All of the Super-Gargantuan Guides Now in One Convenient Place!

I can see by the sweat on your brow that you’ve just realized gift-giving time is almost upon you, and you haven’t even started shopping yet. Never fear! A good book will go down a treat, it’s fast and easy to get one in time, and I’ve gotcher convenient suggestions right here. That’s right! A page completely dedicated to them, helpfully broken out by category, so you can decide at a glance which page o’ reviews is right for you, and then go select a book from it. Or, if you give up trying to guess what your giftee already has and would like to have now, just get ‘em a gift card and send them the link to this page.

Image shows a cat on a ladder in a bookstore. Caption says, "Feline obedience training? That wud be ovr in fiction."

See how easy that is? Now you can wipe the sweat off, go grab your beverage of choice, and kick back for a little extra quality time for your own self.

Dana’s Super-Gargantuan Guide to Science Books Suitable for Gift-Giving II: Science for Kids!

Welcome to Part II of our Super-Gargantuan Guide! In this edition, we’ll be exploring the world of science books for kids. I attempted to cast my mind back to when I was a child, and also solicited the advice of child-possessing readers. Feel free to toss more titles my way – this list has plenty of room for growth. And it’s all about feeding kids full of science early and often, so as to ensure that their sense of wonder grows to magnificent proportions.

In each category, I’ve listed the books in order from youngest readers up to older, so it should be easy for you to find the right book for every kiddo on your list. You’ll notice that my assessments as to age appropriateness differ from those suggested by the publishers. Kids are smarter than we give them credit for. Help ‘em out with the big words, and don’t insult their intelligence by giving them books that are way below their mad comprehension skillz.

Image shows a cat lying in front of an open lolcat picture book. Caption says, "Lolcat Accadamee Study Hall"


Let’s go!

Table of Contents

Earth Sciences

General Science

 

Earth Sciences

Everybody Needs a Rock by Byrd Baylor [Ages 3 to infinity]

I’m in love with this book. It’s an absolutely charming story that shows the value of having a rock of your very own. It includes whimsical advice on choosing the right rock. I have a suspicion it might instantly addict kids to geology. It’ll certainly get them looking more closely at the rocks around them. It features simple, lovely illustrations and an awesome female protagonist. While you’re buying one for the kiddos, buy one for the adults, too.

Rocks And Minerals For Kids! BIG Photos Fun Facts, Silly Jokes (60+ pages Fun Facts and Photos about Rocks, Minerals, Gemstones, Geology and SO MUCH MORE!) by Martin J. Waters [Ages 4-10]

Looking for a rock and mineral guide that has gorgeous photos, excellent jokes, and covers the basic facts? Look no further! It’s worth it for the silly jokes alone.

How the Earth Works: 60 Fun Activities for Exploring Volcanoes, Fossils, Earthquakes, and More by Michelle O’Brien-Palmer [Ages 5-10]

Fans of Harry Potter will love the cover of this one, which is reminiscent of the American editions of the books. They’ll continue to love it once they get inside. This book is all about active science that’ll help them understand Earth’s structure, plates, landforms, fossils, rocks and minerals, crystals and gems, and earthquakes and volcanoes. It’s full of classroom-tested activities that integrate mathematics and music, language and art, geography and history, and more. The songs are adorable, set to familiar tunes. As far as the activities go: who can resist a cupcake core sample? ZOMG. Best earth science activity ever.

A Changing Earth (21st Century Skills Library: Real World Science) by Heather Miller [Ages 6-12]

This book provides clear, simple explanations regarding how Earth changes, how those changes take millions or billions of years, and how those changes happen, complete with excellent photographs illustrating the concepts. It covers changing landforms, including glaciers and erosion, volcanoes, and plate tectonics. There’s a nice blurb for geology careers, too – we’re detectives! And there are plenty of safe, fun, simple, try-this-at-home experiments.

Rocks, Rivers, and the Changing Earth: A First Book About Geology by Herman and Nina Schneider [Ages 7-12]

This book is a bit out of date, but it has many other charms and makes a good introduction to the geosciences. It shows kids how things as small and ordinary as clouds and leaves tell dramatic earth science stories. It includes fun and easy little experiments to illustrate the concepts covered. Topics include rivers, soil and erosion, groundwater, minerals, mountains, coasts, oceans, uplift, volcanoes and earthquakes, and humanity’s relation to the earth.

Geology of the Desert Southwest: Investigate How the Earth Was Formed with 15 Projects by Cynthia Light Brown [Ages 8-12]

Being a former Arizonan, I love this book: it captured the essentials of my old home state in the first paragraph. But it’s about more than AZ: the whole desert southwest is covered. It traces the earth science story over billions of years, covering geology, geography, plate tectonics, mountains, volcanoes, earthquakes, hydrology, climate, ecosystems and natural resources. It breaks out the important words, and has excellent activities that help make the science easy to understand. And Cynthia Light Brown knows what’s really interesting about a rock – read on to find out! She’s also written about the Geology of the Pacific Northwest and the Geology of the Great Plains and Mountain West, so be sure to check out those regions, too!

Geoscientist (21st Century Skills Library: Cool STEM Careers) by Matt Mullins [Ages 8-12]

Speaking from personal experience, Mount St. Helens is a fantastic way to get kids interested in the geosciences, so it’s an excellent thing this book starts with a vivid story about the ashfall from the May 18th eruption. A wide variety of geoscience careers is covered, including hydrogeology. The beautiful photography and great layout make this a very attractive introduction to geoscience careers.

The Incredible Plate Tectonics Comic: The Adventures of Geo, Vol. 1 by Kanani K. M. Lee and Adam Wallenta [Ages 8-14]

When I first got my hands on an advance copy of The Incredible Plate Tectonics Comic, I squeed. I did. Because I am a nerd, people. I love geology, and I thoroughly enjoy superhero comics, and I adore media that put someone other than a generic white male in the spotlight for a change. And this comic book is written by Kanani K. M. Lee, an actual geophysicist whose specialty is the interior of the earth – and writing rocking great geologic comics. Illustrator Adam Wallenta brings her characters to vivid life, with blazing, bold color illustrations.

My review here.

Dawn of the Dinosaur Age: The Late Triassic & Early Jurassic Epochs by Thom Holmes [Ages 12-14]

This book, which is full of words like “marvelous” and uses quite a bit of gentle snark, is part of a larger series. If you’ve got a budding paleontologist in the family who already knows every dinosaur fact under the sun, chuck one of the other books in the series their way. For those just getting started, or who had a dino obsession when they were younger and then got distracted, this is a great way to get them hooked on science again. It makes clear that paleontology is a vitally important science. Then it goes on to explore Archosaurs, the origin of the dinosaurs, early Mesozoic dinos, theropods, sauropods, and the early Ornithischian dinos.

 

Back to Contents

General Science

Warning! Disasters by Katharine Kenah [Ages 3-6]

Wonderful photos illustrate this simple book about various natural disasters. The sentences are very simple, suitable for reading with very young kids. While it’s about disasters, it’s not scary, so fears won’t be fueled.

Horrible Science: Nasty Nature by Nick Arnold [Ages 9-14]

Even the author and illustrator bios are funny in these books. The cartoons are a scream. This book appeals completely to kids’ fascination with gross stuff. It also hooks ‘em by hinting at the forbidden: “99% of teachers wouldn’t dream of teaching…” Total catnip. In this volume, kids will not only learn about nature (nasty, of course); they’ll learn that scientists are human (and sometimes nasty), and American kids can pick up some Britishisms while they get their science on. There’s a whole series of these things, so if this book is a hit, you’ll be able to keep the kids happily wallowing in science for ages.

Science in Seconds for Kids: Over 100 Experiments You Can Do in Ten Minutes or Less by Jean Potter [Ages 5-12]

You’ll need this book handy for those days when the weather’s got a lot of bored kids trapped indoors. There are 108 experiments covering a wide variety of scientific subjects. They’re designed to use cheap, simple materials you’ve probably already got around the house, and take only minutes to complete. The step-by-step instructions are easy to follow, and results are explained after the experiment is finished. The book stresses the importance of repeating experiments to ensure accuracy, and encourages kids to think of variations.

Girls Who Looked Under Rocks: The Lives of Six Pioneering Naturalists by Jeannine Atkins [Ages 8-13]

Focusing mainly on entymologists, this book profiles six girls who became pioneering scientists and writers: Maria Sibylla Merian, Anna Comstock, Frances Hamerstrom, Miriam Rothschild, Rachel Carson, and Jane Goodall. It shows that women are excellent scientists, and also highlights how traditionally “feminine” traits can add a lot of value to the scientific enterprise.

