Tag Archives: holiday shopping

Give The Gift of Nostalgia and Angst

For a holiday gift this year, consider giving a book about politics, since politics this year is so very special.

There are two kinds of books out this year of special interest. There is a plethora of books that expose the evil underpinnings of the white supremacist meritocratic oligarchic patriarchy. And, there is a growing collection of books about the last time America was going under for the third time, and the people of those times. Here is a selection for you to ponder. Continue reading Give The Gift of Nostalgia and Angst

Fantastic Mathematics Wall Calendar For 2018

I love the The Mathematics Calendar 2018.

Math Calendar sample days
It has an equation or other statement about math for every day, often linked to that day (like, the January 13th entry is “the sixth prime number”). Some entries are little mat quizzes for you to fugue out. Some are funny jokes, like the entry for Thanksgiving (any guesses as to what that might be? Hint: It is a formula.) The level of difficulty of understanding the reference or solving the problem ranges from suitable for a smart 7 year old (Huxley has figured some out) up through college level. Also, the picture that go with each moth are totally cool and, of course, mathy.

The calendar is complied by Rebecca Rapoport, of Harvard. She is also the author of Math Lab for Kids, which is not a dog, but a book, that looks good but that I’ve not seen.

I’m tagging this post with the keyterm “holiday shopping” to hopefully remind me to remind you that this is a great holiday gift for that special math nerd or math teacher in your life.

STEM Books And Toys For Kids: Your Science Holiday Shopping Guide

I’ve reviewed, researched, and generally looked around for a selection of gifts that could work for kids ranging from very small to High School (and beyond!?!?) that are science oriented.

(For gifts, mainly books, for adults, see THIS.)

Coding

The best kids coding books these days are probably those that use scratch. Before suggesting a couple, though, consider, especailly for older kids (middle and high school) this fairly recent Python language book that focuses on Minecraft: Learn to Program with Minecraft: Transform Your World with the Power of Python HERE is my review.

My favorite scratch programming book is Scratch Programming Playground: Learn to Program by Making Cool Games is a brand new offering from No Starch Press.

scratchprogrammingplayground_coverNever mind all the other programming books for kids, this is the best so far.

Scratch is in the Logo family of object oriented programming. Indeed, Scratch itself, as a language, is a very short distance from the original object oriented programming, much closer to the source than many professional object oriented language.

Scratch 2.0 can be run as a stand along program in windows and on a Mac, but works better on the web, in a browser, on all platforms. Working in that environment, on the browser, has the important advantage of immediate access to a large amount of work done by others, that you can freely borrow from. And, of course, you can show off your own work.

Al Sweigart, author, has really nailed a kids oriented programming book better than I’ve seen done before, and I’ve seen them all. I’ve got a full review of this book HERE.

screen-shot-2016-11-11-at-8-10-11-pmComputer Coding Projects In Scratch: A Step-By-Step Visual Guide

Coding Projects in Scratch uses fun projects to show children how to code with Scratch, teaching essential coding and programming skills to young learners. Built on the basics of coding, each project follows simple, logical steps that are fully illustrated. Kids learn a new, important language through simply explained projects, with key coding concepts broken out in separate panels and illustrated with Minecraft-style pixel art. Learn how to create animations, build games, use sound effects, and more before sharing projects with friends online. Coding Projects in Scratch is highly visual and unique step-by-step workbook will help beginners with no coding skills learn how to build their own projects without any instructions, and helps them develop key programming skills that will last a lifetime.

Technology

Get a robot. I highly recommend the mBot robot kit (pictured above).

electronicsforkids_cover-front_0The simplest project in the new book Electronics for Kids: Play with Simple Circuits and Experiment with Electricity! by Øyvind Nydal Dahl is the one where you lean a small light bulb against the two terminals of a nine volt battery in order to make the light bulb turn on. The most complicated projects are the ones where you make interactive games using LED lights and buzzers.

In between, there is quite a bit of detail.

I’ve written a detailed review of this excellent book HERE.

Super Cool Tech is a book that looks like a laptop. Or do the kids, these days, call it a notebook. Whatever.

supercooltechThis is one of those innovative format DK books, and is great for kids around Middle School age through High School, in my opinion. This book …

… explores how incredible new technologies are shaping the modern world and its future, from familiar smartwatches to intelligent, driverless cars.

