New sci-fi and science reads for February 2024

It’s been scientifically proven that reading has a beneficial effect on mental health. So, I’m back with a reading prescription to sustain you through the winter season. For optimum health, take one large dose of science along with a big spoonful of sci-fi at any time of the day. Side effects: only positive ones!

How to Win Friends and Influence Fungi: Collected Quirks of Science, Tech, Engineering, and Math from Nerd Nite by Dr. Chris Balakrishnan, Matt Wasowsky
The founders of Nerd Nite bring their own brand of snappy science presentations into book form. This is full of weird and wonderful STEM topics presented through short essays, infographics, and illustrations. You’ll learn something each time you dip into this quirky, fun compendium.

The Bezzle by Cory Doctorow
It’s only a few months since Cory Doctorow’s last release (as featured in my November post). Here, he takes us back to 2006 with the second of his books to feature forensic accountant Martin Tench. Expect an engrossing political techno-thriller with plenty to say about the shady world of for-profit prison systems and big finance.

The Last of Its Kind: The Search for the Great Auk and the Discovery of Extinction by Gisli Palsson
A fascinating account of the tragic end of the auk, a flightless bird hunted to extinction in Iceland in 1844, and the work of British ornithologists Wolley and Newton. Their efforts helped document the demise of the auk, as well as proving to a skeptical public that extinction could be human caused.

Beggar’s Sky by Wil McCarthy
A trillionaire’s grand journey to Alpha Centauri may have run into a little problem of the alien variety… McCarthy gives us high-stakes, near-future space exploration with plenty of action as well as detailed science and technology in the mix. This is the third in the Rich Man’s Sky series, although each can be read as a standalone. Definitely a series to investigate!

Look Again: The Power of Noticing What Was Always There by Tali Sharot, Cass R. Sunstein
What’s novel very quickly becomes familiar, and routine can be damaging when we become oblivious to the good–and bad in our lives. Sharot and Sunstein, neuroscience and law professors respectively, encourage us to look around with fresh eyes, to disrupt the pattern and “dishabituate.” Valuable advice and an accessible read for anyone interested in psychology and neuroscience.

Convergence Problems by Wole Talabi
This collection of short stories, plus a novella, is a mix of new and previously published works. Mostly set in Africa, the stories present a fresh take on the changing role of technology in our lives, including genetic engineering and AI. Nigerian author Talabi has been a Hugo and Locus finalist as well as an editor of award-winning anthologies. So this is sure to be short fiction to savor.

Iron, Stone, and Steam: Brunel’s Railway Empire by Tim Bryan
Isambard Kingdom Brunel was many things–architect, designer, and celebrity to name a few. Here, Bryan focuses on his railway engineering feats, most notably the Great Western Railway, and the vast railway network he developed. The inevitable failures are also discussed, as well as the many people who played a part in building this “empire.” A great insight into one of the giants of the British industrial age.

Past Crimes by Jason Pinter
True crime, virtual reality, cults… this action-packed dystopian satire presents a world in the very-near future where past crimes are licensed and re-created virtually for entertainment. Being pitched to fans of Ready Player One and Black Mirror, and with endorsements by Lee Child and David Baldacci, this has movie written all over it.

Why We Remember: Unlocking Memory’s Power to Hold on to What Matters by Charan Ranganath
Memory researcher Ranganath summarizes the latest, and rapidly progressing, research in this field and discusses the power our memories hold over our lives, whether for good, or for bad as in the case of PTSD. He argues that a better understanding of how memory functions will enable us to harness it more effectively towards better learning and self-awareness.

Do you plan to read any of these? Or do you know of a February new release I missed? Send me a comment!

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