 

Back to Contents

Originally published at Scientific American/Rosetta Stones.

Dana’s Super-Gargantuan Guide to Atheist Books Suitable for Gift-Giving (Part III)

Oh, you didn’t think we were done, did you? There may have been a time when two great-big posts would be enough to cover all the books in the atheist literature. But this is the 21st century, and we’ve been a prolific bunch o’ heathens. Why, we even have parenting books, and books for teenagers, and what religion does to the kiddies. Even after all this, we’ll have barely scratched the surface, but at least we’ll have a nice little list we may even check twice.

Ready for more? Let’s go!

Image shows a cat sitting on a stack of books about cats. Caption says, "I suppose you think you understand me now."

 

Table of Contents:

Religion vs. Kids

Parenting

Kids and Teens

 

Religion vs. Kids

Breaking Their Will: Shedding Light on Religious Child Maltreatment by Janet Heimlich

This is a thorough look at religious child abuse and mistreatment in America. None of the three major Abrahamic faiths are spared, as none of them spare children. Janet Heimlich has thoroughly investigated and documented the abuse going on within authoritarian religious cultures, and what she’s found will chill you. Her book explores how certain interpretations of holy texts can aid and abet harmful treatment. She covers physical abuse (including corporal punishment), emotional abuse (including religious spurning), sexual abuse (including how religious communities close ranks against abuse victims), and medical neglect (such as that caused by a belief in Christian Science). This is a thorough exploration of the ways that religion can create fertile ground for abuse, and forces us to acknowledge that it happens here in America, in churches that aren’t considered cults, to thousands of children every day.

The Good News Club: The Christian Right’s Stealth Assault on America’s Children by Katherine Stewart

Katherine Stewart’s book is a terrifying exposé of a Christian group’s attempt to brainwash public school children. Talk about your basic wolves in sheep’s clothing: The Good News Club is very sly about who and what they really are. And it’s not just them: religion saturates our public school system, despite the shrieks of the godly that God’s been kicked out of the schoolhouse. Are you ready to be horrified at how sectarian religious groups are busy trying to convert the kids? Time for you to read this book.

The Child Catchers: Rescue, Trafficking, and the New Gospel of Adoption by Kathryn Joyce

Enter the bizarre world of the evangelical Christian mania for adopting children. Kathryn Joyce investigates those parents and churches who’ve been bitten by the adoption bug, and reveals how their good intentions have fueled child trafficking, exploitation of the poor and the desperate, and increased the coercive pressure on pregnant women to give their babies up for adoption rather than abort. Fraudulent orphans have been created by greedy agencies in order to trade kids for cash. Families are adopting more children than they can care for. They’re an extreme manifestation of the problems affecting the adoption industry.

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Parenting

 

Parenting Beyond Belief edited by Dale McGowan.

Within, you will find a plethora of essays on raising kids in secular households, covering such topics as holidays and celebrations, morality, values, death, questioning, community, and much more. It’s there to support parents who’ve decided to bring their kids up without religion, and does a great job of it. If you know freethinkers who need a parental assist, slide a copy under the tree for ‘em.

Raising Freethinkers edited by Dale McGowan, Molleen Matsumura, Amanda Metskas and Jan Devor

This is the other book to give to freethinking parents. Got questions? It’s got answers. It’s also got activities and resources, practical tips, advice on best practices, and all sorts of things to make this parenting without religion gig a bit easier.

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Kids and Teens

Maybe Yes, Maybe No: A Guide for Young Skeptics by Dan Barker

This is a charming little book for budding skeptics. Our heroine, Andrea, has to solve a ghostly mystery by “asking questions, discovering facts, and thinking critically.” Andrea’s a skeptic, and uses her mad skeptic skillz to get to the bottom of things. This is a great book for teaching healthy skepticism, encouraging deep thought, and showing kids how to question.

The Young Atheist’s Handbook: Lessons for Living a Good Life Without God by Alom Shaha

Did you know that bacon can be a pivotal moment in the journey from religion to atheism? Have you ever seen it as the most controversial thing? It was for our protagonist. This is Alom Shaha’s story of breaking free of faith, wherein school lunches lead to the rejection of religion – okay, just a bit. Mostly autobiographical, it shows how a kid can question and lead a life without any gods.

Back to contents

You may notice this list is rather shorter than the last. This is because I’m not a parent and don’t know much about what’s out there for atheist kids. Leave your favorite titles in the comments, and they could make the list next year!

Back to Part I
Back to Part II
Continue to Part IV

Dana’s Super-Gargantuan Guide to Atheist Books Suitable for Gift-Giving (Part II)

We covered a lot of territory with Part I of our super-duper guide, and yet it’s only a tiny fraction of the available awesome. There’s still a universe of books to be explored. Today, we’re going to fight some culture wars, become even better social justice warriors, and then gorge on some history with a little mythicism for dessert. Let’s go!

Image shows a cat sprawled full-length in a library. Caption says, "They'z alphabetized. U happy now?"

 

Table of Contents:

Culture Wars

Diversity and Social Justice

History of Freethought

Jesus: Myth or Man?

 

Culture Wars

 

Why Are You Atheists So Angry? by Greta Christina.

I can’t believe some of you thought I wouldn’t remember Greta’s excellent book on all those things that piss us off. Do you have a friend or relation who wonders why atheists seem angry? Do you need to get your angry thoughts in order? All of you will benefit from this book. Give it freely.

Mah review here.

Marriage: A History by Stephanie Coontz

This is an excellent book for shattering the notion that there’s any such thing as “traditional marriage.” In it, we learn that marriage has always been in crisis, probably since about five minutes after the first human couple got married. There’s nothing new under the marital sun: this heterosexual nuclear family thingy is the real oddball. In these pages, Stephanie Coontz explores the smorgasbord that is marriage throughout the world, and discovers that traditional marriage is really in the eye of the beholder, even if you ignore all of those different types from the ancient times of a few centuries ago. This book contains truths inconvenient to culture warriors. And that is why it’s a book every atheist should have handy.

Dishonest to God by Mary Warnock

This is a very British book, investigating the intersection of religion and public policy in a country where, despite an established church, secularism is strong and fundie religion rather weak. Despite Warnock not being a fire-breathing New Atheist, and rather more indulgent towards religion than many of us atheist activist types feel comfortable about, she argues strongly that morality must be decoupled from religion when it comes to the law. Eminently sensible, and containing good ideas suitable for all countries.

Taking Liberties: Why Religious Freedom Doesn’t Give You the Right to Tell Other People What to Do by Robert Boston

Robert Boston’s thesis is simple: “Religion is not the problem. Fundamentalist religion that seeks to merge with political power and impose its dogma on the unwilling is the problem. I have a big one with anyone who considers the raw power of government an appropriate vehicle for evangelism.”

This book goes a long way toward ensuring we have the awareness and ability to stop and reverse this trend toward theocracy.

Mah review here.

The Devil in Dover: An Insider’s Story of Dogma V. Darwin in Small-town America by Lauri Lebo

This is a clear, gripping account of the landmark Kitzmiller vs. Dover Area School District trial that kicked Intelligent Design out of public schools. Lauri Lebo was on the ground in Dover, part of the community, and was there for every bit of the trial. She sees it as not God vs. Science, but Truth vs. Lies, and shows vividly how the truth won. Unfortunately, it didn’t convince committed fundamentalists like her father, but science classes didn’t have to spread lies in America due to the efforts of a group of remarkable parents and scientists who stood fast for the truth.

Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights by Katha Pollitt

Katha Pollitt’s hard-hitting book on reproductive rights puts women solidly at the center of the abortion talk. She seeks to shift the dialogue from treating abortion as a bad thing to speaking of it as a common and necessary medical procedure. She dispels myths about abortion, shows us that abortion opponents are more than just anti-abortion, and reframes motherhood. And she issues a call to arms for pro-choicers: if we don’t get up and act, we’ll lose the last of the rights we have.

Crow After Roe: How “Separate But Equal” Has Become the New Standard In Women’s Health And How We Can Change That by Jessica Pieklo and Robin Marty

This is a fierce survey of attacks on abortion rights in the United States and a rousing call to arms for women’s rights. It makes the case that reproductive rights include sex and family planning, not just abortion. Specific attacks on women’s reproductive rights in various states are shown, demonstrating how our right to bodily autonomy is being eroded. The book shows that we’ve got a two-tiered system in which women lack the rights that men have, and how the right to privacy isn’t a strong enough basis for protecting us against incursions on our reproductive rights.

