Saturday, 30 November 2019


List #3: SCIENCE & NATURE
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.


Southern Nights by Naomi Arnold          $65
Aotearoa New Zealand was founded on stargazing. It was celestial navigation that brought the first people here, and it was tatai arorangi, Maori astronomy, that helped people survive once they arrived. There is no better place on Earth to view the brilliance of other worlds. Covering eclipses, aurorae, comets and constellations, backyard observatories, traditional stargazers and world-class astrophotographers, this is the unique story of Te Whanau Marama, our family of light - the night sky that glows above us all. 


The Animal's Companion: People and their pets, a 26,000-year love story by Jacky Colliss Harvey      $40
The earliest evidence of a human and a pet can be traced as far back as 26,000 BC in France where a boy and his 'canid' took a walk through a cave. Their foot and paw prints were preserved together on the muddy cave floor, and smoke from the torch the boy carried was left on the walls, allowing archaeologists to carbon-date their journey. And so, the story unfolds, from these prehistoric days all the way up to the present, of our innate and undeniable need to live in the close company of animals.
The Body: A guide for occupants by Bill Bryson         $55
Bryson has led us on discursive journeys through various places — from Britain to his house — and he is always great company. In this book he applies his anecdotal style to a wander through our own bodies.



The Library of Ice: Readings from a cold climate by Nancy Campbell         $45
A beautifully written journey through the phenomena (both objective and subjective) and frozen histories of the Arctic an the Antarctic via the holdings of remarkable museums (including the world's northernmost museum at Upernavik in Greenland). A subtle exploration of the relationship between humans and habitats that are both harsh and fragile. 
"A wonderful book. Glaciers, Arctic floe, verglas, frost and snow - I can think of no better or warmer guide to the icy ends of the Earth. " - Dan Richards (author of Climbing Days)
Something Deeply Hidden: Quantum worlds and the emergence of spacetime by Sean Carroll       $43
Spanning the history of quantum discoveries, from Einstein and Bohr to the present day, Carroll debunks myths that have grown up around quantum physics, reinstates the Many-Worlds Interpretation, and presents a new path to solving the apparent conflict between quantum mechanics and gravity. 


The Mind is Flat: The illusion of mental depth and the improvised mind by Nick Chater       $28
We have no 'inner life'. There are no 'depths' to plumb. The unconscious is a myth. There is only surface and nothing beneath. Chater challenges the bases of psychology using the latest research and a determination to show that all thought actually takes place in the moment. Fascinating, provocative and convincing. 
"Light the touchpaper and stand well back." - New Scientist


Dark Matter and Dark Energy: The hidden 95% of the universe by Brian Clegg         $23
Since the 1970s, astronomers have been aware that galaxies have far too little matter in them to account for the way they spin around: they should fly apart, but something concealed holds them together. That 'something' is dark matter — invisible material in five times the quantity of the familiar stuff of stars and planets. By the 1990s we also knew that the expansion of the universe was accelerating. Something, named dark energy, is pushing it to expand faster and faster. Across the universe,this requires enough energy that the equivalent mass would be nearly fourteen times greater than all the visible material in existence.
Out of Our Minds: A history of what we think and how we think it by Felipe Fern├índez-Armesto      $35
Imagination is the faculty that distinguishes homo sapiens most from other species, but just how do we form images of things that are not, and then how do we convert these into things that are? 
Life: Selected writings by Tim Flannery           $48
Thirty years of essays, speeches and writing on palaeontology, mammology, environmental science and history, including the science of climate change and the challenges and opportunities we face in addressing this issue.


Six Impossible Things: The 'Quanta of Solace' and the mysteries of the subatomic world by John Gribbin      $23
Quantum physics tells us that a particle can be in two places at once. Indeed, that particle is also a wave, and everything in the quantum world can be described entirely in terms of waves, or entirely in terms of particles, whichever you prefer.   All of this was clear by the end of the 1920s. But to the great distress of many physicists, let alone ordinary mortals, nobody has ever been able to come up with a common sense explanation of what is going on. Physicists have sought 'quanta of solace' in a variety of more or less convincing interpretations. Gribbin introduces us to six. 
Surfacing by Kathleen Jamie         $33
From the thawing tundra linking a Yup'ik village in Alaska to its hunter-gatherer past to the shifting sand dunes revealing the impressively preserved homes of neolithic farmers in Scotland, Jamie explores how the changing natural world can alter our sense of time. Beautifully written. 
>>Other books by Jamie


Novacene: The coming age of hyperintelligence by James Lovelock        $37
A remarkably hopeful look at the coming of beneficent AI and their partnership with humans as part of an organic planetary consciousness, 'Gaia'. 