Packed with more than 250 full-color images, X-rays, thermal imaging, digital artworks, cross-sections, and cutaways, Super Cool Tech reveals the secrets behind the latest gadgets and gizmos, state-of-the-art buildings, and life-changing technologies.

Lift the unique laptop-inspired book cover to see incredible architectural concepts around the world, such as the Hydropolis Underwater Hotel and Resort in Dubai, and the River Gym, a human-powered floating gym in New York City. Discover how a wheelchair adapts to its surroundings and learn how a cutting board can give the nutritional information of the food being prepared on it.

From 3-D-printed cars to robot vacuum cleaners, Super Cool Tech reveals today’s amazing inventions and looks ahead to the future of technology, including hologram traffic lights and the Galactic Suite Hotel in space. Perfect for STEAM education initiatives, Super Cool Tech makes technology easy to understand, following the history of each invention and how they impact our everyday lives, and “How It Works” panels explain the design and function of each item using clear explanations and images.

This book could be in a kid’s gift guide or an adult’s gift guide, depending on the kid or adult: Arduino Project Handbook: 25 Practical Projects to Get You Started.

I’ve read quiet a few Arduino project books. There are two kinds. The intro book, such as the one being reviewed here, that provides a large number of projects that illustrate how the system works, while at the same time, providing a number of practical projects mixed in with some that are just for fun but that show important physical and programming principles. the other kind are more specialized, and cover how to use this system to build, say, environmental sensors, or robots, or to work with Lego Technic, or whatever.

All the intro books that don’t suck (some suck) are similar, give you similar tools, similar information, etc. But this new book, Arduino Project Handbook: 25 Practical Projects to Get You Started, is better than the other intro books for two simple reasons.

First, the instructions themselves are VERY clear and have EXCELLENT illustrations to show the wiring. The second reason this book is good is that it is current, new, up to date. This is the most current project book available, so if you are looking to get started with Arduino, this is the one you want today. I’ve written a more detailed review of it HERE.

This is not new, but look at the still current and fantastic new version of David Macaulay’s “How Machines Work: Zoo Break!” reviewed in detail HERE.

screen-shot-2016-11-19-at-7-49-29-pmNot sure what category Wall-E goes in, but if you order quickly (supplies are limited) you might be able to get your hands on the LEGO Ideas WALL E 21303 Building Kit.

The official description:

Build, display and role play with WALL•E! Construct the LEGO® Ideas version of WALL•E with posable neck, adjustable head and arms, gripping hands, opening trunk and rolling tracks.

Build a beautifully detailed LEGO® version of WALL•E—the last robot left on Earth! Created by Angus MacLane, an animator and director at Pixar Animation Studios, and selected by LEGO Ideas members, the development of this model began alongside the making of the lovable animated character for the classic Pixar feature film. It has taken almost a decade to perfect the LEGO version, which incorporates many authentic WALL•E characteristics, including a posable neck, adjustable head, arms that move up and down and side to side, plus gripping hands and rolling tracks. With a trunk that opens and closes, you can tidy up the planet one pile of garbage at a time! This set also includes a booklet about the designer and the animated Pixar movie.

Math

Have a look at the Manga Guides to math and related topics.

I reviewed the Regression Analysis guide HERE.

Here is a list of most of the other guides, all of them are great:

<li><a  href="https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1593274408/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=1593274408&linkCode=as2&tag=grlasbl0a-20&linkId=8f4446517c41182a25c30bd7d6bddb42">The Manga Guide to Physiology</a><img src="//ir-na.amazon-adsystem.com/e/ir?t=grlasbl0a-20&l=am2&o=1&a=1593274408" width="1" height="1" border="0" alt="" style="border:none !important; margin:0px !important;" /></li>

<li><a  href="https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1593271964/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=1593271964&linkCode=as2&tag=grlasbl0a-20&linkId=be50acdd1e7c35d849b4be4ef737e580">The Manga Guide to Physics</a><img src="//ir-na.amazon-adsystem.com/e/ir?t=grlasbl0a-20&l=am2&o=1&a=1593271964" width="1" height="1" border="0" alt="" style="border:none !important; margin:0px !important;" /></li>

<li><a  href="https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1593271972/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=1593271972&linkCode=as2&tag=grlasbl0a-20&linkId=28ebb6187119eafa087f3e9b6ce7b5d7">The Manga Guide to Electricity</a><img src="//ir-na.amazon-adsystem.com/e/ir?t=grlasbl0a-20&l=am2&o=1&a=1593271972" width="1" height="1" border="0" alt="" style="border:none !important; margin:0px !important;" /></li>