Among the Creationists: Dispatches from the Anti-Evolutionist Front Line by Jason Rosenhouse

These are the reports of a mathematician attending creationist conferences. Jason Rosenhouse has spent years studying creationists and busting their bad science. Now he’s written a memoir of those experiences, wherein he explains creationists’ beliefs, clears up some common misconceptions about them, and discusses the relationship between science and religion. He includes both young earth creationism and intelligent design. This isn’t an accommodationist book, and Jason shows that science doesn’t compromise, but it may be somewhat comfy for those who have warm fuzzies toward “cultural religion.”

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Diversity and Social Justice

 

Does God Hate Women? by Ophelia Benson and Jeremy Stangroom

A gut-shot of a book, in which Ophelia and her coauthor show us the religious terror perpetrated upon women. It slays the “cultural” argument for brutal practices and gives religion no quarter. Its main focus is on Islam, but it also blasts Orthodox Judaism, Hinduism, the FLDS branch of Mormonism, Catholicism, and more. It shines a very harsh light on the fact that, actually, according to most of the World’s Great Religions™, God does indeed hate women.

Women Without Superstition by Annie Laurie Gaylor.

You know how people are always having a hard time remembering that women have been doing the atheism thing for half of forever, too? Give them this book. It has 51 female freethinkers in it. It spans a slice of history from just before Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein up to our own Taslima Nasrin. It includes both bios and excerpts, and if you walk away from it without being able to recite the names of at least a dozen hugely influential freethinking women, you didn’t read the damn book.

Moral Combat by Sikivu Hutchinson.

An excellent book exploring black infidels and African American secular thought, which fiercely challenges religion’s stranglehold on morality. Social justice is crucial in minority communities, and this book shows that secular humanism can step up to fight for that justice, no religion necessary. And you’ll see how atheists of color are providing an alternative to the unrelenting whiteness of new atheism.

Freedom to Love for All by Yemisi Ilesanmi.

Written for an African audience, this tome will be quite helpful for anyone with African friends or family, or those interested in political struggles for equality in Africa. But it’s broad enough to be of use to anyone fighting that battle anywhere fundies rear up and attempt to legislate their morality. It debunks some of the common myths fundies love to spread: that homosexuality et al is unnatural, that gay marriage is a slippery slope to a whole new definition of animal husbandry, and that if the majority of people support so-called “traditional marriage,” that somehow gives them a license to discriminate. This book, while not large, accomplishes a lot.

Woe to the Women: The Bible, Female Sexuality and the Law by Annie Laurie Gaylor

You know the Bible isn’t particularly kind to women. This book takes all 200+ misogynist Bible passages and exposes their terrible teachings, plus all the awful stereotypes. Do you want to see how the Christians’ favorite holy book treats women like property, excuses sexual assault, and treats abortion? You’ll find all that and more within these pages. Annie Laurie Gaylor also examines the “macho” standards forced on and harming men, which will be nice for those gents who always scream “What about teh menz?!”

A Brief History of Misogyny: The World’s Oldest Prejudice by Jack Holland

Jack Holland’s powerful final book traces the history of misogyny, beginning with Greek and Hebrew myths that blamed the supposed fall of mankind on women (Pandora and Eve). Mostly focusing on Western Civilization, from ancient Rome to early Christianity, up through the Victorian and modern ages, the book shows how philosophers and serial killers share a common idea about women.

Delusions of Gender: The Real Science Behind Sex Differences by Cordelia Fine

You’re in for a treat – this book is sharp, funny, and smart from the very first pages. “Ta-da! Is this your emotion?” will now be part of your schtick forever. Cordelia Fine explodes shoddy science about innate gender differences, and shows how time and time again, assumed female inferiority has proven to be an artifact of culture, education, and opportunity – not biology. She shows how the social context influences the way we experience and understand gender. The science of sex differences is explored, and we see there are plenty of bad assumptions and problems with the supposed proof that men and women are born with vastly different brains.

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History of Freethought

 

Doubt: A History by Jennifer Michael Hecht.

This is a sweeping study of religious doubt, spanning the Ancient Greeks up through the Jews, the Romans, and even Asian doubters. You’ll meet freethinkers you didn’t even know existed, from 600 BC until the present. This is a most helpful book for understanding that doubt isn’t a modern invention. History’s full o’ freethinkers, and we are in excellent company. There is a fine tradition of doubt behind us. This book demonstrates that doubt is part of our humanity. It’s a strangely comforting truth after doubt has been so demonized by demagogues for so very long.

Freethinkers by Susan Jacoby.

Did you know American history is full of freethinkers? No? Well, Susan Jacoby aims to remedy that. This book covers the entire period of America’s history from the first European settlers to the present. It explores the important contributions secularists have made to movements such as Abolition and feminism. You’ll see the history of the culture wars beginning with the religious opposition to evolution, and be reminded that America, for all its devout citizens, has always been a land of freethinkers.

You should totally give this book to Uncle “America’s a Christian nation!” Ralph.

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Jesus: Myth or Man?

Proving History: Bayes’s Theorem and the Quest for the Historical Jesus by Richard Carrier

This book is perfect for the historian in your family. The quest for the truth about Jesus – was there a historical man, or only a myth? – to show how Bayes’s Theorem can be used to determine which possibility is likely correct. It answers some of the technical questions about the applicability and application of Bayes’s Theorem to historical studies. This is basically a prequel to Richard’s next book, which pits man vs. myth.

On the Historicity of Jesus: Why We Might Have Reason for Doubt by Richard Carrier

This is the second book that your happy historian can get blissfully lost in. For a very long time, in fact, as it is over 700 pages. Using the techniques discussed in Proving History, it tests the most minimal, defensible version of the historicity of Jesus against the similarly most minimal case for Jesus as myth. This is a peer-reviewed book of serious scholarship, but written in language easy enough for layfolk to understand, and uses examples such as King Arthur and Haile Selassie to show how the evidence could go either way. It shows how figures like Moses, traditionally considered to be historical figures, are now known to have most likely been mythical all along. It explores in-depth what we currently know about the origin of Christianity and its context, and looks at the biblical and extrabiblical evidence we have to discover whether a man named Jesus inspired Christianity, or whether he’s been a myth all along.

Back to contents

Back to Part I.
Continue to Part III.

Crowdsourcing Science Books for Kids and Teens

What kind of science books do you get for kids these days? I had a brief gallop through the Kindle store, but I can only guess what books kids really love. I haven’t got kids, I’ve got a cat. She doesn’t care about what’s inside books, she just wants to sleep on them. And it’s been over 30 years since I’ve had direct experience with being a child. This isn’t very helpful when one is trying to come up with a handy list of books for people to buy for kids.

Have you got kids? Have you got nieces, nephews, cousins, honorary versions of same? Are you a teacher or caregiver or otherwise plugged into the part of the universe that includes small people? Awesome! They must have at least one science book they love. Gimme the title!

And what about teenagers? Are there any books out there specifically written for them that’re taking their minds by storm, or are they skipping straight to books marketed toward adults? Are there any science books in particular the teenagers in your experience love?

Hey, are you a teenager? Great! Tell me which books you love best. This will help me gently steer adults away from giving you things that insult your intelligence. Give me some hard data I can wave in the faces of those convinced teenagers don’t do complex, so I can prevent them from stuffing your stocking with stuff that’s more suitable for grade school kids.

Image shows a cat lying under an Xmas tree with a book tented over it. Caption says, "Next year, I want more books for my book fort."

Dana’s Super-Gargantuan Guide to Science Books Suitable for Gift-Giving

It’s the gifting time o’ year! You’ve got science readers on your list, but you’re not sure what books to get them, right? For those of you who can’t just say heck with it and buy a gift card instead, I’ve got some ideas for ye. Our main focus will be the earth sciences, but I’ve got a variety of other disciplines on tap as well. Settle in with a nice mug or glass o’ something, click your desired category, and see what leaps out at you. If you still can’t decide, go with a gift card and a link to this post.

And feel free to bookmark this page for future reference when the time comes to spend your own gift card. Also feel free to recommend your own favorites for future incarnations of this list.

Image shows a cat resting its chin and paw on a printed page. Caption says, "Multum legendum non multa."

