8 Science Books You Should Read This Fall

Alien life, time travel, and consciousness are only the tip of the literary iceberg.

Abhi Sharma/Flickr

Sure, summer had its moments (remember the pretty-okay Olympics?) but it was also hot as hell and unconducive to sitting on a blanket, thumbing through a book.

Be the Will Hunting you want to be in the world and pick up a book that explores what it means to be conscious, what planet you might call home next, and more.

Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race

Authored by Margot Lee Shetterly, Hidden Figures tells the story of the black female mathematicians who worked as “human computers” at NASA from World War II until the end of the Space Race. These exceptional women pushed past racial inequality and sexism to create the world’s most advanced space program. The book isn’t even out yet, but you’ll want to grab it pretty soon since it’s already been made into a film starring Taraji P. Henson as NASA mathematician Katharine Johnson. The movie comes out in December, so you have a few months before watching it play out on the silver screen. September release.

The Science of Game of Thrones

If you can’t wait until next summer for the return of Game of Thrones, comedian and writer Helen Keen’s got you covered. Keen is the author of this scientific take on the seemingly unscientific Game of Thrones. The book promises to take on the questions that likely popped in your head while watching the show. How could a person actually crush someone’s head with their hands? Would royal incest royally screw up kids? Keen touches on these and other worthy queries. In its fall catalogue publisher Little, Brown promotes the book as, “GoT + SCIENCE = NERDGASM;” cheesy, yes, but we’re not against it. September release.

Wild Things, Wild Places: Adventurous Tales of Wildlife and Conservation on Planet Earth

Actress and naturalist Jane Alexander sets out to explore the world of wildlife conservation in her upcoming book Wild Things, Wild Places. Based on three decades of research, Alexander’s book promises to explore the “changing world on planet Earth as a result of human incursion” while checking in with animal and bird preservationists around the globe. September release.

Time Travel: A History

Sure, you want to make like Back to the Future and hop back and forth in time, but how realistic is it? Author James Gleick explores the “evolution of time travel as an idea” in his upcoming novel, crisscrossing between the time travel portrayed in fiction and the changing concept of time within academia. And if you’re thinking this is all hogwash, well, Gleick’s got some physics to make you reconsider it. September release.

Science and the City: The Mechanics Behind the Metropolis

Physicist Laurie Winkless explains how the cities of today (and of the future) run off of science and technology. She argues that “science is secretly at work” in the world’s metropolitans — from the new building materials being used to construct Dubai skyscrapers, to the zapping of drinking water with UV light in New York City. These advancements are what makes these massive places livable today, and will “deliver solutions to the problems of the future.” October release.

Beyond Earth: Our Path To a New Home in the Planets

Planetary scientist Amanda Hendrix and writer Charles Wohlforth discuss space exploration and colonization in the upcoming book Beyond Earth. Promising not to offer another “wide-eyed technology fantasy,” Hendrix and Wohlforth dive into the gritty bureaucratic, political, and scientific hoops humans will have to jump through to make life on other planets a reality. The book also delivers its own form of a mic drop with the argument that it is Titan, not Mars, that will eventually serve as Earth’s next frontier. November release.

*Beyond Earth* discusses the suitability of the moon Titan for life.

NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory

The New Science of Consciousness: Exploring the Complexity of Brain, Mind, and Self

Physicist-turned-neuroscientist Paul Nunez’s new book on consciousness promises to sweep over neuroscience, artificial intelligence, and cognitive science while providing an understanding of how complex brain functions work, Nunez’s goal is to use science as a way to get to the more emotional questions that plague our brains. What’s the difference between one’s mind and one’s brain? What does it mean to be self-aware? It might seem heady to chat about networks and emotions in one blow, but we’re talking about consciousness, after all, and Nunez might be the perfect person to get thoughtful and moody at once. November release.

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

Deep Life tackles one of the most mysterious, sexiest questions in science today: Is there life beyond Earth? Geoscience professor Tullis Onstott goes one step further and connects the search for extraterrestrials with the search for life deep within our own planet, diving into beneath-the-crust fieldwork while explaining how scientists are exploring subterranean biospheres with the hope of finding ancient microbes. (Aren’t you curious what the “biotic fringe” is?!) Onstott’s argument is both profound — we can’t understand life on other planets without understanding life on our own — and surprising, pleasing any amateur extraterrestrial beep hunter. November release.