<li><a  href="https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1593274130/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=1593274130&linkCode=as2&tag=grlasbl0a-20&linkId=f2cf04b8bb7fdfbd96d8e432f21b8cb5">The Manga Guide to Linear Algebra</a><img src="//ir-na.amazon-adsystem.com/e/ir?t=grlasbl0a-20&l=am2&o=1&a=1593274130" width="1" height="1" border="0" alt="" style="border:none !important; margin:0px !important;" /></li>

<li><a  href="https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1593271891/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=1593271891&linkCode=as2&tag=grlasbl0a-20&linkId=d9d8af91ed673f2635593459bd119c8f">The Manga Guide to Statistics</a><img src="//ir-na.amazon-adsystem.com/e/ir?t=grlasbl0a-20&l=am2&o=1&a=1593271891" width="1" height="1" border="0" alt="" style="border:none !important; margin:0px !important;" /></li>

<li><a  href="https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1593272766/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=1593272766&linkCode=as2&tag=grlasbl0a-20&linkId=79434e52a8a220d5f62b3fd5550290e3">The Manga Guide to Biochemistry</a><img src="//ir-na.amazon-adsystem.com/e/ir?t=grlasbl0a-20&l=am2&o=1&a=1593272766" width="1" height="1" border="0" alt="" style="border:none !important; margin:0px !important;" /></li>

<li><a  href="https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1593271948/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=1593271948&linkCode=as2&tag=grlasbl0a-20&linkId=afadb72bd949b447e7236436eafdaa32">The Manga Guide to Calculus</a><img src="//ir-na.amazon-adsystem.com/e/ir?t=grlasbl0a-20&l=am2&o=1&a=1593271948" width="1" height="1" border="0" alt="" style="border:none !important; margin:0px !important;" /></li>

<li><a  href="https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1593271905/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=1593271905&linkCode=as2&tag=grlasbl0a-20&linkId=a34cafdd58d40c57ec354e4493808d42">The Manga Guide to Databases</a><img src="//ir-na.amazon-adsystem.com/e/ir?t=grlasbl0a-20&l=am2&o=1&a=1593271905" width="1" height="1" border="0" alt="" style="border:none !important; margin:0px !important;" /></li>

<li><a  href="https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1593272723/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=1593272723&linkCode=as2&tag=grlasbl0a-20&linkId=1cffe9cb147c13aef2cd923b69ca7185">The Manga Guide to Relativity</a><img src="//ir-na.amazon-adsystem.com/e/ir?t=grlasbl0a-20&l=am2&o=1&a=1593272723" width="1" height="1" border="0" alt="" style="border:none !important; margin:0px !important;" />
<li><a  href="https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1593272677/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=1593272677&linkCode=as2&tag=grlasbl0a-20&linkId=a37b72740e174d8762f8d8700a3ad2e4">The Manga Guide to the Universe</a><img src="//ir-na.amazon-adsystem.com/e/ir?t=grlasbl0a-20&l=am2&o=1&a=1593272677" width="1" height="1" border="0" alt="" style="border:none !important; margin:0px !important;" /></li>

<li><a  href="https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1593272022/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=1593272022&linkCode=as2&tag=grlasbl0a-20&linkId=a4a69cc504611b5df52ed884ba3a1327">The Manga Guide to Molecular Biology</a><img src="//ir-na.amazon-adsystem.com/e/ir?t=grlasbl0a-20&l=am2&o=1&a=1593272022" width="1" height="1" border="0" alt="" style="border:none !important; margin:0px !important;" /></li>

Climate Change

Climate Change: Discover How It Impacts Spaceship Earth (Build It Yourself) covers many concepts in earth science, from paleontology to climate systems to how to make a battery out of apple (how can a kid’s science activity not include the apple battery!).

screen-shot-2015-09-15-at-10-18-02-amThis book represents an interesting concept, because it involves kids in mostly easy to do at home projects, covers numerous scientific concepts, and takes the importance of global climate change as a given. There is a good amount of history of research, though the book does not cover a lot of the most current scientists and their key work (I’d have liked to see a chapter specifically on the Hockey Stick and the paleo record, thought these concepts are included along with the other material).

One of the coolest things about the book is the material on what an individual can do to address energy and climate related problems, including (but not limited to) advice on activism, such as writing letters to government officials.