 

Table of Contents

Earth Sciences

Biology, Paleontology and Evolution

Neurology, Physiology and Medicine

Astronomy, Physics, and Chemistry

Earth Sciences

In Search of Ancient Oregon: A Geological and Natural History by Ellen Morris Bishop.

I’m not going to quote from this book, because all of it is quotable. Dr. Ellen Morris Bishop, author and photographer, is a wonderful writer who brings Oregon’s geology to brilliant life. It’s rare to find a PhD scientist who’s also a talented writer who’s also a brilliant photographer, but Dr. Bishop is all three. You hear words like “expertly written” and “lavishly illustrated” tossed about for books that don’t strictly deserve it. This one most decidedly does.

If you’ve ever been even the slightest bit interested in geology, you owe it to yourself to get this book. If you like landscape photography but don’t give two shits about how the pretty rocks came to be there, you owe it to yourself to get this book. If you’re interested in the flora and fauna of long-vanished worlds, you owe it to yourself to get this book. If you want to know some awesome places to visit in Oregon, you owe it to yourself to get this book.

My review here.

For the Rock Record edited by Jill S. Schneiderman and Warren D. Allmon.

I’m so excited about this book. Within, geologists take on – and take down – creationism and Intelligent Design. Biologists are already in the ring and have been for some time: with this collection of essays, geologists get in the cage and crack their knuckles before delivering a victory by knockout. Written by geologists and earth sciences educators, this book faces the fact that geology is just as much under attack by creationists as biology – after all, the rocks hold a lot of the evidence for evolution and an old, uncreated Earth. It covers geologic and paleontological claims made by creationists; their encroachment into earth sciences education, politics, and philosophy; and in a final section, covers the clash of geology and religion. It reflects on evolution with a focus on the earth sciences, and doesn’t forget that Darwin was, first and foremost, a geologist. Got a geologist/atheist on your list? This is their book. You just have to get it for them.

The Last Days of St. Pierre: The Volcanic Disaster That Claimed Thirty Thousand Lives by Ernest Zebrowski Jr.

There aren’t many books that have me lowering the temperature of my bathwater for fear of triggering flashbacks to severe burns I’ve never actually suffered. Actually, there’s only been one: this one.

For the most part, Dr. Zebrowski takes us through the geology from the point of view of the folks dealing with an alarming, nasty, and new example of it. After giving us the gist of what we know now, he goes back and shows us what no one knew then. We experience this terrifying eruptive sequence from the perspective of those trying to figure it out. We’re told – well, mostly shown, Dr. Zebrowski’s quite good at that – what they knew. Not much. They had no real idea what a volcano like Peleé can do.

My review here.

Annals of the Former World by John McPhee

This is the one that always comes up in any conversation where geologists are discussing good geology books. It’s four books in one, and takes you from coast to coast through America with John and geologists, exploring geological history and wonders. This was a time when the plate tectonics revolution was brand-new, so you get a sense of the excitement (“We can finally make sense of this stuff!”) and the caution (“Slow down, hoss, you ain’t gathered all your evidence yet.”). So you get to watch a theory being born.

Being a book by John McPhee, this is beautifully written, and will stay with you for a lifetime. This is an excellent place for anyone to start.

Reading the Rocks: The Autobiography of the Earth by Marcia Bjornerud

Do this: read the introduction to this book. Just that. By the end, you will have learned something of geology, gotten broadsided by a puckish sense of humor, and likely been hooked enough to buy the thing. This is the intro-to-geology book for those who want – oh, how did I put it when I first read her book? – “a fun, easy and accurate primer on geology…” I also said, “She’s not only an informative writer whose prose flows like water over Franklin Falls, she’s snarky. I am a sucker for snark.” I still am. I still love this book. And I still foist it upon people who are looking for a short, sharp intro to geology.

Earth: An Intimate History by Richard Fortey

This is one of the first books I read when I was renewing my interest in earth science, lo these many years ago. I strongly believe it needs to be read by more people. I’ll see your John McPhee and raise you Richard Fortey – his prose is astoundingly beautiful. Also, he is British, and you know I’m an anglophile. Oh, language! Oh, earth! This is one of those books that immerses you, and by the time you emerge from it, you’ll understand so much more of this planet. You’ll absorb much more geology than you might believe you have done. This doesn’t seem like a science book as much as a love letter about the Earth – but it’s science, through and through. Hard science, strong science.

Supercontinent: Ten Billion Years in the Life of Our Planet by Ted Nield

There are very few books that I immediately want to read again even before I’ve finished them. This is one.

What to say? That Ted Nield writes with the kind of clarity and style that, should he turn it into a narrative, would make even the phone book fascinating reading? That’s one thing. Add that to the fact that he’s writing about something inherently fascinating, and you have the recipe for a truly outstanding book.

Nield tells two histories: the history of supercontinents forming and rifting, and the history of our discovery and understanding of them. Many times, when an author tells two tales, one takes second place to the other. Nield manages to unfold them both in tandem, so that neither is slighted.

My review here.

The Mountains of Saint Francis by Walter Alvarez

This is the best book on geology I’ve ever read. Ever. Oh, others have been wonderful, informative, and well-written, but there’s something about this one that just filled me to the brim. Maybe it’s the shock – I thought of Walter Alvarez in connection with dinosaurs and killer meteorites, not the mountains of Italy. Maybe it’s the fact he brings a totality of place and time to the subject, allowing you to experience more than just the rocks of Italy. Maybe it’s the fact he introduced me to some fascinating fathers of geology, people I’d never known: Nicolaus Steno, who began his career in the 1600s by dissecting bodies and ended it by discovering Earth’s anatomy; Ambrogio Soldani, an abbot who pioneered micropaleontology all the way back in the 1700s. Maybe it’s the rocks, who become characters in their own right, and with whom one can become very close friends indeed.

I don’t know. There’s just something about this book – it’s bloody poetic is what it is, gorgeously written, easy to understand while not being dumbed-down, full of passion and wonder and delight.

My review here.

The Seven Hills of Rome: A Geological Tour of the Eternal City by Grant Heiken, Renato Funicello, and Donatella de Rita

If you haven’t got enough of Italian geology, here’s an excellent source. And it’s got walking tours! This book is perfect for both armchair and actual tourists who want to know how Rome was really built, and would like to discover some earth history among the ruins. This book is a must-have if you’re a geology buff bound for Rome – there’s a little something for everyone in your tour group, so you can keep the non-geology buffs distracted with wonderful old buildings and such like while you get on with enjoying the rocks. Art, architecture, history and science, all rolled into one easy-to-read volume!

Devil in the Mountain: A Search for the Origin of the Andes by Simon Lamb

Simply astounding. That’s what this book is. The Andes are fascinating mountains and Simon Lamb absolutely does them justice. You’ll find out how puzzling features like the Altiplano came to be, for instance. And it provides a fascinating look into field research: the difficulties of getting it done in politically unstable areas of the world, the extremes in weather, the hazards of altitude sickness, camping in the freezing cold, dealing with horribly limited resources…. Simon puts you there. This book is a must for anyone who wants to live the geologist’s life, or wants to know more about it, as well as learn how the Andes came to be.

Stories in Stone: Travels Through Urban Geology by David B. Williams

I have one quibble with this book: it should have included color photographs. That’s all it’s really missing, though. David B. Williams, who ended up interested in urban geology because he got stuck in Boston after living in the wild, wonderful geologic paradise of Utah. Buildings clad in stone became his friends, a link to the natural world. This book eventually resulted, and you’ll probably never look at a city the same way after reading it.

Each chapter is about a different stone: brownstone, limestone, gneiss, marble, travertine and more. Architecture connects to geology connects to oddball tidbits of history and human endeavor (and sometimes silliness) in one seamless whole.

My review here.

Mountain Geomorphology by Phil Owens and Olav Slaymaker, eds.

This is not the type of book you buy for a casual perusal. It’s written by experts for experts. It doesn’t make concessions for laypeople. That said, if you’ve done some extensive reading of the popular literature and cut your teeth on science blogs, you’ll understand at least 40% of this book.

It’s got everything: from defining what a mountain is to how they evolve, functional and applied mountain geomorphology, and global environmental change. I learned things from this book that changed many of my perspectives on mountains, and the information in it comes trickling back at odd times to inform something else I’m reading. I’ll be reading this book again in a year or so, when I’ll understand more, and referring to it more than once in the future. If you want to know how mountains work, and aren’t afraid of actual science, this is an excellent resource.

