List #3: SCIENCE
Have a look through this selection of books we are recommending for summer reading and as seasonal gifts. Click through to read our reviews. Use the 'click and collect' function on our website to reserve your copies.
If you don't find what you're looking for here, come and talk to us: we have many other interesting books on our shelves.
Before You Know It: The unconscious reasons we do what we do by John Bargh $28
How much of what we say, feel and do is under our conscious control? How much is not? And most crucial of all: if we understood how our unconscious worked - if we knew why we do what we do - could we finally, fundamentally, know ourselves?
Insomnia by Marina Benjamin $35
Instead of viewing insomnia as a disorder, Benjamin sees it as an existential state, a state with experiences and accomplishments and possibilities that could not otherwise be reached.
>>How she learned to stop worrying and love insomnia.
>> Siding with the dark.
In sorting through how patients, insurance companies, advertising agencies, filmmakers, and comedians misconstrue a doctor 's role, Andrew Bomback (M.D.) realises that even doctors struggle to define their profession. As the author attempts to unravel how much of doctoring is role-playing, artifice, and bluffing, he examines the career of his father, a legendary pediatrician on the verge of retirement, and the health of his infant son, who is suffering from a vague assortment of gastrointestinal symptoms.
New Dark Age: Technology and the end of the future by James Bridle $33
The prevailing idea that quantitative data will give a useful view of the world has overwhelmed our capacity to make sense of the data we receive. Is the Information Age antagonistic to knowledge?
>> The author speaks.
This Idea is Brilliant: Lost, overlooked and underappreciated scientific concepts everyone should know edited by John Brockman $35
206 leading thinkers answer the question, "What scientific term or concept ought to be more widely known?" Interesting.
The First Six Books of the Elements of Euclid by Oliver Byrne $45
First published in 1847, Byrne's book of coloured illustrations of Euclid's Elements remains a design exemplar (and preceded Mondrian's investigations into colour geometry by almost a century.
Origin Story: A big history of everything from the Big Bang to the first stars, to our solar system, life on Earth, dinosaurs, homo sapiens, agriculture, an ice age, empires, fossil fuels, a Moon landing and mass globalisation, and what happens next... by David Christian $40
The Graphene Revolution: The weird science of the ultra-thin by Brian Clegg $23
In 2003, Russian physicists Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov found a way to produce graphene - the thinnest substance in the world - by using sticky tape to separate an atom-thick layer from a block of graphite. Their efforts would win the 2010 Nobel Prize for Physics, and now the applications of graphene and other 'two-dimensional' substances form a worldwide industry. Graphene is far stronger than steel, a far better conductor than any metal, and able to act as a molecular sieve to purify water. Electronic components made from graphene are a fraction the size of silicon microchips and can be both flexible and transparent, making it possible to build electronics into clothing, produce solar cells to fit any surface, or even create invisible temporary tattoos that monitor your health.
Weird Maths: At the edge of infinity and beyond by David Darling and Agnijo Banerjee $27
Is anything truly random? Does infinity actually exist? Could we ever see into other dimensions?
What's Your Type? The strange history of Myers-Briggs and the birth of personality testing by Merve Emre $35
The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is the most widely used personality test in the world. From its Jungian roots in the 1920s, this psychometric system, which provides a 4-symbol classification by plotting its subjects on 4 axes (introversion v. extroversion, thinking v. feeling, judgement v. perception, sensing v. intuition) is used in all walks of life, but how accurate or useful is it really?
"History that reads like biography that reads like a novel - a fluid narrative that defies expectations and plays against type." - New York Times
>> A free version of the type indicator is available here.
Shapeshifters: On medicine and human change by Gavin Francis $37
What we think of as our selves is held in its precarity by contrary forces, some within our control, some not, some intrinsic to our natures, some visited upon us, which are constantly changing us. To be human is to be subject to innumerable tendencies to change. This book surveys, fascinatingly, some of the notable ones, both beneficial and malign. From the author of the excellent Adventures in Human Being.
Brief Answers to the Big Questions by Stephen Hawking $35
How did it all begin? Can we predict the future? What is inside a black hole? Is there other intelligent life in the universe? Will artificial intelligence outsmart us? How do we shape the future? Will we survive on Earth? Should we colonise space? Is time travel possible? Can we receive instruction from beyond the grave?
Mountains to Sea: Solving New Zealand's freshwater crisis by Mike Joy $15
The state of New Zealand's fresh water has become a pressing public issue in recent years. From across the political spectrum, concern is growing about the pollution of New Zealand's rivers and streams.
Beneath the Skin: Great writers on the body $33
Includes A.L. Kennedy on the nose, Philip Kerr on the brain, Naomi Alderman on the intestines, Ned Beauman on the appendix, Imtiaz Dharker on the Liver, William Fiennes on the bowel and Patrick McGuiness on the ear.
The Progress of this Storm: Nature and society in a warming world by Andreas Malm $35
Debunks the idea that there is no longer such a thing as nature as distinct from society, or that such a distinction no longer matters. Quite the contrary: in a warming world, nature comes roaring back, and it is more important than ever to distinguish between the natural and the social. Only with a unique agency attributed to humans can resistance become conceivable. From the author of the remarkable Fossil Capital, which examined the links between our economic system and the climate crisis.
