the movie version” —Madana Chaffa, January issue

2. The Darkness Manifesto

by Johan Eklöf and translated by Elizabeth DeNoma

Scribner, 2023

(Tags: Philosophy, Nature)

“How much light is too much light? Satellite pictures show our planet as a brightly glowing orb, and in our era of constant illumination, light pollution has become a major issue. The world’s flora and fauna have evolved to operate in the natural cycle of day and night. But in the last 150 years, we have extended our day—and in doing so have forced out the inhabitants of the night and disrupted the circadian rhythms necessary to sustain all living things, including ourselves,” the publisher says. 

“Eklöf highlights the startling sprawl of these lesser-known consequences without evoking a hopeless or cynical tone. Instead the book is a reflective reminder that our control of the world is as delicate as the smallest of species affected by it.” —Sam Miller, February issue

3. Your Brain on Art 

by Susan Magsamen and Ivy Ross

Penguin Random House, 2023

(Tags: Art, Neuroscience)

“Magsamen and Ross offer compelling research that shows how engaging in an art project for as little as forty-five minutes reduces the stress hormone cortisol, no matter your skill level, and just one art experience per month can extend your life by ten years. They expand our understanding of how playing music builds cognitive skills and enhances learning; the vibrations of a tuning fork create sound waves to counteract stress; virtual reality can provide cutting-edge therapeutic benefit; and interactive exhibits dissolve the boundaries between art and viewers, engaging all of our senses and strengthening memory,” states the publisher. 

“Susan Magsamen and Ivy Ross walk a fine line between expounding the health benefits of participating in art and arguing that such therapeutic effects need not be perfectly understood by science to be useful.” —Maddie Bender, March issue 

4. Elixir

by Theresa Levitt

Harvard University Press, 2023

(Tags: History, Chemistry, Philosophy) 

“For centuries, scientists believed that living matter possessed a special quality—a spirit or essence—that differentiated it from nonliving matter,” writes Harvard University press. “Elixir tells the story of two young chemists who were not convinced, and how their work rewrote the boundary between life and nonlife.… Rich in sparks and smells, brimming with eccentric characters, experimental daring, and the romance of the Bohemian salon, Elixir is a fascinating cultural and scientific history.”

“Levitt traces how researchers’ pursuit of the true composition of these oils laid the foundation for modern organic chemistry.” —Fionna M.D. Samuels, April issue

5. In The Herbarium

by Maura C. Flannery

Yale University Press, 2023

(Tags: Botany, History) 

“Maura C. Flannery tells the history of herbaria, from the earliest collections belonging to such advocates of the technique as sixteenth-century botanist Luca Ghini,” writes Yale University Press. “She charts the growth of herbaria during the Age of Exploration, the development of classification systems to organize the collections, and herbaria’s indispensable role in the tracking of climate change and molecular evolution.”

 “Maura C. Flannery makes a compelling case for reinvigorating the relevance of these ‘hidden gardens’ by exploring their significance as bellwethers of climate change, libraries for biodiversity research, sources of plant DNA, and opportunities to acknowledge and amend the erasure of Indigenous and enslaved people’s contributions to botany.” —Dana Dunham, May issue

6. On Earth as It Is on Television

by Emily Jane

Penguin Random House, 2023

(Tags: Humor, Fantasy)

“Since long before the spaceships’ fleeting presence, Blaine has been content to go along with the whims of his supermom wife and half-feral, television-addicted children. But when the kids blithely ponder skinning people to see if they’re aliens, and his wife drags them all on a surprise road trip to Disney World, even steady Blaine begins to crack. Embracing the strangeness that is life in the twenty-first century, On Earth as It Is on Television is a rollicking, heartfelt tale of first contact that practically leaps off the planet,” the publisher says.

“Unusually fun and absurd take on what might otherwise be just another imitation of Independence Day or The Day the Earth Stood Still.—Meg Elison, June Issue 

7. A Second Chance for Yesterday

RA Sinn (pseudonym for siblings Rachel Hope Cleves and Aram Sinnreich)

Simon & Schuster, 2023

(Tags: Romance, Time Travel) 

“Nev Bourne is a hotshot programmer for the latest and greatest tech invention out there: SavePoint, the brain implant that rewinds the seconds of all our most embarrassing moments,” writes Simon & Schuster. “But when she hits go on the test-run, she wakes up the next day only to discover it’s yesterday…. Created by historian and futurist sibling authors, A Second Chance for Yesterday is a time-twisting story of family, redemption and queer love.”

“A perceptive, mesmerizing time-travel tale of self-revelation and redemption.” —Lorraine Savage, July/August double issue

8. Land of Milk and Honey

by C Pam Zhang

Penguin Random House, 2023

(Tags: Speculative Fiction, LGBTQ+)

“Sensuous and surprising, joyous and bitingly sharp, told in language as alluring as it is original, Land of Milk and Honey lays provocatively bare the ethics of seeking pleasure in a dying world,” says the publisher. “It is a daringly imaginative exploration of desire and deception, privilege and faith, and the roles we play to survive. Most of all, it is a love letter to food, to wild delight, and to the transformative power of a woman embracing her own appetite.”

