Also of interest…
In nonhuman worlds
The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs
by Steve Brusatte (William Morrow, $30)
Steve Brusatte’s new book is “a masterpiece of science writing,” said Dennis Drabelle in The Washington Post. Evincing “an infectious enthusiasm for all things dinosaurian,” the paleontologist has delivered a history of the great reptiles that marvels over 50-ton giants surviving on vegetation alone and closes with a “bravura” re-creation of “the worst day in the history of our planet”—when an asteroid struck today’s Yucatán Peninsula, causing mass extinction. Of course, it also enabled the rise of mammals, including us.
The Secret Life of Cows
by Rosamund Young (Penguin, $23)
Rosamund Young writes barnyard portraits of “unutterable charm,” said Eve MacSweeney in Vogue.com. To the lifelong English farmer, each cow, sheep, and chicken is unique, and her prose sketches of her bovine charges reveal creatures capable of bonding, communicating, grieving, and even playing pranks. “Young anthropomorphizes, to be sure,” but her alertness to each animal’s idiosyncrasies “puts our understanding of the minds of cattle onto a completely different plane.”
Spying on Whales
by Nick Pyenson (Viking, $27)
Nick Pyenson’s memoir is “a paleontological howdunnit embedded in a travelogue,” said Sascha Hooker in Nature. The Smithsonian’s curator of fossil marine mammals, Pyenson circles the globe to gather data about how whales became the planet’s largest-ever mammals and how human activity and climate change could affect their future. Pyenson can be faulted for occasionally obtaining specimens from whalers, but he’s clearly a conservationist, and “his passion for research shines through.”
by Thor Hanson (Basic, $27)
Thor Hanson is the rare scientist who’s made a career of writing for lay readers, said Mark Winston in the Los Angeles Review of Books. “About bees, he’s an amateur, but a serious one,” and his new book-length love letter to wild bees is inspirational. Like honeybees, which are critical to the farm industry, wild bees are in trouble, with 43 percent of bee species in decline because of pesticides and other agricultural practices. Buzz offers no solution—just reasons to be fascinated by these marvelous insects.