Climate Change: Discover How It Impacts Spaceship Earth (Build It Yourself) is listed as for reading ages 9-12 (reading level U), but with a parent working with the kid, this can work for much younger children, especially if you focus on the projects. I intend to work with my five year old on some of the projects, and use a couple of the sections as night time reading material. When he gets a bit older he can read the book himself. This would also be a good book to give as a gift to your kid’s school library, or even better, the appropriate elementary school teacher.

Please Don’t Paint Our Planet Pink!: A Story for Children and their Adults was a go fund me project that eventually evolved to become a real live book and an excellent one.

screen-shot-2015-02-26-at-7-11-18-pmmagine if you could see CO2? In the book, it is imagined to be pink. The imagining takes the form of a quirky father, one imagines him to be an inventor of some sort, coming up with the idea of making goggles that would allow you to see CO2 as a pink gas. This is all described by the man’s patient but clearly all suffering son, who eventually dons the prototype goggles and sees for himself.

I read this to Huxley, age 5, and he loved it. He kept asking questions, and saying things like, “Is that true? Really?” I knew he would enjoy the book for its witty chatter and excellent illustrations, but frankly I did not expect him to be enthralled. He is fairly laid back when it comes to matters of science, nature, and for that matter, mathematics. He tends to absorb, then, later makes up song about it or comes up with difficult questions. His reaction was unique.

Bill McKibben’s reaction was pretty strong too. He is quoted as saying, “I’ve often wondered what would happen if CO2 were visible. Now I know!” … except he already knew. There would be pink everywhere. At the density of about 400ppm. More than the 350 value that gives his organization its name!


Doing Science

Treecology: 30 Activities and Observations for Exploring the World of Trees and Forests is an excellent new nature activity book for kids of a fairly wide range of ages.

9781613733967Like a tree, the pattern of the book is pretty straightforward but fractal like; you start off simple but end up pretty much anywhere in the world of ecology. The book begins with the basic definition of a tree, simple tree anatomy, some phylogeny, some tree physiology and biology, but then branches off (pun intended) into things that are related to trees, like things that live on them, eat parts of them, etc. Seeds and seed dispersal come in around this point as well, as one might expect. The role of trees, or tree related images or tree names, etc. in human culture is also explored.

As indicated by the subtitle, these lessons are organized into thirty things you can do. Some of these things simply involve looking (dividing your local landscape’s larger plants into “tree” and “not a tree,”, etc.) while some involve more intense observation (like telling different trees apart) or interaction (including, of course, waxing leaves and similar activities).

The book includes some great tips on observing (or attracting) forest insects. I think Huxley’s Buggy Camp could have used some of this info this week to help them find tree-related buggy creatures in the nearby woods.

This book can probably work in any North American region, as it is not too specific at the species level, and pretty generic at the genus level. As it were. There is more than enough activity in this book, in terms of both amount and diversity, to keep a family with any number of kids busy on several weekends. The activities are also spread out across seasons fairly well.

Monica Russo has written and illustrated several nature books for children, and authored “Nature Notes,” a column in the Sun Chronicle. Kevin Byron is a nature photographer who’s work is widely recognized.

The Outdoor Science Lab for Kids: 52 Family-Friendly Experiments for the Yard, Garden, Playground, and Park is a good guide to home science experiments for kids, usually with adult involvement, ranging across a fairly wide range of age but mainly, I’d say, middle school for unsupervised work, or pretty much any age if supervised.

screen-shot-2016-10-15-at-12-44-12-pmAll of the experiments can be done by adults with younger kids watching or being involved to varying degrees.

Most of he experiments cost little or nothing, depending on where you live (like, do you live near a pond?) and what the phrase “common household ingredients” means to you.

Many of the experiments involve things in nature, which is why it is the “outdoor” and not the “kitchen” or “bathroom” science lab.

Make a pitfall trap, find and observe inverts, conduct plant warfare using the principle of allelopathy.

For those in temperate zones, these are mainly spring-summer-fall experiments, so with 52 of them, this book is good for a few years.

Each spread (two pages) has one experiment, richly illustrated with photographs. There is a list of materials, safety tips, the protocol, and a side bar on the science itself, along with a “creative enrichment” idea such as making graphs, or testing the allelopathic properties of invasives.

