Science and Nature

Grade Level Interest
M
: Middle School (defined as grades 6-8).
S: Senior High (defined as grades 9-12).
A/YA: Adult-marketed book recommended for teens.

 

The Human Brain Book by Rita Carter

The Human Brain Book is a complete guide to the one organ in the body that makes each of us what we are – unique individuals. It combines the latest findings from the field of neuroscience with expert text and state-of-the-art illustrations and imaging techniques to provide an incomparable insight into every facet of the brain. Layer by layer, it reveals the fascinating details of this remarkable structure, covering all the key anatomy and delving into the inner workings of the mind, unlocking its many mysteries, and helping you to understand what’s going on in those millions of little gray and white cells. (A/YA)

 

Guinea Pig Scientists: Bold Self-Experimenters in Science and Medicine by Leslie Dendy and Mel Boring

Who are these ‘guinea pig scientists’? Searching for clues to some of science’s and medicine’s bigger (and sometimes stranger) questions, they are all the men and women who devoted their lives to help find the answers. Spanning from the 1770s to the present – and uncovering the science behind digestion, the spread of yellow fever, the development of the first heart catheter, and more – their ten stories are at once scientifically detailed and fascinatingly personal. (M, S)

 

Invisible Allies: Microbes That Shape Our Lives by Jeanette Farrell

Although we are accustomed to equating the presence of microbes with disease, in fact most microbes play a vital “friendly” role in shaping our lives. It is not just that one hundred million microbes can populate a thimbleful of fertile soil, or that many millions live happily in as much of our saliva. Microbes are everywhere, and we could not survive without them. In the course of her eye-opening narrative, Dr. Farrell relates the historical significance of using microbes to preserve foods, our long-standing ambivalence about the microbes that live on and in us, and our growing understanding of their importance. (M, S)

 

Phineas Gage: A Gruesome but True Story about Brain Science by John Fleischman

Phineas Gage was truly a man with a hole in his head. A railroad construction foreman, Phineas was blasting rock near Cavendish, Vermont, in 1848 when a thirteen-pound iron rod was shot through his brain. Miraculously, he survived another eleven years and became a textbook case in brain science. But he was forever changed by the accident, and what happened inside his brain will tell you a lot about how your brain works and what makes us who we are. (M, S)

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The Race to Save the Lord God Bird by Phillip M. Hoose

The tragedy of extinction is explained through the dramatic story of a legendary bird, the Ivory-billed Woodpecker, and of those who tried to possess it, paint it, shoot it, sell it, and, in a last-ditch effort, save it. A powerful saga that sweeps through two hundred years of history and one of the first great conservation showdowns in U.S. history, an early round in what is now a worldwide effort to save endangered species. (M, S)

 

The Shark Chronicles: A Scientist Tracks the Consummate Predator by John Musick and Beverly McMillan

Few animals elicit the same mythical terror as sharks, and yet we know little about these elusive, ancient creatures. Internationally renowned shark researcher John A. Musick and science writer Beverly McMillan bring us along on a thrilling adventure as they track sharks all over the world. By way of Alaska, Japan, the Bimini islands, and the world’s leading shark-research labs, we discover how sharks navigate using electromagnetic signals, have a bloodhound’s sense of smell, are both cold- and warm-blooded, and possess biochemical weapons that someday might help us fend off tumors and microbes. (A/YA)

 

Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach

For two thousand years, cadavers—some willingly, some unwittingly—have been involved in science’s boldest strides and weirdest undertakings. They’ve tested France’s first guillotines, ridden the NASA Space Shuttle, been crucified in a Parisian laboratory to test the authenticity of the Shroud of Turin, and helped solve the mystery of TWA Flight 800. In this fascinating account, Mary Roach visits the good deeds of cadavers over the centuries, telling the engrossing story of our bodies when we are no longer with them. (A/YA)

 

The Stuff of Life: A Graphic Guide to Genetics and DNA by Mark Schultz and Zander and Kevin Cannon

The Squinch, an asexual race from the planet Glargal, are suffering from a genetic crisis. In an effort to save them, interplanetary biologist Bloort 183 was transmitted to Earth to study the evolutionary success of its life. He is now back and presenting his findings to his planet’s leader. Much is packed into this book, which includes information on molecular and cellular life, the basic mechanics of genetics, key scientists who have made discoveries in genetics and DNA, and how they have been and are applying this knowledge. (M, S)

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The Radioactive Boy Scout: The True Story of a Boy and His Backyard Nuclear Reactor by Ken Silverstein

Growing up in suburban Detroit, David Hahn was fascinated by science. While he was working on his Atomic Energy badge for the Boy Scouts, David’s obsessive attention turned to nuclear energy, and he plunged into a new project: building a model nuclear reactor in his backyard garden shed. Following blueprints he found in an outdated physics textbook, David cobbled together a crude device that threw off toxic levels of radiation and finally sparked an environmental emergency that put his town’s forty thousand suburbanites at risk. (A/YA)

 

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

The first immortal human cells, code-named HeLa, have flourished by the trillions in labs all around the world for more than five decades, making possible the polio vaccine, chemotherapy, and many more crucial discoveries. But where did the HeLa cells come from? Henrietta Lacks, was a 31-year-old African American mother of five when she came to Johns Hopkins with cervical cancer in 1951, and samples of her tumor were taken without her knowledge or that of her family. Henrietta died a cruel death and was all but forgotten, while her miraculous cells live on, unbeknownst to her poverty-stricken family. (A/YA)

 

Life on Earth – And Beyond by Pamela S. Turner

NASA astrobiologist Dr. Christopher McKay has searched the earth’s most extreme environments in his quest to understand what factors are necessary to sustain life. Pamela S. Turner offers readers an inside look at Dr. McKay’s research, explaining his findings and his hopes for future exploration both on Earth and beyond. Behind-the-scenes photos capture Dr. McKay, his expeditions, and the amazing microbes that survive against all odds. (M, S)

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