Nonfiction deserves a lot more love — it’s the gateway to intellectual fun, knowledge, and exploration! Unfortunately, it often gets a bad rap for being dull and stuffy. But fear not, dear reader, this list breaks free from that stereotype. Whether you’ve resolved to read more nonfiction, you’re eager to dive into the wonders of biology, or you simply have a deep love for nature, these books below are absolute must-adds to your reading list.
Get ready to be captivated, informed, and inspired because the books that follow aren’t just additions to your list — they’re portals to a world where knowledge and curiosity come together, offering a reading experience that not only demands your time but also deserves your thoughtful contemplation!
An Immense World | Ed Yong
Ed Yong may very well be one of the greatest biology writers of our era — seriously. If you’re searching for a nonfiction science book that keeps you turning pages throughout, this entry in the list is my top recommendation. Covering the different ways animals perceive the world — and how their strong senses affect that perception — this book is a huge eye-opener (pun intended, sorry). If you prefer microbiology to zoology, check out I Contain Multitudes instead. I’ve read both, and they both rock.
8 Master Lessons of Nature | Gary Ferguson
I’m currently about two-thirds of the way through this one and am thoroughly enjoying it. Split into 8 chapters, Ferguson walks the reader through understanding nature more thoroughly, emotionally, historically, and scientifically. If you’re searching for more reasons to appreciate the nature around you, this book is a perfect choice for you. It will have you seeing the natural world and, indeed, even yourself from a different angle. I guarantee this book is worth your time!
On Trails: An Exploration | Robert Moor
Do you love hiking? This book is a must-read for you. I picked this book up on a whim a couple of years back, expecting a romanticization of cross-country hiking trips like the Pacific Crest Trail, and ended the book with a radical perspective shift. This is one of those once-in-a-lifetime reads that will have you salivating over extremely niche bits of knowledge. In my last several years of reading, this has remained a stalwart favorite, high up on my list of all-time favorites.
How to Talk to a Science Denier | Lee McIntyre
For those who love debating (and/or arguing) at family dinners about science and politics, How to Talk to a Science Denier is a fabulous resource for you. The author of this book covers talking points and data about some of the main United States-ian science-based conspiracy theories on both sides of the political spectrum — and covers how to better approach folks who disagree with you on those topics. If you have strong opinions or an interest in politics, start with this one!
Gifts of the Crow | John Marzluff & Tony Angell
Birding enthusiasts will adore this book, which dives into the incredible study of crow intelligence using lovely anecdotes. While reading through this entry, I found myself often smiling, and pausing to tell the folks around me the fun facts I was picking up through the chapters. The book is incredibly detailed and informational, but you’ll likely find yourself growing more and more endeared to crows and ravens as you make your way through. Give this book a read if you want to become more appreciative of our avian neighbors.
Other Minds | Peter Godfrey-Smith
The brain is an endlessly fascinating field across the animal kingdom — and Godfrey-Smith does an excellent job of revealing that in this piece of nonfiction. Focused on the octopus and other cephalopods and how they perceive reality, Other Minds is a mind-bending read that will leave you pondering consciousness for weeks after you turn over the last page.
Fuzz: When Nature Breaks the Law | Mary Roach
If you’re the sort of folk who romanticizes the idea of being a park ranger, Fuzz is the perfect choice for you to pick up. The book chronicles how wildlife experts from a wide variety of fields approach “problematic wildlife” (i.e. the ones who encroach on human-dominant spaces). Rated one of the best books of 2021 on Amazon, the book is endlessly fun to read and packed with an incredible amount of detail. It’s weird, a smidge macabre, and still manages to remain fun!
Content Warning: Fuzz does include accounts of animal cruelty, and Roach does not shy away from being detailed. If you struggle with reading about animals being harmed, give this book a wide berth. But, if you do decide to read, the author handles the topic insightfully, lightheartedly, and respectfully.
Best American Science and Nature Writing | Various Authors
If you haven’t picked up an edition of this book before, let this be your sign to give the 2023 version a chance. Since I began reading these books in 2020, I haven’t missed purchasing a single new edition, and each one has been incredibly high-quality writing. The book’s editor of the year reads through recent science writing and compiles the best essays and short stories together in this anthology. It’s best to start at the year you’re reading this article, as that will always be the most relevant. But, even copies from several years back are incredibly fascinating! Every edition from 2020 on gets this writer’s seal of approval, certainly.
The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs | Steve Brusatte
Dinosaur nerds and those who are dinosaur-curious, definitely check out The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs. In my experience reading dinosaur nonfiction, this book has been the most engaging that I’ve come across. The timeline provided by Collins feels like unraveling a story as you read your way through it. It’s fun the whole way through, and offers tons of fascinating tidbits for both dinosaur newbies and aficionados alike!
Nineteen Ways of Looking at Consciousness | Patrick House
In popular media, science is often painted as this static, finished field. In his book on the brain and consciousness, Patrick House provides a different perspective, elucidating one of the scientific fields that is still very much in development. Approaching consciousness from different angles and schools of thought, this book is a true mind trip that will leave you questioning life, reality, and yourself. All together, Nineteen Ways feels like pulling yourself through a fascinating set of thought experiments.
Without further ado, happy reading!
Is there a book you wish was on this list? Let me know in the comments! I’m always looking for more nonfiction recommendations. :)
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