Books·Holiday Gift Guide

12 books for the science and nature enthusiast on your list

Theoretically, these books will make great gifts this holiday season.

Need a gift for the science and nature lover in your life? We've done the research and our conclusions indicate that one of these 12 books will make the perfect present.

You can see the complete CBC Books gift guide here.

Ice Ghosts by Paul Watson

Canadian journalist Paul Watson reported on the discovery of Sir John Franklin's ships in 2014 and 2016. (Paul Watson/McClelland & Stewart)

What it's about: In 1845, two ships and 129 crew members in search of the Northwest Passage disappeared in the Arctic. Journalist Paul Watson tells the story of the doomed Franklin Expedition, and how a combination of Inuit knowledge and science led to the discovery of the two ships over a century later. 

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson

Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson breaks down the universe's big questions into accessible bursts. (Michael Campanella/Getty Images)

What it's about: Neil deGrasse Tyson, astrophysicist and head of New York's famous Hayden Planetarium, takes on the universe's big questions and turns them into digestible, witty essays for the everyday person. Some questions include: What is the nature of space and time? How do we fit within the universe?

Chemistry by Weike Wang

Chemistry is Weike Wang's first novel. (Saavedra Photography/Knopf)

What it's about: After three years of toiling away in a lab, the unnamed graduate student at the centre of this whip-smart debut discovers she may not be that into chemistry after all. Her failing research, coupled with demands from her Chinese parents and a marriage proposal from partner, sends Chemistry's confused protagonist in a downward spiral.

Turning by Jessica J. Lee

Jessica J. Lee is the author of Turning. (Hamish Hamilton, Paul Capewell)

What it's about: While working on her thesis, and contending with her own personal demons, Jessica J. Lee decides to swim through 52 of Berlin's lakes in one year, regardless of the weather or season.

The Wolf by Nate Blakeslee

In The Wolf, Nate Blakeslee of Texas Monthly writes about the controversy ignited by conservationists bringing wolves from Canada to Yellowstone National Park. (Random House Canada)

What it's about: Wolves were nearly hunted to extinction in the U.S. in the 1920s, but in recent decades, conservationists have worked to restore the population by bringing wolves from Canada to Yellowstone National Park. In The WolfNate Blakeslee tells the story of an alpha female wolf named O-Six, beloved by park ranger Rick McIntyre and challenged by hunters who compete for the elk she hunts for her pups.

The Dialogues by Clifford V. Johnson

Physicist Clifford V. Johnson wrote and drew his graphic novel The Dialogues, which features a series of people conversing about science. (University of Southern California/MIT Press)

What it's about: In this graphic novel, a couple imagines a superhero scientist who uses their powers for research rather than to fight crime, a pair of siblings experiment on a grain of rice and another couple discusses immortality and black holes. Written and drawn by physicist Clifford V. Johnson, The Dialogues illustrates how science can be a topic of everyday conversation for anyone. 

Code Girls by Liza Mundy

Liza Mundy shines a light on the work of code-breaking women who helped shorten World War II. (Nina Subin/Hachette)

What it's about: Liza Mundy tells the story of the unsung heroes of the Second World War: the tens of thousands of American women who were recruited from small towns and elite universities to break Axis codes. Their work helped shorten the war and save the lives of countless soldiers. Mundy speaks to surviving code-breakers and shines a spotlight on their almost forgotten work.

Quackery by Dr. Lydia Kang and Nate Pedersen

Quackery is an exploration the worst medical cures in history by Dr. Lydia Kang and Nate Pedersen. (

What it's about: In QuackeryDr. Lydia Kang and Nate Pedersen chronicle a history of the world's worst medical cures — including literal snake oil, arsenic and goat testicles.

The Inner Life of Animals by Peter Wohlleben

Peter Wohlleben takes a wide-ranging look at animal behaviour in The Inner Life of Animals. (

What it's about: From devoted squirrel mothers to goats who discipline their kids, Peter Wohlleben delves into the scientific research and into his own experiences with nature to create a portrait of how animals behave.

The Vaccine Race by Meredith Wadman

Dr. Meredith Wadman describes the emergence of vaccine science in The Vaccine Race. (Johnny Shryock for New America)

What it's about: In The Vaccine Race, science journalist Meredith Wadman chronicles the development of vaccine science, beginning in the 1960s, as well as the political barriers that nearly halted it.

Rowing the Northwest Passage by Kevin Vallely

Rowing The Northwest Passage is Kevin Vallely's first book and it recounts the story of his attempt to row the Northwest Passage and is also a warning about the dangers of climate change. ( Books Ltd.)

What it's about: Experienced adventurer Kevin Vallely, along with three of his peers, take on wild storms to rowboat across the fabled Northwest Passage. Along the dangerous, storm-plagued journey, Vallely documents the tremendous impact of climate change on the region. 

Rise of the Necrofauna by Britt Wray

Britt Wray talks to scientists trying to bring extinct animals back to life in Rise of the Necrofauna. (

What it's about: Britt Wray delves into the ethical conversation around de-extinction, talking to scientists hoping to revive woolly mammoths and cautionary environmental philosophers on the other side of the issue.


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