Life: A Natural History of the First Four Billion Years of Life on Earth by Richard Fortey. An illuminating read and the only thing that has helped me to put the expansiveness of biological life into some sort of semi-digestible context.
How We Do It: The Evolution and Future of Human Reproduction by Robert Martin. Field Museum biological anthropologist talks about, really, how we do it, and why, answering questions about biological motivation for timelines on breastfeeding in comparison to our primate relatives, the chemical composition of human breast milk and why it’s good for you, why humans give birth at 9 months, how institutionalized things like maternity leave in the United States are counterproductive to the biological and emotional needs of women post-childbirth, etc. Mind blowing.
Ivory, Horn and Blood: Behind the Elephant and Rhinoceros Poaching Crisis by Ronald Orenstein. A fantastic explanation of the current crisis plaguing rhinoceroses and elephants in Asia and Africa, their population numbers declining as the demand for their body parts rises, and what is being done about it. A sad read, but a very good one.
The Last Flight of the Scarlet Macaw: One Woman’s Fight to Save the World’s Most Beautiful Bird by Bruce Barcott. A history of and fantastic commentary about the conservation issues of Belize, as much as it is a story about Sharon Matola. Many developing countries struggle with similar issues of providing jobs to sustain large and growing populations while trying to balance the necessary conservation of these unique areas.
Kingdom Under Glass: A Tale of Obsession, Danger, and One Man’s Quest to Preserve the World’s Greatest Animals by Jay Kirk. By far one of my favorite books: it chronicles Carl Akeley’s adventures in taxidermy written from his perspective, allowing for a unique commentary on his motivations for pursuing conservation and specimen preservation the way he did. It also includes crazy stories about his wife Delia and her love monkey, J. T. Junior.
The Know-It-All: One Man’s Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World by A. J. Jacobs. A really ridiculously hilarious read about A. J. Jacobs’ decision to read the entire Encyclopedia Britannica and ultimately end up as the smartest person ever, just by default of knowing everything. Then he tests his new intelligence by doing things like trying out for “Who wants to be a millionaire?”, joining MENSA, etc. Also his family thinks he is crazy.
The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales by Jon Scieszka. This is the best book I have ever read.