Living Ice: Understanding Glaciers and Glaciation by Robert P. Sharp

This one was a good one to begin with. It’s a small book, but packed with delicious information and lots of educational photos. Biggest problem being, this is a reprint, and some genius at the publisher decided they didn’t need no stinkin’ color plates this time round. Grr. Even without those, this is an excellent guide to how glaciers do their thing, eminently readable.

It might leave you feeling a little cold however. A-ha-ha.

Frozen Earth: The Once and Future Story of Ice Ages by Doug Macdougall

I’ve been meaning to read this one for years. Anyone with even a passing interest in ice ages should pick this up. It tells the story of the past, present and future of ice ages, from how we figured out there had been some to what they were like, possible causes, effects, and what we’ve got to look forward to. You’ll find out how works of fine art can double as climate detectives, run in to our old friend Louis Agassiz, beat about the brush with Bretz, and engage in all sorts of other antics.

This book did a good job showing the investigative nature of science, and showing the sheer power of ice sheets.

Glacial Lake Missoula and Its Humongous Floods by David Alt

How can you not love a book with this title? David Alt’s also one of the driving forces behind the Roadside Geology series, so you know he knows how to show you where to find the good stuff. And this is good stuff – an astounding tale of catastrophic floods that repeatedly scoured Washington State. David follows those floods as they break the ice dam in Montana and cascade through my state, changing its features forever. He also gives us an introduction to J Harlen Bretz, who was the geologist who took a look at the scablands and said, “Sure looks like a humongous flood went through here.” Okay, not in so many words, but still.

This is an excellent introduction to some rather complicated geology, exploring the landforms that helped geologists piece together the story of repeated floods so huge they beggar the imagination. Clear pictures and easy-to-understand diagrams complete your education. And the tongue-in-cheek humor makes the whole thing go down smooth.

The Man Who Found Time: James Hutton and the Discovery of Earth’s Antiquity by Jack Repcheck

Poor James Hutton’s rather sadly neglected. He’s the one who wrote The Theory of the Earth, which everyone tends to deride as too obtuse to be a good read. In this book, we discover that the writing wasn’t as crisp and clear as it might have been because Dr. Hutton was dying in great pain at the time. And yet he still managed to write a foundational tome which, due to the efforts of his good friend John Playfair, remained influential enough for Charles Lyell to pick up the theory and run with it, and geology was well and truly born.

This biography does the great man justice, tracing his discovery of deep time in loving detail. But it’s not just about a man and his rocks, but a man and his time. You’ll be immersed in Hutton’s Scotland, which was an intellectually invigorating place to be. You’ll also take a side trip down Biblical Chronology Lane, which was quite a lot like poking about in a sideshow, complete with freaks. This is definitely one I’ll read again, just for the atmosphere.

The Seashell on the Mountaintop by Alan Cutler

Nicolaus Steno is one of those folks who did geology before geology was a thing. His life is given a thorough treatment. We learn that he’s not just the father of stratigraphy, but was one of the premier anatomists of his time, figuring out bits of the body that nobody had ever figured before. He lived in a fascinating time, too, when the patronage of the Medicis fed the arts and sciences, and Leonardo da Vinci very nearly figured fossils out before he got busy doing other things. You’ll meet an interesting cast of characters, some of whom will be familiar and some who damned well should’ve been. But have tissue handy – it’s a bittersweet ending.

Geology of the Sierra Nevada by Mary Hill

I’ve always been interested in how the Sierra Nevada formed, why Yosemite is the way it is, and all that. This book covers that, including very clear explanations about how granite weathers and how glaciers manage to carve all that hard rock.

It’s also got great guides to rocks of the area, discussions of mining techniques, and a lot of other fascinating stuff.

Beyond the Moon: A Conversational, Common Sense Guide to Understanding the Tides by James Greig McCully

This is an informative little book written by a (former) amateur for amateurs – James McCully isn’t a scientist, but he practically became one in writing this book. And he gets definite kudos for this paragraph:

When people say, “Ignorance is bliss,” they mean the ignorance that is oblivious to the problem. There is another kind of ignorance. Once you become aware that you are ignorant, it is anything but blissful.

True, dat!

This is a good introduction to how tides work, and you’ll be much smarter than Bill O’Reilly after having read it, which is a different kind of bliss.

Longitude by Dava Sobel

A fun, intriguing, and very brief book that makes one realize how fortunate we are to live in an age of clocks. We don’t often think of clocks in connection to map coordinates, do we? And we don’t think how bloody difficult it is to calculate a thing like longitude, which is nothing like latitude when you get right down to it. Dava describes the problems confronting sailors before the discovery of an efficient means to determine longitude in vivid detail. She weaves tales of suffering sailors, confounded captains, broke backers, and myriad others who would have been much better off knowing where exactly they were. And then she puts us in the middle of the wars between astronomers and clockmakers as they fought for a very rich prize, paints the travails of Britain’s stratified society, and brings to life some of the most remarkable time pieces ever made.

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Biology, Paleontology and Evolution

Life on a Young Planet: The First Three Billion Years of Evolution on Earth by Andrew H. Knoll

Lockwood recommended this one, and I’m glad he did. I love reading books that give me physical pain when I realize I’m getting close to the end. I hated finishing this book: it’s so beautifully written, so fascinating, and so informative that I could have happily spent the rest of my life reading it.

From mere chemical traces to exquisitely preserved microfossils, from the first ambiguous hints of life to stromatolites, from extremophiles to extraterrestrials, from ancient atmospheres to oxygen revolutions, this book is a journey through life itself. Andrew Knoll’s sense of wonder is only matched by his scientific chops. There are few people who can write using the big technical words and yet never for an instant seem dry. He’s one of those rare talents. He also explains things well without stopping the narrative cold; tough concepts hold no terrors for the layperson in this slender book. At least, not if said layperson has read a few books on evolution and biology first – I’m not sure how a total neophyte would fare, but I suspect the sheer power of the prose would smooth over any difficulties.

My review here.

Written in Stone by Brian Switek

This book constantly surprised me – not because it was good (it’s Brian Switek, so obviously it’s good!), but because of the number of times it made me say, “I didn’t know that!” It’s populated with bajillions of scientists I’ve read a lot about, people like Charles Darwin and Nicolaus Steno and Richard Owen, some of whom have been so extensively babbled about in the pop sci books that it seemed nothing new and interesting remained to reveal – but Brian almost always managed to find a little something awesome that hasn’t made it into the 42,000 other books about them. And lest you think this is merely a history of paleontology, keep in mind that Brian fleshes out that history with the newest of the new discoveries.

My review here.

Your Inner Fish: A Journey into the 3.5-Billion-Year History of the Human Body by Neil Shubin

Something about our bodies is rather fishy. Neil Shubin does a wonderful job showing how our anatomy’s jerry-rigged from much different bodies. If you’ve ever had trouble understanding the incremental steps evolution took from microbe to mankind, this delightful little book will give you the crash course. You’ll start seeing just how similar we are to even wildly dissimilar organisms. And it’s set out in such a way that even someone who has as much trouble with visualization as I do can see it clearly.

This book is the perfect answer to those who try to claim that evolution’s a nice theory, but has no practical application. Now, most of us know that’s ridiculous – we have antibiotic-resistant bacteria to prove that knowing how evolution works is important in medicine – but Neil goes many steps further, showing how evolution explains everything from hiccups to hemorroids to hernias, and many other defects not beginning with the letter H.

Full review here.

The Making of the Fittest: DNA and the Ultimate Forensic Record of Evolution by Sean B. Carroll

I adore this book, not to put too fine a point on it. It’s one of the best books on evolution I’ve ever read: clear, concise and beautifully written. I know that other books make a strong case for evolution, but I found this one of the strongest. And it’s full of things I never knew about, like “the bloodless fish of Bouvet Island.”

That’s just the beginning. Sean B. Carroll goes on to explain “the everyday math of evolution,” which explained said math in such a way that even a complete math ignoramus such as myself could grasp it. He made it easy to understand how even the tiniest advantage can, over evolutionary time (which is sometimes remarkably short), add up to big changes. And he doesn’t stop there, of course – he shows us the immortal genes, which have been passengers in a great many species; how new genes can be created from the old; explores convergent evolution; sifts through fossil genes, and quite a bit more.

At the Water’s Edge by Carl Zimmer

Believe me when I say that macroevolution has never been so beautifully described. This whole book is a journey, there and back again.