The author, Liz Heinche, is a molecular biologist and mom, thus this book. From the publisher:

Outdoor Science Lab for Kids offers 52 fun science activities for families to do together. The experiments can be used as individual projects, for parties, or as educational activities for groups. Outdoor Science Lab for Kids will tempt families to learn about physics, chemistry and biology in their backyards. Learn scientific survival skills and even take some experiments to the playground! Many of the experiments are safe enough for toddlers and exciting enough for older kids, so families can discover the joy of science together.

I know of at least one pre-school that uses the book. I’m not a big fan of home schooling, but home schoolers will like this book. The book is not a substitute for middle school or high school science instruction in schools.

Also in the same series are Kitchen Science Lab for Kids (where you will find an excellent milk rainbow protocol) and Gardening Lab for Kids, which I’ve not looked at.

Reading Science

For early readers, just learning to read and interested in science, I reviewed a bunch of books HERE with the intention of helping with the sometimes daunting task of matching a kid to a level.

Books On Fossils and Evolution

Over the last several months, a lot of great books on fossils and evolution (as in paleontology) have come out. I’ve selected the best for your consideration. These are great gifts for your favorite science-loving nephew, life science teaching cousin, or local school library. Actually, you might like some of these yourself.

grandmother_fishLet’s start off with a kid’s book: Grandmother Fish: a child’s first book of Evolution by Jonathan Tweet.

From the blurb:

Grandmother Fish is the first book to teach evolution to preschoolers. While listening to the story, the child mimics the motions and sounds of our ancestors, such as wiggling like a fish or hooting like an ape. Like magic, evolution becomes fun, accessible, and personal. Grandmother Fish will be a full-size (10 x 8), full-color, 32-page, hardback book full of appealing animal illustrations, perfect for your bookshelf. US publishers consider evolution to be too “hot” a topic for children, but with your help we can make this book happen ourselves.

I reviewed the book here before it first came out. This was a kickstarter project, and it may be currently unavailable commercially, but if you click through to the kickstarter project you can probably get a copy of it.

Donald+Prothero+Story+of+Life+in+25+FossilsThe most recent book to come across my desk is Don Prothero’s The Story of Life in 25 Fossils: Tales of Intrepid Fossil Hunters and the Wonders of Evolution. I’ve got a review of Prothero’s book in my draft file, so look for that post coming out over the next few days.

One might ask, “how do you choose 25 fossils, among so many choices, to represent evolution?” Well, Don cheated a little by mentioning more than 25 fossils. Also, you really can’t do this. Don selected fossils using several criteria, but one basis for his choice was the availability of rich historical information about a fossil’s discovery, interpretation, and effect on our thinking about evolution. And, he covers all of that.

Don is one of those rare authors who is both an expert scientist and a great writer, with a proven ability to explain things in a way that is not watered down yet totally accessible.

Here’s a selection of the many other books written by Prothero:

EvolutionTheWholeStoryParker41N2zRnkbuL._SX348_BO1,204,203,200_ (1)Evolution: The Whole Story is an astonishing book that needs to be on the bookshelf of anyone interested in evolution. The work is edied by Steve Parker, but authored by nearly a dozen experts in various subfields of fossils and evolution, so it is authoritative and scholarly. At the same time, it is very accessible and enjoyable. This is not a book you read from cover to cover, though you could. Feel free to skip around, and you;ll find yourself looking stuff up all the time.

The book is divided into major sections, and each section has a series of short pieces on this or that fossil, group of fossils, type of life system, method for studying fossils, etc. There is a running sidebar on the bottom of many pages giving “key events” in evolutionary history of the group of life forms under consideration The book is VERY richly illustrated, with detailed keys to the illustrations. Many of the illustrations are broken down into “focal points” that expand significantly on the illustrations’ details. There are countless additional inserts with more information. The book itself is beautiful, intriguingly organized, and it is full of … well, everything. The book is very well indexed and sourced, and has helpful, up to date, phylogenies and chronological graphics.

