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16 Best Nonfiction Books Of All Time According To Jacquelyn Gill-De-Extinction/History/Science

For those hungry for knowledge and a deeper grasp of the world, nonfiction books are priceless.

They provide insights, wisdom, and fresh viewpoints that can stir our intellect and ignite our curiosity.

If you're a nonfiction enthusiast on the lookout for outstanding reads, get ready for a captivating journey.

Jacquelyn Gill, a respected climate scientist and Assistant Professor at the University of Maine, has meticulously selected 16 of the finest nonfiction books covering climate science, history, and captivating subjects.

Join us as we explore this diverse collection, promising education, entertainment, and enlightenment.

Affiliate Disclaimer: This post features Amazon affiliate links, which means I may earn a small commission if you make a purchase through these links.

Sarah Polley's collection of essays in "Run Towards the Danger" provides readers with an intimate and introspective look into her life. These essays explore her most challenging moments, from overcoming stage fright to facing high-risk childbirth. Polley also delves into the aftermath of a concussion and the unconventional advice that led to her path of recovery—running towards the very activities that triggered her symptoms. Through her honest and deeply personal storytelling, Polley shows us the power of resilience and the transformative potential of confronting our fears head-on.

“I know now that I will become weaker at what I avoid, that what I run towards will strengthen in me. I know to listen to my body, but not so much that I convince myself I can’t do things or that I can’t push myself.”― Sarah Polley, Run Towards the Danger: Confrontations with a Body of Memory

Beth Shapiro takes us on a fascinating scientific journey in "How to Clone a Mammoth," exploring the possibilities and ethical implications of de-extinction. She delves into cutting-edge genetic technologies and discusses whether we can bring back extinct species, including the iconic woolly mammoth. Shapiro's book ignites conversations about humanity's role in shaping the future of biodiversity and the potential consequences of playing nature's genetic engineer.

“the golden toad was the only Bufo to display such a striking orange color. What if the proteins that made the orange color had some undiscovered medical purpose, or psychoactive properties? We’ll never know until somebody licks one, and for that we’ll have to bring it back.”― Beth Shapiro, How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

In "Kindred," Rebecca Wragg Sykes offers an enthralling and comprehensive exploration of the mysterious Neanderthals. This book delves deep into their lives, relationships, and even their artistic expressions. Sykes paints a vivid portrait of these ancient relatives and helps bridge the gap between their world and ours, providing insights into the rich tapestry of human evolution.

“Average Neanderthal leg-to-arm strength ratios were even greater than cross-country competitors running 160km (100mi.) per week.”― Rebecca Wragg Sykes, Kindred: Neanderthal Life, Love, Death and Art

"A Brief History of Life on Earth" by Clemence Dupont is an engaging and accessible journey through the vast expanse of evolutionary history. From the origins of life on Earth to the intricate ecosystems we witness today, Dupont's book distills complex scientific concepts into an informative and captivating narrative. Readers will gain a deeper appreciation for the awe-inspiring story of life's evolution.

Rebecca Solnit's essays in "Hope in the Dark" are a source of inspiration and resilience in uncertain times. Through untold histories and wild possibilities, Solnit explores the transformative power of hope and activism. Her thought-provoking writings remind us that even when faced with adversity, we can imagine a brighter future and work towards positive change.

“Hope is not a lottery ticket you can sit on the sofa and clutch, feeling lucky. It is an axe you break down doors with in an emergency. Hope should shove you out the door, because it will take everything you have to steer the future away from endless war, from the annihilation of the earth's treasures and the grinding down of the poor and marginal... To hope is to give yourself to the future - and that commitment to the future is what makes the present inhabitable.”― Rebecca Solnit, Hope in the Dark

"Four Lost Cities" by Annalee Newitz takes readers on an archaeological adventure to four ancient urban centers. Delving into the rise and fall of civilizations, Newitz uncovers the secrets of urbanization and the lessons these lost cities hold for our modern world. This book is a thought-provoking exploration of the evolution of human societies and their impact on the environment.

“As long as we tell our urban ancestors' stories, no city is ever lost. They live on, in our imaginations and on our public lands, as a promise that no matter how terrible things get, humans always try again.”― Annalee Newitz, Four Lost Cities: A Secret History of the Urban Age

Emily Willingham's "Phallacy" is a humorous and enlightening journey into the world of animal reproductive biology. This unconventional exploration reveals the bizarre and ingenious adaptations of animal genitalia, offering insights into nature's remarkable diversity and creativity. Willingham's witty and informative approach makes this book both entertaining and educational.

