Nonfiction Previews, Jan. 2014, Pt. 4: Cosmology, Technology, & the Brain

American College of Veterinary Behaviorists. Decoding Your Dog: The Ultimate Experts Explain Common Dog Behaviors and Reveal How To Prevent or Change Unwanted Ones. Houghton Harcourt. Jan. 2014. ed. by Debra Horwitz & others. 384p. ISBN 9780547738918. $27; ebk. ISBN 9780547834450. PETS/DOGS
Why decode your dog’s behaviors? Because, explains this first-ever book from the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists, troublesome behaviors are the main reason dogs end up in shelters or worse The advice here on effective training, whether to reinforce good habits or eliminate bad ones, draws on the latest research into why dogs do what they do and what they’re trying to communicate to us. Lead editor Horwitz is a prominent speaker in the field.

Brynjolfsson, Erik & Andrew McAfee. The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies. Norton. Jan. 2014. 304p. ISBN 9780393239355. $26.95. TECHNOLOGY
So what if computers can play chess and diagnose illnesses; unemployment has remained high even as the median salary stalls. To address this conundrum, Brynjolfsson—Schussel Family Professor of Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management—and McAfee—author of Enterprise 2.0: New Collaborative Tools for Your Organization’s Toughest Challenges and regularly on “most influential people in IT” lists—recommend that humans jump into the race with computers, match processing power with human smarts, and learn to blend varying technology. A big in-house favorite that will take thoughtful reading; the authors were featured 2013 TED talks speakers.

Funk, McKenzie. Windfall: The Booming Business of Global Warming. Penguin Pr: Penguin Group (USA). Jan. 2014. 320p. ISBN 9781594204012. $27.95. SCIENCE
Winner of the Oakes Prize for Environmental Journalism, Funk explains that for some entrepreneurs, worldwide global warming is not a tragedy but a marketing opportunity. Melting ice reveals arable, mineral-rich regions in the Arctic, drought raises food prices for lucky producers and offers employment to private firefighters, and rising waters will aid Dutch architects designing floating cities and American scientists designing hurricane defenses. Whoa, scary reading; look for off-the-book-page reaction.

Gefter, Amanda. Trespassing on Einstein’s Lawn: A Father, a Daughter, the Meaning of Nothing, and the Beginning of Everything. Bantam. 448p. ISBN 9780345531438. $28; ebk. ISBN 9780345539632. MEMOIR/SCIENCE
A physics writer and consultant for New Scientist magazine, as well as a 2012–13 MIT Knight Science Journalism Fellow, Gefter has been discussing the big science questions with her father for some time. They even tried to sneak into a science conference featuring headliners like Max Tegmark, whose new book is previewed below. Her own book doubles as science primer and memoir for all interested lay readers.

Greenberg, Joel. A Feathered River Across the Sky: The Passenger Pigeon’s Flight to Extinction. Bloomsbury USA, dist. by Macmillan. Jan. 2014. 304p. ISBN 9781620405345. $26. NATURE
Research associate of the Chicago Academy of Sciences Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum and the Field Museum, Greenberg relates the tragic extinction of the passenger pigeon, once among America’s most prevalent birds and traveling in flocks so huge that they would hide the sun for hours and cool the air with the downbeat of their wings. Unfortunately, those massive flocks made them easy prey. This might not be the end of the story, however; the passenger pigeon is the first candidate for an ambitious new scientific endeavor called de-extinction aimed at bringing back lost species. Go, passenger pigeons!

Siegel, Daniel J. Brainstorm: The Teenage Brain from the Inside Out. Tarcher: Putnam Jan. 2014. 288p. ISBN 9781585429356. $27.95. PARENTING
Relax, parents, there is an explanation to adolescent and post-adolescent madness; from age 15 to 25, the brain changes in radical and surprising ways. Siegel, a clinical professor of psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine, explains what these changes are and how parents and almost-grown children can work together to understand them.

Swaab, D.F. You Are Your Brain: The Science of Why We Are Who We Are. Spiegel & Grau. Jan. 2014. 432p. tr. by Jane Hedley-Prole. ISBN 9780812992960. $28; ebk. ISBN 9780679644378. COGNITIVE SCIENCE
Currently head of the Neuropsychiatric Disorders research team at the Netherlands Institute of Neuroscience, Swaab is an expert on the brain. Here he explains its workings, from the fetal stage through major changes in adolescence to the neurological basis for various personality traits and disorders. Accessibly written and likely the book you’ll need on the subject.

Sagan, Carl. Cosmos. Ballantine. Jan. 2014. 368p. ISBN 9780345539434. pap. $15. COSMOLOGY
Professor of Astronomy and Space Sciences and Director of the Laboratory for Planetary Studies at Cornell University, the late Sagan was responsible for getting lay readers juiced on the science of the universe with his groundbreaking Cosmos. This newly repackaged trade paperback edition of the 1980 classic coincides with Fox’s remake of the series with Hayden Planetarium director Neil deGrasse Tyson, which starts airing in February 2014. Tyson, who provides the introduction here, is himself no slouch at getting folks juiced; be prepared for demand.

Tegmark, Max. Our Mathematical Universe: My Quest for the Ultimate Nature of Reality. Knopf. Jan. 2014. 432p. ISBN 9780307599803. $30; ebk. ISBN 9780385350495. Downloadable: Random Audio. COSMOLOGY
MIT professor Tegmark gives us an engaging course in physics, mathematics, and astronomy to lay bare the underpinnings of his groundbreaking hypotheses about the multiverse and the mathematical structure of reality. He also discusses his life as a scientist, which has entailed disappointment as well as success. So the result will not be as intimidating as those 200-plus technical papers he has written, some cited more than 500 times.

Barbara Hoffert About Barbara Hoffert

Barbara Hoffert (, @BarbaraHoffert on Twitter) is Editor, LJ Prepub Alert; past chair of the Materials Selection Committee of the RUSA (Reference and User Services Assn.) division of the American Library Association; and past president, treasurer, and awards chair of the National Book Critics Circle.