Books·Holiday Gift Guide

14 books for the science & nature lover on your holiday list

From space to medicine to climate change, here's a range of science and environment-themed books to gift your loved ones.

From space to medicine to climate change, here's a range of science and environment-themed books to gift your loved ones.

The Reality Bubble by Ziya Tong

The Reality Bubble is a nonfiction book by Ziya Tong. (Penguin Random House Canada, CBC)

Science journalist Ziya Tong reminds readers that the human eye pales in comparison to what animals with infrared, ultraviolet and 360-degree vision can see. She looks into 10 of humanity's biggest blind spots, including where our food and energy comes from and where our waste goes.

Tong was the anchor of the Discovery Channel's science program Daily Planet. She successfully defended the memoir By Chance Alone by Max Eisen on Canada Reads 2019.

The Mosquito by Timothy C. Winegard

The Mosquito is a nonfiction book by Timothy C. Winegard. (Rylie E. Vavra, Allen Lane)

If you had to choose humanity's greatest natural predator, would you pick sharks? Maybe lions, or bears — or even other humans? According to Timothy Winegard, it's actually that winged terror — the mosquito. In his new book, The Mosquito: A Human History of Our Deadliest Predator, he argues that the mosquito — and the diseases it carries — has played a remarkable role in shaping our own development, from the birth of the gin and tonic, to the fall of the Roman Empire.

Making Eden by David Beerling

Making Eden: How Plants Transformed a Barren Planet is a book by professor David Beerling. (Oxford University Press, HALLDOR KOLBEINS/AFP/Getty Images)

Plants are everywhere around us  —  they provide us with the essentials for life. Yet, most of us rarely stop to consider them. In his new book called Making Eden, professor David Beerling chronicles the untold history of how plants evolved on land over millions of years and built the Earth we know today. 

The Body by Bill Bryson

The Body is a nonfiction book by Bill Bryson. (Doubleday Canada, Catherine Williams/Submitted by Bill Bryson)

In his latest book, The Body: A Guide for Occupants, Bill Bryson guides readers through the human body and its complex network of systems. A mix of extraordinary facts and entertaining anecdotes, Bryson's book reveals just how remarkable the human body is in spite of how much we take it for granted.

Bryson is the bestselling author of A Short History of Nearly Everything and Notes from a Small Island.

The First Cell by Azra Raza

The First Cell is a nonfiction book about cancer by oncologist Azra Raza. (Basic Books, Chad Hunt)

Oncologist Azra Raza declares that humans have lost the war on cancer. Raza points out that little progress has been made over the last five decades, despite the billions of dollars spent each year treating the disease. Raza layers science and cultural attitudes toward cancer with her own experience treating her husband, who died of leukemia.

Raza is a professor of medicine at Columbia University.

The Ghost Garden by Susan Doherty

Susan Doherty is the author of The Ghost Garden. (Penguin Random House)

Susan Doherty shares the stories of the patients at the Douglas Institute, a psychiatric hospital in Montreal where the author has been volunteering for a decade. One of the patients is a woman in her 60s named Caroline Evans (a pseudonym), whom Doherty has known since childhood. Caroline describes how her schizophrenia began to surface in her teenage years and the ways she's been failed by the Canadian health and justice system.

The Vagina Bible by Dr. Jen Gunter

The Vagina Bible is a nonfiction book by Jen Gunter. (drjengunter.com, Random House Canada)

Canadian ob-gyn Dr. Jen Gunter is known for her pithy takedowns of pseudo-science wellness trends on Twitter. The Vagina Bible, her first book, is a deep dive into women's health, covering everything from questionable Goop-endorsed hygiene practices to reproductive health.

Originally from Winnipeg, Dr. Gunter now lives in San Francisco.

Underland by Robert Macfarlane

Robert Macfarlane is a writer and scholar at the University of Cambridge. His latest work of nature writing is Underland. (@RobGMacfarlane/Twitter.com, Hamish Hamilton UK)

Having explored the most stunning landscapes that the world above ground has to offer, nature writer Robert Macfarlane's latest work delves into the visceral and haunting experience of the universe underneath us. Underland charts Macfarlane's travels underground, how he slipped, squeezed and pressed through portals into what he calls the 'Underland.'

Macfarlane is a British nature writer whose work has been translated into a dozen languages.

Superior by Angela Saini

Superior is a nonfiction book about race science by science journalist Angela Saini. (Beacon Press, Henrietta Garden)

In Superior: The Return of Race Science, Angela Saini traces the history of race science back to the Age of Enlightenment, when philosophers and European thinkers started to classify human beings based on colour or other superficial features, the same way they classified plants or other animals.

Saini is a British science journalist. Her other books include Geek Nation and Inferior.

An Earthling's Guide to Outer Space by Bob McDonald

An Earthling’s Guide to Outer Space is a nonfiction book by Bob McDonald. (Jennifer Hartley, Simon & Schuster)

In An Earthling's Guide to Outer Spacescience radio host Bob McDonald shares his unbridled enthusiasm for space — and tries to answer any question you may have about it, from black holes and aliens to dark matter and Mars.

McDonald is the host of CBC Radio's Quirks & Quarks, an award-winning weekly show that brings listeners the latest in scientific discovery.

Daughter of Family G by Ami McKay

Daughter of Family G is a memoir by Ami McKay. (Ian McKay, Knopf Canada)

Ami McKay's family has a history of dying early, thanks to a a genetic disorder called Lynch syndrome. This discovery began with McKay's great-aunt Pauline Gross, who, in 1895, went to a doctor with the expectation she would die at a young age. What followed was a decades and generations-long study of one family and their relationship to cancer. It would become the longest and most detailed cancer genealogy study ever.

In Daughter of Family GMcKay explores this family history while grappling with the fact she tested positive for the gene while raising a family of her own. McKay is a novelist whose fictional work includes The Birth House and The Witches of New York.

Legacy by Suzanne Methot

Legacy is a book by Suzanne Methot. (Nadya Kwandibens, ECW Press)

Nehiyaw writer Suzanne Methot traces her own roots to better understand how colonial trauma is passed down from generation to generation. In doing so, she investigates why Indigenous peoples suffer from disproportionately higher rates of addiction, depression, diabetes and other chronic health conditions compared to other groups. She also looks into Indigenous ways of knowing and how it can stem the flow of intergenerational trauma. Methot, who currently lives in Toronto, has worked in the nonprofit sector and is the co-author of the textbook Aboriginal Beliefs, Values and Aspirations.

The Perfect Predator by Steffanie Strathdee & Thomas Patterson

Canadian epidemiologist Steffanie Strathdee and her scientist husband Tom Patterson were on the trip of a lifetime to Egypt in 2015 when Patterson fell ill from powerful bacteria known as Acinetobacter baumannii. In The Perfect Predator, the authors describe how Patterson's condition quickly went from bad to nearly fatal. Strathdee raced to find a solution and, with help from a global array of medical experts, discovered an experimental treatment that would save his life.

Strathdee and Patterson are both professors based in California.

Mind and Matter by John Urschel & Louisa Thomas

Mind and Matter is a memoir by John Urschel. (John Urschel/Penguin Random House Canada)

John Urschel tells his story of excelling in two separate streams of life: football and math. As a 13-year-old, Urschel was taking college-level calculus courses, while playing on his high school football team. He went on to become an offensive lineman for the Baltimore Ravens and a PhD candidate at MIT. Mind and Matter, co-written by Louisa Thomas, is Urschel's first book.

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