For fans of J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle-Earth, "Flora of Middle-Earth" is a botanical treasure trove. Walter S. Judd explores the rich and imaginative world of fictional plants in Tolkien's legendarium, drawing connections to their real-world counterparts. This book is a delightful exploration for enthusiasts of both botany and fantasy, deepening their appreciation for Tolkien's world-building.

Harriet A. Washington's "A Terrible Thing to Waste" exposes the devastating impact of environmental racism on marginalized communities and its far-reaching consequences for the American mind. This book shines a spotlight on the environmental injustices that disproportionately affect vulnerable populations, discussing the implications for public health, education, and social equity.

Annie Jacobsen's gripping narrative in "Operation Paperclip" reveals the hidden history of the United States' post-World War II recruitment of Nazi scientists. The book delves into the complex and controversial decision to bring former enemies into American scientific and military institutions during the Cold War era. It's a compelling exploration of espionage, ethics, and the pursuit of technological advantage.

“By the end of January 1946, 160 Nazi scientists had been secreted into America. The single largest group was comprised of the 115 rocket specialists at Fort Bliss, Texas, led by Wernher von Braun.”― Annie Jacobsen, Operation Paperclip: The Secret Intelligence Program that Brought Nazi Scientists to America

"The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks" is a remarkable true story that sheds light on the legacy of Henrietta Lacks, whose cells were used in groundbreaking medical research without her knowledge or consent. Rebecca Skloot delves into the ethical questions surrounding this discovery and its profound impact on science and medicine. This book is a tribute to Henrietta's life and the ethical dilemmas in the field of medical research.

“Like the Bible said,' Gary whispered, 'man brought nothing into this world and he'll carry nothing out. Sometimes we care about stuff too much. We worry when there's nothing to worry about.”― Rebecca Skloot, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

Edwin Black's "War Against the Weak" is an eye-opening exploration of the history of eugenics in the United States. This expanded edition delves into the dark and disturbing campaign to create a "master race" through selective breeding and sterilization. Black's research exposes the eugenicist ideologies that influenced American policies and serves as a cautionary tale against the abuse of science and ideology.

“Some 200,000 Germans of all backgrounds had been sterilized by 1937. After that the records were not published.”― Edwin Black, War Against the Weak: Eugenics and America's Campaign to Create a Master Race

"Bad Blood" offers a chilling account of the infamous Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment, a deeply unethical medical study conducted on African American men. James H. Jones' expanded edition delves into the historical context, the ethical breaches, and the lasting consequences of this disturbing chapter in American medical history.

Robin Wall Kimmerer's "Braiding Sweetgrass" weaves together indigenous wisdom, scientific knowledge, and the teachings of plants. This poetic exploration highlights the interconnectedness of all living beings and offers a profound perspective on humanity's relationship with the natural world. Kimmerer's words are an invitation to reconnect with the Earth and cherish its gifts.

“In some Native languages the term for plants translates to “those who take care of us.”― Robin Wall Kimmerer, Braiding Sweetgrass

In "Gathering Moss," Robin Wall Kimmerer takes readers on an enchanting journey to discover the hidden world of mosses. Through her lyrical prose, Kimmerer unveils the ecological importance of these often-overlooked plants and explores the cultural significance they hold for indigenous peoples. This book is a celebration of the beauty and resilience of the natural world.

“There is an ancient conversation going on between mosses and rocks, poetry to be sure. About light and shadow and the drift of continents. This is what has been called the "dialect of moss on stone - an interface of immensity and minute ness, of past and present, softness and hardness, stillness and vibrancy, yin and yan.”― Robin Wall Kimmerer, Gathering Moss: A Natural and Cultural History of Mosses

Stephen B. Heard's guide is an invaluable resource for scientists and researchers seeking to enhance their scientific writing skills. "The Scientist's Guide to Writing" provides practical advice and strategies to help researchers communicate their work more effectively, making it an essential companion throughout their scientific careers.


If you enjoyed these book recommendations, check out more similar list on my on my blog —

These 16 books recommended by Jacquelyn Gill encompass an array of captivating subjects, promising engaging and enlightening reading experiences for anyone eager to explore the realms of science, history, and human thought.

Whether you're drawn to the mysteries of the past, the challenges of the present, or the possibilities of the future, this list offers a diverse selection of books to satisfy your curiosity.


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