TheBiologyBookGeraldThe Biology Book: From the Origin of Life to Epigenetics, 250 Milestones in the History of Biology (Sterling Milestones) by Michael Gerald and Gloria Gerald is a compendium of biological topics and key moments in the history of biological science, organized in a sort of chronological framework. Major groups (the insects, the amphibians), major ideas (Pliny’s Natural History, Ongogeny and Phylogeny), key physiological and developmental concepts (meiosis, mitosis, many topics in endocrinology), key fossils (like the Coelocanth) and so on are discussed, very nicely illustrated. This is almost like having a gazillian short articles from Natural History Magazine (or similar) all in one book. There are 250 biological “milestones” in all. The charming part of the book is that a milestone can be an evolutionary event, an extinction episode, the emergence of a great idea, or a particular discover. And, as noted, these are ordered across time, as well as one can, from the beginning of life to a selection of the most recent discovery. The book effectively combines history of biology (and related sciences) and the biological history itself.

lifes_gretest_secret_dna_cobb511J4iZIbrL._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_Life’s Greatest Secret: The Race to Crack the Genetic Code by the well respected scientist and historian Matthew Cobb is a carefully and clearly written history of the discovery of the nature of DNA, covering a lot more than, and since, Watson and Crick. It is extremely well sourced, indexed, and supported, and very readable.

This is the detailed and authoritative work on all the elements that came together to understand the genetic code. Don’t talk about the discovery and understanding of DNA any more until you’ve read this book. From the publisher:

Life’s Greatest Secret mixes remarkable insights, theoretical dead-ends, and ingenious experiments with the swift pace of a thriller. From New York to Paris, Cambridge, Massachusetts, to Cambridge, England, and London to Moscow, the greatest discovery of twentieth-century biology was truly a global feat. Biologist and historian of science Matthew Cobb gives the full and rich account of the cooperation and competition between the eccentric characters—mathematicians, physicists, information theorists, and biologists—who contributed to this revolutionary new science. And, while every new discovery was a leap forward for science, Cobb shows how every new answer inevitably led to new questions that were at least as difficult to answer: just ask anyone who had hoped that the successful completion of the Human Genome Project was going to truly yield the book of life, or that a better understanding of epigenetics or “junk DNA” was going to be the final piece of the puzzle. But the setbacks and unexpected discoveries are what make the science exciting, and it is Matthew Cobb’s telling that makes them worth reading. This is a riveting story of humans exploring what it is that makes us human and how the world works, and it is essential reading for anyone who’d like to explore those questions for themselves.

EldridgeEvolutionExtinctionExtinction and Evolution: What Fossils Reveal About the History of Life is a an updated version of a classic book about evolution and extinction written by one of the scientists who developed our modern way of thinking about evolution and extinction (especially the extinction part).

Eldredge’s groundbreaking work is now accepted as the definitive statement of how life as we know it evolved on Earth. This book chronicles how Eldredge made his discoveries and traces the history of life through the lenses of paleontology, geology, ecology, anthropology, biology, genetics, zoology, mammalogy, herpetology, entomology and botany. While rigorously accurate, the text is accessible, engaging and free of jargon.

Honorable Mentions: Older books that are great and may now be avaialable for much reduced prices.

I really liked The Great Transition: Shifting from Fossil Fuels to Solar and Wind Energy as an expose of a particular time period and major event in geological history. Greenhouse of the Dinosaurs: Evolution, Extinction, and the Future of Our Planet by Prothero is a classic, again, looking at a fairly narrowly defined moment in prehistory. You can get it used for about five bucks.

The Fossil Chronicles: How Two Controversial Discoveries Changed Our View of Human Evolution by Dean Falk is a great book focusing on one key human fossil. This is a personal story as well as a scientific one. Again, available used for a song.

Have you read Your Inner Fish: A Journey into the 3.5-Billion-Year History of the Human Body yet? I’m sure you’ve heard about it. It is still a great read, and you can get it used cheap.

The only book I would recommend that uses the “paleolithic” to advise you on diet and exercise is The Paleolithic Prescription: A Program of Diet and Exercise and a Design for Living.

Books on Climate Change

It is time to update the list of recommended books on climate change and global warming. I assume that with the holidays coming, you will want to give some people some science books, and climate change related books should be near the top of the list for you. I’m doing a separate post on evolution related books, and another on bird and nature books, as well.

I’m going to keep this short and focus on a small number of books. To get on this list the book has to be good and current, with two notable exceptions (see below).

Global Warming Books For Kids

PleaseDontPaintPlanetPinkPlease Don’t Paint Our Planet Pink!: A Story for Children and their Adults is newish, and excellent. The idea is simple. Imagine if you could see CO2? In the book, it is imagined to be pink. The imagining takes the form of a quirky father, one imagines him to be an inventor of some sort, coming up with the idea of making goggles that would allow you to see CO2 as a pink gas. This is all described by the man’s patient but clearly all suffering son, who eventually dons the prototype goggles and sees for himself.

