AAAS Science Books & Film Publishes 2013 Holiday Gift Guide

Cover illustration by Diego Patino; Permission of Scientific American/Farrar, Strauss and Giroux

Is it OK to give a GloFish as a gift? You can find out whether to add one to your seasonal shopping list with the help of AAAS's Science Books and Film's December issue.

The SB&F holiday guide is a roundup of the books reviewed in 2013 that the magazine staff found especially engaging and gift-worthy. The selections offer something for all ages, from picture books to science-inspired novels, said SB&F Editor-in-Chief Maria Sosa.

There's that matter of the GloFish, for instance. In the book Frankenstein's Cat: Cuddling up to Biotech's Brave New Beasts, journalist Emily Anthes takes readers from "petri dish to pet store" in a quest to understand how biotechnology is changing the animals all around us. Like many of the books on the holiday list, Anthes makes a complicated topic extremely accessible, Sosa said, while also exploring the ethical questions raised by the science.

Frankenstein's Cat also is a finalist in the 2014 AAAS/Subaru SB&F Prize. The winners of that award, chosen by a panel of scientists, experts in the field of science literature, librarians, and AAAS staff, will be announced in January 2014.

For younger children, Sosa and her colleagues recommend Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty. The storybook follows the young inventor (a descendant of World War II's "Rosie the Riveter") through the ups and downs of her work, illustrating how imagination, planning, perseverance and even failure all play a role in discovery. It's "a delightful book that should inspire all kids, but especially girls, to let loose their inner engineers," Sosa writes.

Sosa said graphic novels have been one of the biggest trends in science books this year, appealing especially to children at the middle and high school level. Several graphic novels made the holiday list, including Ian Flitcroft and Britt Spencer's Journey by Starlight: A Time Traveler's Guide to Life, the Universe and Everything. In their story, a young Albert Einstein and his companion travel on a beam of light to explore some fundamental concepts in physics and cosmology.

Cover illustration by Media Bakery/Glenn Mitsui; Permission of Prometheus Books
Cover illustration by Britt Spencer; Permission of One Peace Books

Another trend that Sosa and her staff have been following is the growing number of excellent books about math. SB&F published a record number of math books in their 2012 "Best" lists, and Sosa expects many more to join this year's lists. The books are readable, full of illustrations and often take an unexpected angle on a topic, like the holiday pick The Secrets of Triangles: A Mathematical Journey. Alfred Posamentier and Ingmar Lehmann's lively look at geometry and trigonometry through the lens of a seemingly simple shape is suitable for a wide range of ages.

Other notable books from this year's list include The Where, The Why, and the How: 75 Artists Illustrate Wondrous Mysteries of Science by Jenny Volvovski, Julia Rothman, Matt Lamothe and David Macaulay, for both art and science lovers. Andrea Barrett's short fiction collection Archangel, Max Barry's science fiction thriller Lexicon and Eliot Schrefer's young teen novel Endangered also made the list as eclectic choices for science readers.

Sosa and the SB&F staff select books for the holiday guide based on their magazine's reviews, as well reviews from other journals, science and literary blogs, and book prize lists.