You’ll learn the reason why we’re so poorly laid out as Carl takes you on our evolutionary journey from sea to land and back again. Along the way, you’ll learn a lot more about evolution than you thought possible from such a slim volume dedicated mostly to whales. And if, like me, you despised Moby Dick, you might discover a reason to at least read the chapters on cetaceans…

The Beak of the Finch: A Story of Evolution in Our Time by Jonathan Weiner

Hands-down, this is one of the best books on evolution I’ve ever read. It’s not just about Darwin’s finches. It’s about evolution in action. It follows Peter and Rosemary Grant as they study the Galapagos finches season after season, watching them evolve in real time. Throw in quite a lot of cutting-edge evolutionary research and some Charles Darwin history, and we’ve got a book that feels like it’s about 5,000 pages and isn’t long enough by half. Oh, and Jonathan Weiner’s a wonderful writer. Reading his prose is like drinking claret.

And because no science book is complete without hysterically funny anecdotes about the hazards of field work, I just want to refer you to page 48, where you’ll learn why researcher Ian Abbott “hated a barnacle as no man ever had before,” and is a cautionary tale about always wearing your undies.

Trees: Their Natural History by Peter Thomas

I’ve loved this book since the first sentence: “Everyone knows what a tree is: a large woody thing that provides shade.” The rest of the book didn’t disappoint. It’s a clear, concise, and comprehensive introduction to trees, from how they evolved to how they work in this modern world of climate change and pollution.

Peter Thomas wrote this book because he became frustrated with the fact that there wasn’t a single source for all our knowledge about trees. A lot of myths get dispelled, and most importantly, I learned things I never knew before – like how roots seek easy paths in order to grow, and how far they actually go. The strategies various trees have – deciduous vs. evergreen, conical vs. sprawling, tall vs. short – begin making sense once you know why natural selection molded them in certain ways. And there were things I’d never considered before, like how something so tall manages to stay upright for decades, hundreds or even thousands of years against the simplest antagonist of all: the wind.

Once I got done with this book, I felt I’d gotten into the mind of a tree.

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Neurology, Physiology and Medicine

Do You Believe in Magic? The Sense and Nonsense of Alternative Medicine by Dr. Paul Offit.

Those of you who’ve been in the trenches of the vaccine wars probably know Paul as one of the despised enemies of anti-vaxxers. This book is an excellent example of why they hate him: it’s clear, concise, and full of citations to studies that make it very, very difficult to counter him. Also, he’s fair almost to a fault. Alt-med? He’s tried it himself. He’s given things like glucosamine a spin. He’s had less-than-satisfactory experiences with conventional medicine, so he gets why you might like something different. Sure. But then he says, let’s look at the studies – and there we have bad news. No better than placebo. Oh, dear. Better stick with the stodgy stuff, then, unless your condition is amenable to treatment by placebo, in which case, alt-med yourself out (on the safe stuff, anyway).

That’s the book in a nutshell.

My review here.

Soul Made Flesh: The Discovery of the Brain – and How it Changed the World by Carl Zimmer

Carl Zimmer wrote the most informative, delightful, and just plain enthralling book on how neuroscience came to be that I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading. He describes the birth of neuroscience in detail so vivid you can practically feel yourself sawing open a skull.

It’s amazing how far we’ve come since Thomas Willis and the other members of the Oxford Circle pried open a nobleman’s head and began looking at the brain as more than just several pounds of ugly fat. This book takes you on a journey that lasted thousands of years. If you like traveling the history of science, it’s definitely a trip you’ve got to take.

Emblems of Mind by Edward Rothstein

This is a delightful little book about music and mathematics, and the connections between the two, and I have to say that for a book filled with equations and rather technical discussion of music, it was very nearly painless to read. I say nearly. This book needs a second life as an enhanced ebook, where one can tap on an equation to watch it come to life, or on a musical phrase to hear it. If that happens, this book will be complete.

Edward Rothstein has a melodious writing style that isn’t ostentatious, and an obvious love of music, math and science that infuses every page. If you want to get a little music theory and history combined with science and math, topped off with some mind-challenging ideas, this is a good choice.

Phantoms in the Brain: Probing the Mysteries of the Human Mind by V.S. Ramachandran and Sandra Blakeslee

If you’re an Oliver Sacks fan, or if you’re just fascinated by brains, you really must pick up Phantoms in the Brain. Dr. Ramachandran doesn’t just tell interesting neurological stories, he takes you on a journey of discovery through your brain. And he’ll make you think of consciousness in ways you never considered before. The whole thing’s an adventure on the order of the Odyssey.

My review here.

A Brief Tour of Human Consciousness: From Impostor Poodles to Purple Numbers by V.S. Ramachandran

Dr. Ramachandran gives us a good look at some fascinating facts of the way the mind works, and all of it is wonderful. My absolute favorite chapter, however, is “The Artful Brain,” which gave me an entirely new appreciation of art and left me wanting far, far more. Alas, the promised book mentioned in that chapter is not available, so I shall have to content myself with this only – for now. In this chapter, we learn why the Victorians freaked out when first exposed to Indian art, the principles that make art art to our brains, and ways in which the artless may become artistic – if they don’t mind somebody paralyzing bits of their brains, that is.

This is one of the few books I’ve read every one of the extensive Notes to. The Notes are practically another book, a gloss and a commentary that’s every bit as good as the rest, which is rare. Dr. Ramachandran is one of those rare folks who are not only great scientists, but truly gifted writers. He makes it all look easy.

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Astronomy, Physics, and Chemistry

The Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory by Brian Greene

This is one of the few books that’s ever made me feel good about math. Not that it’s full of equations, but Brian Greene talks a lot about how these weird things mathematicians came up with, things that seemed purely abstract and intellectual, ended up being very useful for physicists. That’s the main thing this book gave me: a new appreciation for people who sit around playing with numbers just because they think they’re beautiful.

I’m still not all that sure about string theory, and I surely don’t understand it well, but this is a great book for those who want to know more about it. Brian shows us how well it could reconcile relativity and quantum mechanics if it pans out. It also helped me understand those well-established branches of physics much better. This is cutting-edge stuff. We’ve a long way to go before it’s as fundamental as the older two physics theories, and it may not be what we’re looking for, but at the very least, it’s fascinating. And if you, like me, have a hard time understanding dimensions outside of the usual four, then you need Brian Greene: he illustrates tough-to-visualize concepts in a way that allows you to grasp them without having to learn all sorts of complicated mathematics. That’s always a plus.

Death by Black Hole: And Other Cosmic Quandaries by Neil deGrasse Tyson

I am thrilled to report that Neil deGrasse Tyson is just as snarky in print as he is in person. And I loves me some science with snark! I dog-eared a lot of pages, and it’s hard to choose just one quote from this delightful book of essays, but I’ll go with this one:

What are the lessons to be learned from this journey of the mind? That humans are emotionally fragile, perennially gullible, hopelessly ignorant masters of an insignificantly small speck in the cosmos.

Death From the Skies! The Science Behind the End of the World by Phil Plait

This is one of the most entertaining, if sometimes terrifying, books I’ve ever read. Unlike most scientists who use the end of the world as a hook for science, Phil treats the subject with the proper mix of respect and hilarity, with heaping doses of “it’ll probably never happen, but it’s too fun not to speculate.” This book probably taught me more about physics and astronomy in one compact, enjoyable read than all the previous serious, heavy tomes I’ve read. And I’ll be referring back to it often to explain network outages and problems with cell phone service. Maybe it was a solar flare, or gamma ray bursts, or a black hole passing through.

Stardust: Supernovae and Life: The Cosmic Connection by John R. Gribbin and Mary Gribbin

This is a delightful introduction to the fact that we are, as Carl Sagan said, made of star stuff. It ties astronomy, chemistry, physics and biology together beautifully. You come away from it with a little bit of a strut, and quite a lot of awe. We are made of awesome stuff, people. This universe is an amazing place. And this is about the perfect book to give to someone who doesn’t realize how tied to the stars we all are, or who thinks astrology whenever our connection to the stars is mentioned. It’s so much more interesting than pseudoscience. The real stuff is much more dramatic. Nice to have an easy-to-read book that gets that across.

The Joy of Chemistry by Cathy Cobb

Want fun, need fun, need joy. I have a book with joy in the title. And hey, I could use some chemistry in my life. So I turn to this one.

Wow.