I read this to Huxley, age 5, and he loved it. He kept asking questions, and saying things like, “Is that true? Really?” I knew he would enjoy the book for its witty chatter and excellent illustrations, but frankly I did not expect him to be enthralled. He is fairly laid back when it comes to matters of science, nature, and for that matter, mathematics. He tends to absorb, then, later makes up song about it or comes up with difficult questions. His reaction was unique.

Bill McKibben’s reaction was pretty strong too. He is quoted as saying, “I’ve often wondered what would happen if CO2 were visible. Now I know!” … except he already knew. There would be pink everywhere. At the density of about 400ppm. More than the 350 value that gives his organization its name!

ClimateChangeSneidemanTwamleyBookNew on the market is Climate Change: Discover How It Impacts Spaceship Earth (Build It Yourself). This book covers many concepts in earth science, from paleontology to climate systems to how to make a battery out of apple (how can a kid’s science activity not include the apple battery!). This book represents an interesting concept, because it involves kids in mostly easy to do at home projects, covers numerous scientific concepts, and takes the importance of global climate change as a given. There is a good amount of history of research, though the book does not cover a lot of the most current scientists and their key work (I’d have liked to see a chapter specifically on the Hockey Stick and the paleo record, thought these concepts are included along with the other material).

One of the coolest things about the book is the material on what an individual can do to address energy and climate related problems, including (but not limited to) advice on activism, such as writing letters to government officials. I reviewed it here.

Climate Change Books For The Passionate Activist


Romm_Climate_Change_Book9780190250171Joe Romm, author of the 2008 book Hell and High Water: The Global Warming Solution, has a new book, just out, which is a must read. Climate Change: What Everyone Needs to Know® is an up to date and complete overview of the climate change crisis, with an added twist. Romm’s new book has very specific advice for how to address climate change in your own life — how to adapt. Romm also suggests how to take personal action to lessen the crisis overall, of course. I reviewed the book here.

Also brand new is Wen Stephenson’s book, What We’re Fighting for Now Is Each Other: Dispatches from the Front Lines of Climate Justice. I’ve not reviewed the book yet, but I’ve looked through it, and I know Wes. Bill McKibben notes that Wes’s book “captures [the climate change movement] with grace and power.”

Wen Stephenson is a journalist, who one day realized the urgency of climate change, and took it to heart. He left his career and became a full time activist. In case you were wondering if you could do that, apparently you can. The book is referred to as “An urgent, on-the-ground look at some of the “new American radicals” who have laid everything on the line to build a stronger climate justice movement.”

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In What We’re Fighting for Now Is Each Other, Stephenson tells his own story and offers an up-close, on-the-ground look at some of the remarkable and courageous people—those he calls “new American radicals”—who have laid everything on the line to build and inspire this fast-growing movement: old-school environmentalists and young climate-justice organizers, frontline community leaders and Texas tar-sands blockaders, Quakers and college students, evangelicals and Occupiers. Most important, Stephenson pushes beyond easy labels to understand who these people really are, what drives them, and what they’re ultimately fighting for. He argues that the movement is less like environmentalism as we know it and more like the great human-rights and social-justice struggles of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, from abolitionism to civil rights. It’s a movement for human solidarity.

Give This Global Warming Book To Your Uncle Bob

Climatology_Versus_Pseudoscience_By_Dana_Nuccitelli_Book_CoverI feel sorry for anyone who’s name is actually “Bob” and who is actually someone’s uncle. First, there is that expression, “And Bob’s your uncle.” But also, “Uncle Bob” has become the name of that man you meet at Thanksgiving who doesn’t believe in science (evolution, climate change, whatever) and likes to annoy you, a science-oriented person, with his denialism because he thinks it is funny, or somehow, his duty.

The book I’m suggesting in this category is not really for Uncle Bob. It is for you. Then you go talk to Uncle Bob. Dana Nuccitelli had this great idea of doing a survey of all the crap science deniers have said about the climate, including some marginal scientists, predicting cooling, saying the models are wrong, etc. etc., then comparing this to the actual science. In other words, Climatology versus Pseudoscience: Exposing the Failed Predictions of Global Warming Skeptics by Dana Nuccitelli, is quite literally the comparison between actual science and fake science.

