Science and Nature Book Gift Ideas
I spend most of my reading time on fiction titles, but my favorite book titles to give as gifts are those about science and nature.
Books about the natural world or how things work seem to best lend themselves to being read at one's leisure, promise to teach something in an engaging way, and are a gift many of my recipients don't buy for themselves.
Here are the new science and nature books--published at the end of last year or during this calendar year--that I'm most excited to give as gifts this holiday season.
I'll be sharing my annual Bossy book gift ideas on Fridays leading up to the holidays, and I hope you'll find a book or two in these lists to delight someone you love--or to gift to yourself!
And don't forget to check my past Bossy idea lists for quirky books, perennial classics, modern favorites, nonfiction must-haves, or other new-to-you titles that might be perfect for the people on your holiday gift list!
2020 Bossy Book Gift Guides
2021 Bossy Book Gift Guides
2022 Bossy Book Gift Guides
A Bossy book-buying note: If you're buying books this holiday season, please support your local independent bookstore. They need and appreciate our business! (The book covers on this site link you to Bookshop, a site that supports the beloved indies that keep us swimming in thoughtful book recommendations and excellent customer service all year round.)
My favorite bookstore is my local independent bookstore here in Charlotte, Park Road Books. They have a fantastic selection of titles, offer spot-on recommendations, and can order almost anything they don't have in stock.
01 To Infinity and Beyond: A Journey of Cosmic Discovery by Neil deGrasse Tyson
Once upon a time, before humans understood what lay above the clouds, the realm of sky and stars was inhabited only by gods and explained only by myths and fables. But a series of discoveries, intermingled with fits and starts, wrong ways and dead ends, ultimately shattered those primal beliefs, empowering humankind with the knowledge to unveil strange and humbling truths.
In To Infinity and Beyond, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, host of the podcast StarTalk Radio and National Geographic Channel shows StarTalk and Cosmos, offers an illustrated narrative guide to the cosmos.
As always, Tyson breaks down the mysteries of the universe into understandable pieces, using humor and his immense bank of knowledge.
To Infinity and Beyond is published by National Geographic.
02 The Quickening: Creation and Community at the Ends of the Earth by Elizabeth Rush
In 2019, fifty-seven scientists and crew members set out for Thwaites Glacier, never before visited by humans and believed to be in danger of permanent deterioration--which would result in a destructive rising of the global sea level.
Elizabeth Rush relates the details of the journey, from spying her first glacier to the long, monotonous hours spent in a lab.
She explores our collective responsibility to each other and to our earth while highlighting the pivotal contributions to science by woman and persons of color that have been possible in the recent past.
Rush is also the author of Rising: Dispatches from the New American Shore
03 Beautiful Experiments: An Illustrated History of Experimental Science by Philip Ball
In Beautiful Experiments, Philip Ball ventures to answer questions such as How does the world work? What makes things happen? What is the world made from? What is light? What is life? And How do organisms behave?
Ball celebrates scientific developments and the evolution of the equipment required to make earth-shaking discoveries while reflecting on how we came to understand the way in which the world functions.
This is an admittedly dense text, but the photographs and illustrations are fascinating. For a committed science lover, this title could very well do the trick.
04 Brave the Wild River: The Untold Story of Two Women Who Mapped the Botany of the Grand Canyon by Melissa L. Sevigny
The ideal female botanist, described in a letter between department heads, was attractive, mannerly, a good teacher, "doesn't smoke or drink and looks like a thoroughly fine girl."
Botanists Elzada "Dode" Clover and Lois Jotter didn't fit this description. Strong-willed, educated, independent, with wild streaks, the women set out to run the rough, boulder-strewn Colorado River, recognized as the most dangerous river in the world.
With an eclectic accompanying group--a zoologist, two amateur boatmen, and an expedition leader--the women spent 43 days making their way down he river and cataloging the plants along their route.
I love a story about strong women in the past braving the wild. I can't wait to read this one.
05 How Far the Light Reaches: A Life in Ten Sea Creatures by Sabrina Imbler
...you may have heard that goldfish have a three-second memory. But goldfish can remember that a colored paddle means food is coming, even months after the association is formed. Goldfish can perform complex tasks, such as escaping a net or navigating a maze. How can such a small fish hold on to the memory of the snaking path of a maze for three months?
In How Far the Light Reaches, writer and science journalist Sabrina Imbler considers ten striking creatures from the ocean and their unique habits and characteristics, including the mother octopus, who goes without food while keeping her eggs safe; the strange, vicious Bobbitt worm (named after Lorena); and the Chinese sturgeon, whose migration has been harmed by pollution and human interference.
06 What an Owl Knows: The New Science of the World's Most Enigmatic Birds by Jennifer Ackerman
They're tender and deadly, cute and brutal, ferocious and funny, sometimes even playing the mischievous clown, stealing camera equipment or snatching hats.... Owls have this kind of duality.
Bring on the bird books! This is the first of two bird books on this gift list, and if you've checked out my Bossy Book Gift Lists in the past, you know that bird books (including others by this author) are a favorite theme--and a big hit for my bird lovers.
Ackerman, author of The Bird Way and The Genius of Birds, here tackles biology and natural history of the elusive owl, exploring fascinating facts as well as considering why humans are so intrigued by the owl.
07 The Blue Machine: How the Ocean Works by Helen Czerski
The earth's ocean is fickle when it comes to its appearance. Seawater can present itself as the startling turquoise of a shallow tropical bay, the ruffled grim grey of a blustery northern coast, a calm royal blue that stretches for a thousand miles--or perhaps temporarily cloaked in the cheeky orange of a sunset.
In The Blue Machine, physicist and oceanographer Helen Czerski explores the "ocean engine," the concept that all of the earth's oceans, from the poles to the equator and across the globe, operate as one system, "powered by sunlight, driving huge flows of energy, water, life, and raw materials."
Another ocean-focused book that looks captivating is The Underworld: Journeys to the Depths of the Ocean by Susan Casey.
08 The Cat's Meow: How Cats Evolved from the Savanna to Your Sofa by Jonathan B. Losos
Cats seemed to revel in behaving in risky ways: crossing roads, climbing underneath cars and onto roofs, entering storm drains and crawl spaces, and eating and drinking whatever they came upon.
We brought our first puppy into the family this year (Leo!), but I'm a longtime cat lover (OGs Emmett, Tigger, and Baby).
In The Cat's Meow, Evolutionary biologist Jonathan B. Losos has taught a Harvard course about the evolution of cats. He explains that cat-loving scientists are envious of how dogs have become the "darlings" of the scientific research community, but that cats may be at the center of cutting-edge research.
09 Flight Paths: How a Passionate and Quirky Group of Pioneering Scientists Solved the Mystery of Bird Migration by Rebecca Heisman
Only recently have we begun to fully understand where birds go when they disappear south over the horizon, flying thousands of miles across the earth each fall and spring. And although we now know much more about these amazing journeys than ever before, the process of how scientists revealed these epic voyages is a miracle in and of itself.
More more more bird books for my bird people, please! I always seem to have a handful of bird-focused science books on my gift list, and so far they've all been hits with my loved ones who love their feathered friends.
In Flight Paths, Heisman traces the remarkable cooperation across many branches of science that led scientists to "solve the great mystery of bird migration." With vivid details that bring to life the odd history (counting silhouettes of birds as they passed in front of the moon was one way bird migration was once measured) and the fascinating evolution of the science.