I mean, seriously, wow. You have to understand, the last time chemistry and I had more than a brief flirtation was back in high school. I’m so not-versed in chemistry it’s pathetic. This book took me from abject ignorance to near-competence in just a few hours. And it’s a hell of a fun read. The authors intended to get across the joy of chemistry, and they did.

It’s even got experiments.

My review here.

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Dana’s Super-Gargantuan Guide to Atheist Books Suitable for Gift-Giving (Part I)

It’s about that time when we begin contemplating the necessity of buying gifts for the readers in our lives. That is, if you’re one of those who plans ahead. Even if you’re not, you can just bookmark this page and return when the ZOMG-it’s-nearly-Xmas-Eve! panic sets in. Gotta love buying for readers. Books are easy, Amazon and other online retailers are quick, the local bookstore may even be stocked, and you can get someone in your life a gift that will give them more than a moment’s pleasure, all in time for the solstice, even if you leave it for the last possible instant.

You may be a reader whose family gets them a certificate to a bookstore online or off. Huzzah! Your shelves, virtual or real, will soon be groaning under brand-new bookage!

Only problem is, there are lotsa books. Sooo many books!

I’m here to help you pick just the right one. Or ones. Many of these, I’ve read. Some, I’ve only read bits of, but heard much about from other sources and thus feel comfortable recommending. I’ve split things into categories, so you can more quickly make a match between the book recipient’s interests and the right book.

If I’ve reviewed the book, I provide a link to said review. If I haven’t, I’ve provided a brief synopsis to assist you. As always, feel free to add any favorites of your own in the comments – the more, the merrier!

Let’s begin!

Table of Contents:

Religion

Leaving Religion

Atheism

Photo of a cat lying atop books on a shelf, biting one. Caption says, "I am looking for a book I can REALLY sink my teeth into."

Religion

In this section, you’ll find books on religion, wherein religion decidedly does not come out on top.

An American Fraud by Kay Burningham.

Anyone interested in Mormonism, and wanting to know if there’s a legal case for it being a big fat fraud, will love this book. You’ll also love giving it to Mormons. It’s sublime.

Mah review here.

Not the Impossible Faith by Richard Carrier.

I read the online version, and it was fascinating. In this book, Richard takes on and crushes the “common apologetic argument for the truth of [Christianity] that its origins were too improbable to be false.” This is a thing amongst some fundies. One of them is J.P. Holding, who pretty much recited All the Tropes having to do with this argument, thus painting Richard a maclargehuge target. By the end of this book, everyone will know why Christianity could succeed despite being utter bullshit. If fundie Christians could feel this particular type o’ shame, they’d be ashamed to try these arguments ever again. And the book not only crushes their pathetic apologetics with relentless precision, it also introduces the reader to amazing bits of ancient history, religion, society, and culture, which is an added bonus and great for history addicts.

Girl at the End of the World by Elizabeth Esther

This book is gripping from the very first sentences: “I am ready to die for Jesus. I am nine years old.” Elizabeth Esther was raised in a spiritually-abusive fundamentalist Christian environment. Her memoir gives plenty of insight into the lives of people trapped deep within apocalyptic cults. She was even a child street-preacher. (One thing you’ll learn from this book: you should totally be the little old lady yelling “Don’t be afraid to think for yourself!” at the kid shrieking Bible verses from a milk crate, even if said kid has no idea what you’re talking about at the time.) She survived her upbringing with her sense of humor intact: if you’re reading on an electronic device, please do be careful with liquids and laughter.

Breaking the Spell by Daniel Dennett.

If you need to give someone a book that gives religion no quarter, and yet doesn’t seem like one of those merciless New Atheist books, this is an excellent start, especially if the recipient likes philosophy.

Mah review here.

The Complete Heretic’s Guide to Western Religion: the Mormons by David Fitzgerald.

An excellent introductory guide to Mormonism for those who don’t actually know that much about it.

Mah review here.

50 Simple Questions for Every Christian by Guy P. Harrison.

Ha ha ha, simple. Also a good book to innocently slip your religious relations. Tell them you thought it would help them argue with atheists. Heh.

Mah review here.

The Skeptics Annotated Bible by Steve Wells.

The only Bible that has ever made me want to go to church as an atheist, this is a fantastic gift for atheists and believers alike. Give one to your fundie friends and relations! They can’t complain – you are, after all, giving them a nice King James edition. With, um, some extra footnotes…

Mah review here.

God and the Folly of Faith by Victor Stenger.

With this book, Victor has mounted up as one of the horsepeople of the atheist apocalypse. Seriously. No quarter is given, and if you want a book that will make religion ashamed to play at science, this is the one.

Mah review here.

Beyond Belief: The Secret Lives of Women in Extreme Religions by Susan Tive and Cami Ostman, eds.

This book is full of slices of fundamentalist life from a broad range of faiths. The editors, Susan Tive and Cami Ostman, wanted to explore the commonalities between women who found themselves sucked (or born) in to extremely restrictive religions. They weren’t intending “to refute or belittle religion.”

They didn’t have to. The religions do that quite well all by themselves.

Mah review here.

Jesus Land: A Memoir by Julia Scheeres

This is a harrowing story of religion, racism, abuse, and brainwashing that takes us from rural Indiana to a Christian reform school in the Dominican Republic. You’re going to have all the feels, so make sure you have plenty of emergency kittens and tissues handy. This story rather makes Jesus Camp look sane – but this is happening in fundie households every day. Julia shows you what it’s like to be kids doing what they must to survive the madness, as the bond between her and her adopted African-American brother carries the narrative.

Homeschool Sex Machine: Babes, Bible Quiz, and the Clinton Years by Matthew Pierce

I downloaded Matthew Pierce’s Homeschool Sex Machine: Babes, Bible Quiz, and the Clinton Years because I needed a bit of easy-but-related-to-current-project reading at bedtime. But mostly, I did it because of the title. I mean, we’re talking about someone raised in the purity culture, folks. You cannot even imagine how jarring the idea of someone raised to be pure and virginal, not even supposed to date or kiss until marriage, being a sex machine is. Also, I’d been seeing alumni reviews here and there, which were all positive, and the thing was $2.99, and so it seemed a safe bet.

Don’t make that bet if you’re still recovering from abdominal surgery, because you’ll bust your stitches.

Now, you may have heard this of this book being blacklisted by some Christian sites. This is because they can’t stand the idea of sex, and also, there are bosoms.

Mah review here.

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Leaving Religion

Here we have books that are mostly about getting the fuck out of faith.

Coming Out Atheist: How to Do It, How to Help Each Other, and Why by Greta Christina

You want the best-ever book on how to come out as an atheist, right? This is it, my darlings. The exact guide you need. Greta Christina is brilliant, as usual. Excellent advice solicited from all over the atheosphere is interspersed with coming out stories that will give you plenty of support and encouragement. This book takes into account coming out to more than just family and friends: you’ll also find tips for coming out to coworkers, conservative communities, and the even the entire internet, if you’re so inclined. There’s also plenty of help for those of us who wish to give our fellow atheists a hand (but definitely not a push!) out of the closet. And as if you needed any more encouragement: 10% of the income from Coming Out Atheist is donated to atheist charities, organizations, and projects.

Trusting Doubt: A Former Evangelical Looks at Old Beliefs in a New Light by Valerie Tarico

Valerie Tarico is a former Evangelical Christian who ended up trusting doubt. She makes the case for approaching religion as a spiritual quest rather than holding rigidly to tradition. She shows that Christianity has been a series of quests, far different from how fundamentalists treat it. The book is about the duty of the faithful to inquire rather than just follow the rules.

Valerie tells the story of how her exposure to people who practiced different sorts of Christianity allowed her to explore questions rather than quash them. Her questions got bigger. She shows us what she learned: her book explores the Bible’s history, internal contradictions, and treatment of women and minorities. She shows the conflicts between science and religion; the changing concepts of the nature of God, sin, salvation, and morals; exposes hypocrisy; and investigates the psychology of religion. Get this one into the hands of those having doubts, and those who should.

Godless by Dan Barker.

Fascinating tome by a man who used to be a born-again evangelist who was really on fire for the Lord, and is now an atheist champion.

Mah review here.

Why I Believed by Kenneth W. Daniels.

So this is a book by a former missionary that is extraordinary in its ability to really get to the nuts-and-bolts of believing, and then losing that belief. Suitable for gifting to friends and family members who just can’t understand your atheism in the least.

Mah review here.

