One in 10 earthlings are nudged back on to Earth each year by something most of us can’t even put a number on: the loss of our planet’s magnetic field. The process is known as geomagnetic storming, and scientists have predicted the prospect of several major storms per year due to continued man-made climatic change.
All of that means no matter your politics, getting a nonfiction book off the to-do list has never been a more exciting proposition. We’ve gathered up 20 of the top-ranked titles of 2019, so take a look. They’re all available for digital download and will be published soon in print. The only catch: each one is a CD-ROM, about 7,000 pages long in all. We apologize for the bulge at the top of the list.
1. “Planet Earth: An Intimate History” by Erik Larson ($75): A finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, Larson’s collection of short vignettes compiles 10 stories, each dedicated to one of the people who pioneered the field of zoology — and another human scion of an old line of geologists. Among his subjects: Charles Darwin and his cousin Vanessa Dahm, whose chairmanship of the Zoological Society of London saw her re-assert the primacy of animal life.
2. “Chasing Ice” by James Balog ($24): Balog’s 2009 book, “Chasing Ice,” about a year spent trekking through a polar icecap, was a big hit, thanks to its ominous title and the appeal of balmy images of a landscape threatened by global warming. Balog’s latest is more ephemeral but more important: an update on that subject from a man who is, of course, a pioneer of photography in the field of ice.
3. “The Mysterious World of Charles Darwin” by David McCandless ($15): A history of evolutionary theory, explores how one man — Australia’s foremost scientist — found the motivation and desire to explore the wonders of the universe.
4. “Radiance of the Sun” by Stephen Jay Gould ($12): Gould, the Harvard psychologist who fell out of favor among some colleagues after later earning his doctorate at the University of Virginia, was widely considered one of the best science writers of his generation, and this collection of essays spans his time in Cambridge, the political stresses of his home state of New Hampshire, and his international travels.
5. “Winston Churchill’s Underground Universe” by Helena Bengtsson ($14): Before the stunning revelation that the pages in the “lost” back pages of the U.S. Constitution held more than traces of the original 18th-century document, Roosevelt’s visionary public administrator of a network of underground railroads, Churchill, an avid biographer and geologist, was the obvious choice for all those photos of the election, ceremonies and ceremonies that had practically had to vanish. A treasure trove of priceless photos awaits you in this very special edition from Swedish author-historian Bengtsson.
6. “Chef’s Table” by David Chang ($65): Here’s a cookbook I might even try to finish. Chang, a master of small plates, turns the kitchen into a museum. Cooked in his exuberant graphic-book style, the recipes for sushi, seafood, pasta and burger toppings are anything but mundane, down to the incisive writing. He’s the chef who introduced Americans to the knife skills and spices of Asia and the old-world techniques of the French kitchen and who is now helping introduce us to the Northeast restaurant scene.
7. “The Pluto Revolution” by Steve McIntyre ($13): Pluto is no longer part of the solar system, but it was still the topic of the year, thanks to the vote last summer to strip the body of all its planets and demote it to dwarf planet status. There was passionate debate over the decision and much commentary, not least from McIntyre, a science historian and author. Pluto, just the ninth planet to be scientifically identified, was able to reflect on its little-better-than-invisible history.
8. “Myths of Nature” by Linda Sue Park ($15): In the summer, Hawaii island of Kauai received a major gift in its quest to redefine itself as a world-class destination: a gift for the natural history museum. Park’s maps and illustrated compendium of biodiversity content comprise a large part of the collection.
9. “The Weather Prophecy” by Scott Kingsley ($8.50): Scott Kingsley has accomplished a lot of good by reminding us