“A thought-provoking fusion of the sensory and the speculative.” —Dana Dunham, September issue 

9. Alfie & Me

by Carl Safina

W.W. Norton, 2023

(Tags: Biography, Nature, Memoir) 

Alfie & Me is the story of the remarkable impact this little owl would have on their lives. The continuing bond of trust following her freedom—and her raising of her own wild brood—coincided with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, a year in which Carl and Patricia were forced to spend time at home without the normal obligations of work and travel. Witnessing all the fine details of their feathered friend’s life offered Carl and Patricia a view of existence from Alfie’s perspective,” according to W.W. Norton. 

“Don’t expect a dramatic, sensational plot; here the quiet message is that nature doesn’t need to serve us humans beyond existing for itself.” —Sam Miller, October issue 

10. Eat, Poop, Die

by Joe Roman

Hachette, 2023

(Tags: Nature, History) 

“From the volcanoes of Iceland to the tropical waters of Hawaii, the great plains of the American heartland, and beyond, Eat, Poop, Die takes readers on an exhilarating and enlightening global adventure, revealing the remarkable ways in which the most basic biological activities of animals make and remake the world—and how a deeper understanding of these cycles provides us with opportunities to undo the environmental damage humanity has wrought on the planet we call home,” the publisher says. 

“One of those rare books that truly changes the way you look at the world.” —Lucy Cooke, November issue

Some Familiar Faces

Here’s a look at some of the books published this past year by Scientific American staff and contributors.

1. The Mind of a Bee

by Lars Chittka

Princeton University Press, 2022

(Tags: Nature, Neuroscience)

“Most of us are aware of the hive mind—the power of bees as an amazing collective,” notes Princeton University Press. “But do we know how uniquely intelligent bees are as individuals? In The Mind of a Bee, Lars Chittka draws from decades of research, including his own pioneering work, to argue that bees have remarkable cognitive abilities…. They may even possess consciousness.”

Check out Chittka’s July/August feature asking “Do Insects Feel Joy and Pain?” 

2. Ice

by Amy Brady

Penguin Random House, 2023

(Tags: History, Business)

“Ice is everywhere: in gas stations, in restaurants, in hospitals, in our homes. Americans think nothing of dropping a few ice cubes into tall glasses of tea to ward off the heat of a hot summer day…. Ice on-demand has so revolutionized modern life that it’s easy to forget that it wasn’t always this way—and to overlook what aspects of society might just melt away as the planet warms,” the publisher says. 

Not only is Brady a contributing editor, but she also contributed a feature article on climate-friendly cocktail recipes in our July/August issue.

3. Under Alien Skies

by Philip Plait 

W.W. Norton, 2023

(Tags: Space, Physics) 

“This lively, immersive adventure through the cosmos, Plait draws ingeniously on both the latest scientific research and his prodigious imagination to transport you to ten of the most spectacular sights outer space has to offer,” states W.W. Norton. “In vivid, inventive scenes informed by rigorous science—injected with a dose of Plait’s trademark humor—Under Alien Skies places you on the surface of alien worlds, from our own familiar Moon to the far reaches of our solar system and beyond.”

In a blurb about the book, Editor in Chief Laura Helmuth calls it “a funny, warm, and welcoming guide to the most marvelous places in the universe… You’ll experience what it would be like to actually be there, while learning some of the most mind-expanding science humans have ever figured out.” 

4. Building Science Graphics

by Jen Christiansen

CRC Press, 2022

(Tags: Art, Data Visualization) 

 “Building Science Graphics: An illustrated guide to communicating science through diagrams and visualizations is a practical guide for anyone—regardless of previous design experience and preferred drawing tools—interested in creating science-centric illustrated explanatory diagrams…. The heart of the book is composed of two step-by-step graphical worksheets, designed to help jump-start any new project,” the publisher says.

“An amazing resource for all levels of experience, and the best book launch party I’ve been to all year!” —Brianne Kane, Senior Editorial Coordinator 

5. I Feel Love

by Rachel Nuwer

Bloomsbury Publishing, 2023

(Tags: Psychology, Medicine) 

“The unlikely story of how the psychedelic drug MDMA emerged from the shadows to the forefront of a medical revolution—and the potential it may hold to help us thrive. Few drugs in history have generated as much controversy as MDMA—or held as much promise. Once vilified as a Schedule I substance that would supposedly eat holes in users’ brains, MDMA (also known as Molly or Ecstasy) is now being hailed as a therapeutic agent that could transform the field of mental health and outpace psilocybin and ketamine as the first psychedelic approved for widespread clinical use” the publisher says.