Dana is along term contributor to the site SkepticalScience.com, which is your go-to source to prepare for, or come back from, that conversation with Uncle Bob. This is a really good book, which I reviewed here, and needs to be part of your arsenal. This is also one of those books your school library MUST have. Call them, make sure they do.

Everyperson’s Guide To The IPCC, Best Single Book On Climate Change Science

Dire_Predictions_Mann_KumpDire Predictions, 2nd Edition: Understanding Climate Change gets its own category because it is the only book in that category, plus, if you are going to get one book on climate change this year, this is the one you should get. This is the second edition, updated to reflect the most recent IPCC findings.

The IPCC report itself is of course a great read, if you have lot of time and take a couple of courses in earth system science first. But if you want to get all the information the IPCC report on the scientific basis for climate change, along with some of the policy stuff, this is the book. If you are teaching a class on climate change at the middle or upper High School or intro College level, or if climate change is part of a larger class on earth systems, this is your textbook. It is, as the title suggests, at visual guide, basically pictures and captions, which is the only part of most scientific stuff you read anyway. So just get this book, get two or three and give them away as presents.

My review of the book, which is here, includes an interview with one of the authors, climate scientist Michael Mann.

The Best Book About The Climate Change Science Wars

HockeyStick9780231152549I see this again and again. A science denier writes a comment on a blog post or on Facebook referring to the Hacked Emails of Climategate, or to the Debunking of the Hockey Stick, or this or that shenanigans by climate scientists. A pro-science person responds, but their response is weak, lacks some important information or perspective, or otherwise falls short. And in my head, I scream, “OMG FFS have you not read Michael Mann’s book, The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches from the Front Lines, which totally covers this in detail and tells you exactly what happens??????”

The ongoing assault on climate science in the United States has never been more aggressive, more blatant, or more widely publicized than in the case of the Hockey Stick graph — a clear and compelling visual presentation of scientific data, put together by MichaelE. Mann and his colleagues, demonstrating that global temperatures have risen in conjunction with the increase in industrialization and the use of fossil fuels. Here was an easy-to-understand graph that, in a glance, posed a threat to major corporate energy interests and those who do their political bidding. The stakes were simply too high to ignore the Hockey Stick — and so began a relentless attack on a body of science and on the investigators whose work formed its scientific basis.

The Hockey Stick achieved prominence in a 2001 UN report on climate change and quickly became a central icon in the “climate wars.” The real issue has never been the graph’s data but rather its implied threat to those who oppose governmental regulation and other restraints to protect the environment and planet. Mann, lead author of the original paper in which the Hockey Stick first appeared, shares the story of the science and politics behind this controversy. He reveals key figures in the oil and energy industries and the media frontgroups who do their bidding in sometimes slick, sometimes bare-knuckled ways. Mann concludes with the real story of the 2009 “Climategate” scandal, in which climate scientists’ emails were hacked. This is essential reading for all who care about our planet’s health and our own well-being.

Mann’s book is not newly published, but it is newly out in paperback, and since it is an expose of a particular period in Climate Wars history, it is very much not out of date. If this is not on your climate change bookshelf then you don’t really have a climate change bookshelf.

Best Deal

ClimateCrisisThe Climate Crisis: An Introductory Guide to Climate Change is rich, scholarly, and expensive as many academic books are. But it has been out for a while now. But the book has been out long enough that you may be able to obtain a very inexpensive copy of it, so I’m mentioning it here. Yes, it will be somewhat out of date but not that much, and you can combine it with Dire Predictions or other sources to fill in that gap. When I check Amazon for it, I see it for dirt cheap. Now is your chance.

It’s fall. Time to start hoarding bird books.

Here in the Northern Hemisphere, many of our birds fly away in the fall. Other, very cool birds from even farther north, depending on where you live then arrive. But just about now, where I live, we are at the tail end of the migration out and not quite at the migration in, so this is a good time to take stock of what is important: Which bird books do you want people to give you for Christmas?

Before I make any suggestions, I would like to point out that Princeton, an emerging and major player in the Bird Book world, has a facebook page that, if you “like,” will automatically enter you in a contest to get some signed bird books and stuff. Go here to like that page and you may get a free book. Since I already have all or most of the Princeton books, if I win one I’ll give away my old copy (and keep the signed copy they are giving away …. bwahahahaha!!!!)

Continue reading It’s fall. Time to start hoarding bird books.