Wild Reads: To infinity and beyond (Summer Reading 2023)

From left - ‘Lessons in Chemistry’ by Bonnie Garmus, ‘The Sounds of Life’ by Karen Bakker, and ‘Deep Life’ by Tullis C. Onstott.

From the influence of technology on flora and fauna to the search for life beyond Earth, Emily Wild, Chemistry, Geosciences, and Environmental Studies Librarian recommends the following summer reading list. 

The Sounds of Life: How Digital Technology Is Bringing Us Closer to the Worlds of Animals and Plants

The natural world teems with remarkable conversations, many beyond human hearing range. Scientists are using groundbreaking digital technologies to uncover these astonishing sounds, revealing vibrant communication among our fellow creatures across the Tree of Life.

At once meditative and scientific, “The Sounds of Life” shares fascinating and surprising stories of nonhuman sound, interweaving insights from technological innovation and traditional knowledge. We meet scientists using sound to protect and regenerate endangered species from the Great Barrier Reef to the Arctic and the Amazon. We discover the shocking impacts of noise pollution on both animals and plants. We learn how artificial intelligence can decode nonhuman sounds, and meet the researchers building dictionaries in East African Elephant and Sperm Whale-ish. At the frontiers of innovation, we explore digitally mediated dialogues with bats and honeybees. Technology often distracts us from nature, but what if it could reconnect us instead?

“The Sounds of Life” offers hope for environmental conservation and affirms humanity’s relationship with nature in the digital age. After learning about the unsuspected wonders of nature’s sounds, we will never see walks outdoors in the same way again.

Timefulness: How Thinking Like a Geologist Can Help Save the World

Few of us have any conception of the enormous timescales in our planet’s long history, and this narrow perspective underlies many of the environmental problems we are creating for ourselves. The passage of nine days, which is how long a drop of water typically stays in Earth’s atmosphere, is something we can easily grasp. But spans of hundreds of years—the time a molecule of carbon dioxide resides in the atmosphere—approach the limits of our comprehension. Our everyday lives are shaped by processes that vastly predate us, and our habits will in turn have consequences that will outlast us by generations. “Timefulness” reveals how knowing the rhythms of Earth’s deep past and conceiving of time as a geologist can give us the perspective we need for a more sustainable future.

Deep Life: The Hunt for the Hidden Biology of Earth, Mars, and Beyond

Blending cutting-edge science with thrilling scientific adventure, “Deep Life” features rare and unusual encounters with exotic life forms, including a bacterium living off radiation and a hermaphroditic troglodytic worm that has changed our understanding of how complex subsurface life can really be. This unforgettable book takes you to the absolute limits of life—the biotic fringe—where today’s scientists hope to discover the very origins of life itself.

The Forest: A Fable of America in the 1830s

Set amid the glimmering lakes and disappearing forests of the early United States, “The Forest” imagines how a wide variety of Americans experienced their lives. Part truth, part fiction, and featuring both real and invented characters, the book follows painters, poets, enslaved people, farmers, and artisans living and working in a world still made largely of wood. Some of the historical characters—such as Thomas Cole, Margaret Fuller, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Fanny Kemble, Edgar Allan Poe, and Nat Turner—are well-known, while others are not. But all are creators of private and grand designs. 

Lessons in Chemistry: a novel

Chemist Elizabeth Zott is not your average woman. In fact, Elizabeth Zott would be the first to point out that there is no such thing as an average woman. But it’s the early 1960s and her all-male team at Hastings Research Institute takes a very unscientific view of equality. Except for one: Calvin Evans; the lonely, brilliant, Nobel–prize nominated grudge-holder who falls in love with—of all things—her mind. True chemistry results. 

Related Reading: Wild Reads: Navajo Nation and the Environment

Published on July 12, 2023

Compiled by Emily Wild, Chemistry, Geosciences, and Environmental Studies Librarian, and Brandon Johnson, Communications Strategist

Media Contact: Barbara Valenza, Director of Library Communications