Nuwer discusses her work with us in this Science, Quickly podcast episode

Bountiful Backlist

1. The Same Dog

by Robert Aickman

(Tags: Short Story, Weird Fiction, Horror) 

“Nothing is like Aickman, which is both a blessing and a curse if you like his work. I still think about it once a week, even years after reading it.” —Ryan Reid, Art Director 

2. Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World

by Haruki Murakami

(Tags: Magical Realism, Science Fiction) 

“If you’re into fantasy-sci-fi storylines, you’ll likely get a kick out the character cast: a narrator, who is himself a human data-storage-encryption device, a DIY brain-hacker, an all-pink-clad teen whose sound is initially muted, the unicorn skulls where dreams are held, the creepy inklings and information pirates called semiotics.” —Jeanna Bryner, Managing Editor

3. Into Thin Air

by Jon Krakauer

(Tags: Biography, Nature) 

“Older memoir but not to be missed; riveting at its climax and devastating in its impact.” —Andrea Gawrylewski, Chief Newsletter Editor 

4. Servants of the Map

by Andrea Barrett

(Tags: Short Stories, Historical Fiction) 

“Caught between science and human desire, characters try to make sense of their lives, going from the tops of the Himalayas to the suburbs of American cities.” —Josh Fischman, Senior Editor, medicine and science policy 

5. The Woman Who Thought She Was a Planet

by Vandana Singh

(Tags: Short Stories, Science Fiction) 

“Delightful collection of short stories.” —Madhusree Mukerjee, Senior Editor, science and society 

6. A Little Life

by Hanya Yanagihara

(Tags: LGBTQ+, Literary Fiction) 

“This was recommended all over TikTok so I finally gave it a chance. Beautifully written but extremely depressing.” —Sunya Bhutta, Chief Engagement Editor 

7. H Is for Hawk

by Helen Macdonald 

(Tags: Memoir, Nature, Birds) 

“How has it taken me so long to read this book?” —Sophie Bushwick, Associate Editor, technology 

8. The Wonder

by Emma Donoghue

(Tags: Historical Fiction, Mystery, Religion) 

“One of the most memorable/haunting novels I’ve read in the past few years.” —Amanda Montañez, Associate Graphics Editor 

9. Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City

by Matthew Desmond 

(Tags: Sociology, History, Social Justice) 

“Epic, eye-opening; the reporting is absolutely incredible, and you get so close to some of the characters that it sometimes feels like a novel.” —Amanda Montañez, Associate Graphics Editor 

10. Behave

by Robert Sapolsky

(Tags: Psychology, Neuroscience, Philosophy)

“Fascinating and witty account of what drives our good and bad behaviors.” —Madhusree Mukerjee, Senior Editor, science and society 

11. The Great Believers

by Rebecca Makkai

(Tags: LGBTQ+, Historical Fiction) 

“Tremendous telling of the Chicago AIDS epidemic during the 1980s. Makkai’s extensive research and reporting makes for a story that still resonates today.” —Andrea Gawrylewski, Chief Newsletter Editor

12. WordSlut

by Amanda Montell

(Tags: Linguistics, History, Social Justice) 

“Such an interesting look at the ways that patriarchy is ensconced in language.” —Meghan Bartels, News Reporter

13. Earthlings 

by Sayaka Murata; translated by Ginny Tapley Takemori

(Tags: Magical Realism, Horror, Literary Fiction) 

“A rollercoaster of emotions and very bizarre.” —Sunya Bhutta, Chief Engagement Editor 

14. The Sounds of Life

by Karen Bakker

(Tags: Nature, History) 

“A fascinating account of how acoustic technology is allowing us to eavesdrop on creatures’ conversations.” —Madhusree Mukerjee, Senior Editor, science and society 

15. Fairy Tale

by Stephen King

(Tags: Fantasy, Horror, Science Fiction) 

“Just pure escapism and fun. If you need to get absorbed in a good story, this one’s it.” —Andrea Gawrylewski, Chief Newsletter Editor 

16. Demon Copperhead

by Barbara Kingsolver

(Tags: Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction) 

“Beautiful characters, heart wrenching story. Mind-opening perspective on an area of the country that often gets looked down upon.” —Andrea Gawrylewski, Chief Newsletter Editor 

17. The Myth of Normal

by Daniel Maté and Gabor Maté

(Tags: Psychology, Sociology)

“This absorbing book argues that trauma is built into Western society and is responsible for many ills, including the autoimmune disease ALS.” —Madhusree Mukerjee, Senior Editor, science and society 

18. A Half-Built Garden

by Ruthanna Emrys

(Tags: Science Fiction, Speculative Fiction, LGBTQ+) 

“A wholly original, thoughtful take on extraterrestrial first contact has Earth’s citizens wondering if they should go all-in on saving Earth or escape to another planet for a fresh start.” —Clara Moskowitz, Senior Editor, space and physics 

19. Heaven

by Mieko Kawakami; translated by Sam Bett and David Boyd

(Tags: Literary Fiction, Young Adult) 

“The book explores trauma bonds and the long-term pain—both mental and physical—

that bullying causes.” —Sunya Bhutta, Chief Engagement Editor 

20. Astrotopia

by Mary-Jane Rubenstein

(Tags: Space, Religion) 

“A version of spaceflight’s story that isn’t told often enough.” —Meghan Bartels, News Reporter