The Thread: Three books to expand scientific understanding

Three book covers in a combined image.
"Fossil Men" by Kermit Pattison, "Nerve" by Eva Holland, and "All We Can Save" by Ayana Elizabeth Johnson and Katharine K. Wilkinson.
Courtesy of publishers

For this week’s Thread: Kerri Miller finishes a series this to give more attention to authors you might not have heard about, and would be great ideas for the holiday season. If you have someone in your life who loves science, here are some your last-minute, gift-giving recommendations!

In a year when we all became amateur epidemiologists, sharing news about R-factor coronavirus transmission and reading eagerly about laboratory methods of vaccine development, I’m going to leverage our renewed appreciation for science. Here are three terrific books about three different scientific disciplines. 

Minnesota journalist Kermit Pattison spent a decade researching the competition, the controversy and the single-minded focus among “Fossil Men," the paleoanthropologists who are searching for remains that reveal how humans developed. 

Pattison takes us along on punishing days of fossil hunting in a remote part of Ethiopia.  He brings us into academic laboratories where tiny bones are painstakingly reassembled.  And he lets us eavesdrop on the fierce competition between brilliant scientists who examine, debate and sometimes dismiss one another’s discoveries.

Marine biologist Ayana Elizabeth Johnson and Katherine K. Wilkinson — the editor of Project Drawdown, an effort dedicated to greenhouse gas reduction — have published a terrific collection of essays and poems by women about climate change titled “All We Can Save.”

These are scientists, architects, journalists and designers with a hopeful and urgent call to action on global warming.

And my last can’t-miss 2020 book about science is one that I missed when it was published in April, and recently found. The title declares that Eva Holland’s  “Nerve” is about the science of fear but the book is raw and intimate as it delves into Holland’s own phobias, which include fear of heights. Naturally, we find her jumping out of an airplane at one point.

I’d be up for that, no problem, but I have to admit the cover of this book made me squeamish, with its photo of a large hairy spider crawling up a pale arm. 

My three can’t miss books about science are:  “Nerve” by Eva Holland, “All We Can Save” by Ayana Elizabeth Johnson and Katherine K. Wilkinson, and “Fossil Men” by Kermit Pattison.

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