Escape from Earth: A secret history of the space rocket by Fraser MacDonald     $45
Everyone knows that rockets are just toys, the stuff of cranks and pulp magazines. Nevertheless, in the 1930s, an engineering student named Frank Malina set out to prove the doubters wrong. With the help of his friend Jack Parsons, a grandiose and occult-obsessed explosives enthusiast, Malina embarked on a journey that took him from junk yards and desert lots to the heights of the military-industrial complex. Malina designed the first American rocket to reach space and established the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. But trouble soon found him: the FBI suspected Malina of being a communist. 
Animal Languages: The secret conversations of the natural world by Eva Meijer        $40
Are we reluctant to recognise animals as persons, to acknowledge the complexities of their interactions and emotional lives, because we would then have to grant them legal rights? How would this change our lives? 
Artificial Intelligence: A guide for thinking humans by Melanie Mitchell       $40
No recent scientific enterprise has been so alluring, terrifying, and filled with extravagant promise and frustrating setbacks as artificial intelligence. How intelligent are the best of today's AI programs? To what extent can we entrust them with decisions that affect our lives? How human-like do we expect them to become, and how soon do we need to worry about them surpassing us in most, if not all, human endeavours?

Why Trust Science? by Naomi Oreskes         $55

Do doctors really know what they are talking about when they tell us vaccines are safe? Should we take climate experts at their word when they warn us about the perils of global warming? Why should we trust science when our own politicians don't? In this landmark book, Naomi Oreskes offers a bold and compelling defense of science, revealing why the social character of scientific knowledge is its greatest strength, and the greatest reason we can trust it.

A Cloud a Day by Gavin Pretor-Pinney        $40
Cloudspotter Gavin Pretor-Pinney delivers a moment of calm atmospheric contemplation to members of his Cloud Appreciation Society by sharing a cloud image and story every day.


Fifteen Million Years in Antarctica by Rebecca Priestley         $40
When Priestley visited Antarctica in 2011, it fulfilled a life's dream but also brought her anxieties to the fore. She has visited twice since, spending time with Antarctic scientists including paleo-climatologists, biologists, geologists, glaciologists exploring the landscape, marvelling at wildlife from orca to tardigrades, and occasionally getting very cold. Her anxiety has been her constant companion, anxiety both for herself and for the future of the continent and the planet. 


The Gendered Brain: The new neuroscience that shatters the myth of the female brain by Gina Rippon        $38
Scientific information about brain plasticity shows that there is no such thing as a 'male' or 'female' brain other than what society makes them to be - there are only brains. We need to move beyond our binary thinking to fully understand the wondrous organ in our craniums. 
The Seafarers: A journey among birds by Stephen Rutt       $40
Rutt travels to the remotest edges of the British Isles in search of the seabirds that make their homes there. In the face of a looming environmental crisis, his investigation is both personal and passionate. 


The Creativity Code: How AI is learning to write, paint and think by Marcus du Sautoy         $37
Can machines be creative? Will they soon be able to learn from the art that moves us, and understand what distinguishes it from the mundane? Du Sautoy examines the nature of creativity, as well as providing an essential guide into how algorithms work, and the mathematical rules underpinning them. He asks how much of our emotional response to art is a product of our brains reacting to pattern and structure, and exactly what it is to be creative in mathematics, art, language and music. 
>> Too dangerous to release? 
Infinite Powers: The story of calculus, the most important discovery in mathematics by Steven Strogatz         $33
Without calculus, there would be no computers, no microwave ovens, no GPS, no space travel. But before it gave us almost infinite powers, calculus was behind centuries of controversy, competition, and even death. One of the most anticipated books on mathematics of the year. 
Extraordinary Insects by Anne Sverdrup-Thygeson     $34
Out of sight, underfoot, unseen beyond fleeting scuttles or darting flights, insects occupy a hidden world, yet are essential to sustaining life on earth. Insects influence our ecosystem like a ripple effect on water. They arrived when life first moved to dry land, they preceded — and survived — the dinosaurs, they outnumber the grains of sand on all the world's beaches, and they will be here long after us. Working quietly but tirelessly, they give us food, uphold our ecosystems, can heal our wounds and even digest plastic. 


The Reality Bubble: Blind spots, hidden truths and dangerous illusions that shape our world by Ziya Tong        $33

Our concepts of our world are severely limited by the narrowness of the sensual sliver to which we have access. Other animals share our world but, with the help of, for instance, infrared or ultraviolet or with 360-degree vision, they perceive it quite differently. This lively, fascinating book looks at ten of humans' 'blind spots' and shows us aspects of our world that we really need to take notice of before it's too late. 



The Meaning of Trees: The history and use of New Zealand's native plants by Robert Vennell         $55
A well-illustrated survey of native flora and its significance in culture, history, medicine, craft and cuisine. 


Transcendence: How humans evolved through fire, language, beauty and time by Gaia Vince        $37
Paleontology meets neurology in this reassessment of our evolutionary history. Humans now live longer than ever before, and we are the most populous big animal on earth. Meanwhile, our closest living relatives, the now-endangered chimpanzees, continue to live as they have for millions of years. We are not like the other animals, yet we evolved through the same process. What are we then? And now we have remade the world, what are we becoming?
The Uninhabitable Earth: A story of the future by David Wallace-Wells       $26
The effects of climate change are only beginning to be felt. Soon they will be impossible to ignore, and they will change the way we do everything. Why have we done next to nothing to avoid this? 







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