Charismatic creatures, a life-giving element, crime-solving spores, the first Apollo moon landing and multiple universes are among the subjects of the books that enthralled the Science News staff this year. Find longer reviews of these must-reads in our favorite books of 2019 collection.

Mama’s Last
Hug

Frans de Waal
W.W. Norton & Co., $27.95

Joy, empathy, fear, envy, disgust, sadness and other emotions are found throughout the animal kingdom, a primatologist argues in this anecdote-filled book. Studying those reactions may lead to insights about the origins of human emotions (SN: 3/2/19, p. 28).

Slime
Ruth Kassinger
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $26

This ode to algae celebrates a diverse group of organisms that have shaped Earth’s environment for billions of years — and have proved useful to humankind in everything from agriculture to industry (SN: 6/22/19, p. 28). 

A Polar Affair
Lloyd Spencer Davis
Pegasus Books, $29.95

At the center of this thought-provoking scientific mystery is the question of why an early 20th century explorer kept his observations of penguins’ sex lives a secret (SN: 12/7/19, p. 26). 

Symphony in C cover

Symphony in
C

Robert M. Hazen
W.W. Norton & Co., $26.95

Carbon takes center stage in this fact-stuffed “biography” that documents the chemical element’s history and vital role in chemistry, biology, geology and human society (SN: 6/8/19, p. 29). 

Something Deeply Hidden cover

Something Deeply Hidden
Sean Carroll
Dutton, $29

In this highly readable book, a physicist builds a case for the Many-Worlds Interpretation of quantum mechanics, which states that all possible outcomes of quantum experiments actually exist, leading to multiple universes (SN: 9/28/19, p. 26). 

The Number of the Heavens cover

The
Number of the Heavens

Tom Siegfried
Harvard Univ., $29.95

Starting with the ancient Greeks, a former Science News editor in chief and current contributing correspondent chronicles how the concept of the multiverse has evolved as scientists’ understanding of the universe has expanded (SN: 10/12/19 & 10/26/19, p. 42). 

Moonbound cover

Moonbound
Jonathan Fetter-Vorm
Hill and Wang, $35

In the style of a graphic novel, this book offers an exciting retelling of the Apollo 11 moon landing, weaving in key stories from the history of astronomy and space exploration (SN: 7/6/19 & 7/20/19, p. 42).

The Second Kind of Impossible

The Second Kind of
Impossible

Paul J. Steinhardt
Simon & Schuster, $27

A physicist journeys from the lab to the Siberian wilderness to prove quasicrystals — materials whose atoms have an order that does not repeat — exist in nature (SN: 3/2/19, p. 28). 

Invisible Women cover

Invisible Women
Caroline Criado Perez
Abrams Press, $27

Using examples from medicine, economics and more, a journalist shows how research that views men as the norm and neglects to collect data on women puts women’s health and well-being at risk (SN Online: 4/19/19). 

Good to Go cover

Good to Go
Christie Aschwanden
W.W. Norton & Co., $27.95

A science writer puts cryotherapy, compression tights, supplements and other postexercise activities to the test as she investigates whether these sports-recovery techniques work better than plain old rest (SN: 2/2/19, p. 28). 

The Nature of Life and Death cover

The Nature of Life and Death
Patricia Wiltshire
G.P. Putnam’s Sons, $27

A botanist offers a crash course in forensic ecology, drawing on two decades’ worth of her own cases to show how pollen and spores can bring criminals to justice (SN: 9/14/19, p. 26).

Archaeology from Space cover

Archaeology from Space
Sarah Parcak
Henry Holt and Co., $30

An archaeologist leads a lively tour of the past, present and future of space archaeology, which uses satellites and other remote-sensing techniques to discover ancient sites on Earth (SN: 8/17/19, p. 28).

Fruit from the Sands cover

Fruit from the Sands
Robert N. Spengler III
Univ. of California, $34.95

This culinary journey back in time traces the spread of apples, rice, tea, wheat and other popular staples to Asia’s ancient Silk Road trading routes (SN: 8/3/19, p. 28).


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