The Wizard and the Prophet: Two remarkable scientists and their conflicting visions of the future of our planet by Charles C. Mann $40
In 40 years, the earth's population will exceed 10 billion. Will the planet be able to sustain us? Mann examines our attitudes towards this issue by contrasting the approaches of two twentieth century scientists: the Prophets are those like William Vogt, a founding environmentalist who believed we must change our lifestyle to live within the available resources; and the Wizards, who believe, like Norman Borlaug, that scientific advances will enable us to expand the capacity of the planet to deliver our demands upon it.
The Guinea Pig Club: Archibald McIndoe and the RAF in World War II by Emily Mayhew $40
The reconstructive and plastic surgery pioneered by New Zealander Archibald McIndoe in response to the horrendous injuries suffered by airmen in the second world war, and his holistic view of community rehabilitation, put him in the medical forefront of his field.
>>Mayhew on Radio NZ National.
Being Ecological by Timothy Morton $28
Don't care about ecology? This book is for you. Morton sets out to show that we already have the capacity and the will to change the way we understand the place of humans in the world.
Birdstories: A history of the birds of New Zealand by Geoff Norman $60
A beautifully presented and illustrated cultural history of the importance, use, study, depiction and description of New Zealand's unique avifauna to Maori and Pakeha through history.
Chernobyl: History of a tragedy by Serhii Plokhy $55
On 26 April 1986 at 1.23am a reactor at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Soviet Ukraine exploded. While the authorities scrambled to understand what was occurring, workers, engineers, firefighters and those living in the area were abandoned to their fate. The blast put the world on the brink of nuclear annihilation, contaminating over half of Europe with radioactive fallout. Plokhy draws on recently opened archives to recreate these events in all their drama, telling the stories of the scientists, workers, soldiers, and police who found themselves caught in a nuclear nightmare.
How to Change Your Mind: The new science of psychedelics by Michael Pollan $55
When Michael Pollan set out to research how LSD and psilocybin (the active ingredient in magic mushrooms) are being used to provide relief to people suffering from difficult-to-treat conditions such as depression, addiction and anxiety, he did not intend to write what is undoubtedly his most personal book. But upon discovering how these remarkable substances are improving the lives not only of the mentally ill but also of healthy people coming to grips with the challenges of everyday life, he decided to explore the landscape of the mind in the first person as well as the third. Thus began a singular adventure into various altered states of consciousness, along with a dive deep into both the latest brain science and the thriving underground community of psychedelic therapists. Pollan sifts the historical record to separate the truth about these mysterious drugs from the myths that have surrounded them since the 1960s, when a handful of psychedelic evangelists inadvertently catalysed a powerful backlash against what was then a promising field of research.
>> See also: Trip by Tao Lin.
The Order of Time by Carlo Rovelli $35
If there is no such thing as the past or the future, why do we have this concept of time? How can a useful construct also hamper our understanding of the nature of the universe? If we rethink our notions of time, are we able to build some sort of model of reality that takes cognisance of but overcomes the shortcomings of general relativity, quantum mechanics and string theory? Beautifully written and deeply thoughtful.
>> Is spacetime granular?
The Book of Humans: The story of how we became us by Adam Rutherford $35
Considering our insignificant place on the evolutionary tree, why do we consider ourselves to be so special? From the author of A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived.
"Charming, compelling and packed with information. I learned more about biology from this short book than I did from years of science lessons. A weird and wonderful read." - Peter Frankopan
Down the Bay: A natural and cultural history of the Abel Tasman National Park by Philip Simpson $80
The Book of Seeds: A life-size guide to six hundred species from around the world by Paul Smith $70
An awe-inspiring survey to the planet's botanical diversity, with both life-size and much-greater-than-life-size photographs.
Pale Rider: The Spanish flu of 1918 and how it changed the world by Laura Spinney $28
With a death toll of between 50 and 100 million people and a global reach, the Spanish flu of 1918-1920 was the greatest human disaster, not only of the twentieth century, but possibly in all of recorded history. And yet, in our popular conception it exists largely as a footnote to World War I. Spinney recounts the story of an overlooked pandemic, tracing it from Alaska to Brazil, from Persia to Spain, and from South Africa to Odessa. She shows how the pandemic was shaped by the interaction of a virus and the humans it encountered; and how this devastating natural experiment put both the ingenuity and the vulnerability of humans to the test. The Spanish flu was as significant as two world wars in shaping the modern world; in disrupting, and often permanently altering, global politics, race relations, family structures, and thinking across medicine, religion and the arts.
Treasures of Tāne: Plants of Ngāi Tahu by Rob Tipa $50
A guide to the traditional uses of native plants in the South Island, and to the traditions, folklore, stories and histories surrounding their gathering and use.
Flu Hunter: Unlocking the secrets of a virus by Robert G. Webster $35
Webster's research into the 1918 influenza epidemic, which included exhuming the frozen corpses of flu victims in the Arctic, enabled him to build a model of genesis and spread of influenza viruses, and their potential for epidemics. Confirming his hypothesis that the natural ecology of these viruses, and the origins of new strains, was among waterbirds, New Zealander Webster gained world-wide recognition for his contributions to the understanding of the disease, and for his modelling of its spread.
The Hidden Life of Trees (The illustrated edition) by Peter Wohllebehn $55
Wohllebehn's hugely popular book exploring the interconnectedness of a forest ecosystem is now presented in this illustrated edition.