Recovering Agency: Lifting the Veil of Mormon Mind Control by Luna Lindsey

This is an amazing resource for those who are leaving or thinking of leaving Mormonism. It’s also great for ex-Mormons and folks with Mormon family or friends. Luna Lindsey relentlessly, yet somehow kindly, shows how the Mormon church displays all the hallmarks of a cult. In the process, she’s created a book that’s a handy guide to how cults in general work. She points to the way out, and provides a list of resources that will help those who want to escape.

 

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Atheism

Here’s the meaty atheist goodness! Not that the above wasn’t, this stuff has just got more atheism in it.

The Atheist’s Guide to Christmas edited by Robin Harvie and Stephanie Meyers.

This book is snarky as hell, and I fell in love with it instantly. That was while I read the table of contents. It’s an excellent resource for atheists at Christmas, and safe for leaving near religious grandmothers. It includes all you need to know, really: the history, philosophy, science, and how-to of Christmas. Royalties from its sales go to charity, and our own Jen McCreight is in it, so if any atheists out there need some help with the holiday, give ‘em this.

The Happy Atheist by PZ Myers.

Despite the awful title which he didn’t choose, this is an excellent collection of PZ’s finest atheist thought, including much biology. Chapters are short (basically blog posts) and include many of his most famous essays, including The Courtier’s Reply. The majority of the book isn’t about science, but builds to the science section, and those chapters are inspiring and meaty. This book is perfect for people who need unapologetic atheism and beautiful science in bite-sized morsels.

Mah review here.

Daylight Atheism by Adam Lee

Looking for a book that makes the case for atheism? Would you like “an unapologetic – an argument for the truth of no faith”? Here’s the book you need. Adam Lee is an excellent writer and clear thinker who pulls no punches. You’ll love watching him shoot down American Christians’ claims of persecution right outta the gate. There’s plenty of food for the non-faitheist crowd. It also makes the case for getting the hell out of the closet. This would be an excellent companion volume to our own Greta Christina’s Coming Out Atheist.

The Portable Atheist edited by Christopher Hitchens.

This is a smorgasbord of freethought readings that includes many you’d never have considered freethought. I mean, The Rubáiyát? But yes, a lot of atheism and freethinking existed even during times that were deeply religious. This book covers ancient to modern times, includes a lot of different folks, and is a great place for a new (whether New, Gnu or not) atheist to begin.

Mah review here.

Why I Am Not a Muslim by ibn Warraq.

This is rather like what Bertrand Russell did to Christianity, only aimed squarely at Islam. It’s also harsher and more thorough. It absolutely destroys the myth of the divine origins of the Koran, explores the horrifying political implications of fundie Islam, and rather murders that “Islam loved People of the Book!” trope. There are informative and infuriating sections on Women in Islam, taboos, heretics, Islamic skeptics, and more. For those leaving Islam, those of us wanting to critique Islam without sounding like raving right-wing assholes, and those of us who are terminally curious about being apostates from a religion other than Christianity, this is a fantastic book.

The Atheist’s Bible edited by Joan Konner.

A book full o’ freethinking quotes, arranged somewhat like a bible (beginning with Genesis, even), and eminently suitable for leaving lying innocently about where a non-atheist may encounter it, such as on a coffee table or in a bathroom. Perhaps they will pick it up out of idle curiosity, horrified fascination, or sheer desperation for reading material. Two things, if the moment is just right, may happen as a result:

1. They will learn that someone they admire and respect was, quite possibly, an atheist.

2. They will be prompted to think thoughts they haven’t before thunk.

And these are outcomes greatly to be desired.

Nothing: Something to Believe In by Nica Lalli.

I love how, in the intro, Nica says that she chooses “nothing” because it cuts out the god root (theos). She’s right: nothing can stand on its own. This is a journey of discovery about what it means to be nothing in a world swimming in religion. She spent most of her life “frightened or upset by religion,” and realized that not having a religious identity meant having no ammo when the religious freaks came gunning for her soul. She eventually learned to defend her beliefs, and also learned that being despised by the majority of the country is not equal to being despised by your own family, as she discovered when faced with an uber-religious sister-in-law. But there’s comfort to be found in “nothing,” and possibly some decent coexistence, too.

Generation Atheist by Dan Reilly

This is a wonderful book that shares young atheists’ stories about their atheism and its effect on their lives. It’ll be helpful for those who need to know they’re not alone in their unbelief. It may also be a great resource for non-atheists who want to know how we get to atheism and what we’re like. The diverse range of people included will be a good introduction for ‘em. There’s an awesomesauce table of contents that include a guide to the stories by religious upbringing, which includes the major Christian denominations, as well as the Hindu, Muslim, Jain, Jewish, None, and Wiccan faiths.

Comforting Thoughts About Death That Have Nothing to Do with God by Greta Christina

Nobody likes to think of this stuff around the holidays, but it’s not just life that happens. This compassionate mini-book is for atheists coping with death and mortality: it’ll help you navigate some pretty fraught territory. Greta says, “I think there are ways to look at death, ways to experience the death of other people and to contemplate our own, that allow us to feel the value of life without denying the finality of death.” Exactly right.

Comforting Thoughts About Death includes essays like “Atheism and the Argument from Comfort” and “Humanism in a Shitstorm.” There’s also a resource guide – yes, there are resources for the godless grieving. And it’s written by one of the most compassionate, realistic, and empathetic people I know.

Why I Am Not a Christian by Bertrand Russell.

This is one of the original New Atheist tomes, really. It’s a classic by a no-holds-barred philosopher, and while it’s a tiny little book, it contains pretty much everything you need to get started on a career of unapologetic atheism. Make sure all the new (and possibly New) atheists you know have got a copy. It wouldn’t hurt to slip one in the stockings of believers, either, should you feel the need to counter their typical religious gift schlock.

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Here endeth Part I.

Continue to Part II.

Talk Comics To Me

I’ve never been a hardcore comics fan, but I’ve admired the medium since my friend Justin very sensibly got me addicted to Sandman. (If you have any literary-snob type friends who sneer at comics but like a well-crafted SF novel, give them Sandman next time they start an anti-comics rant. That’ll shut ‘em up.)

Cover of Sandman: The Dream Hunters

Cover of Sandman: The Dream Hunters

Alas, he became a husband and father and religious man, and I moved away, and thus my entertainment executive was lost. With no one feeding me comics on the regular, I’ve lost touch. That’s true of all fiction, mind – since I became a geoblogger, I haven’t often had time for recreational reading. The things I’ve missed! And I was a DC/Vertigo girl, so I know very little of Marvel.

This, I realized whilst watching The Avengers recently, was a terrible oversight. Fucking Natasha, people. I am in love with her. I mean, down-on-one-knee-and-pop-the-question in love. I don’t want to have her babies, but if she has any, I will babysit them. I need to know her. Please tell me she is as epically badass or better in the comics. Tell me what to read.

Cover of Jenny Sparks

Cover of Jenny Sparks

Also, I hear Thor is becoming a woman. (I had a great time explaining to B how the gender-swap is completely believable because Loki became a woman – well, mare – and even gave birth in the Norse myths.) Captain America is going to be black. Apparently, these two facts have greatly upset some of the least desirable denizens of the manosphere. The wretched tears of shattered menz taste like victory. I’ll be reading those stories once they’re in graphic novel form.

What else is out there? What are some of the best story arcs I’ve missed? Which graphic novels do you think every person on earth should read?

Talk comics to me, people!

Cover of Transmetropolitan: The New Scum

Cover of Transmetropolitan: The New Scum

The Trilogy That Will Wash Fifty Shades of Grey Away

Someday, I’ll tell you the story of how Fifty Shades of Grey murdered my libido in an adult store. I hated that series from the moment I heard of it. No, I didn’t have to read it to judge. It’s Twilight fan fiction that glorifies abusive relationships, people. On top of that, it’s atrociously writ. So fuck that.

And yet, despite the fact it murdered both my libido and my faith in the reading public, I have to be somewhat grateful for its existence. After all, it was in reading critical analyses of it that I learned quite a bit about actual BDSM, which has been liberating. It also taught me more about abusive relationships and how to avoid them. And… there’s the fact that one of the best romances I’ve ever read wouldn’t exist without it.

I generally can’t stand romance. Most of the ones I’d read, back when I bothered trying, were vapid, awful things filled with phrases like “his throbbing member.” The “hot” sex was generally introduced by a virgin getting raped, then spending the rest of the book falling in love with her rapist. When I worked for a bookstore, the assistant manager and I used to pull the returns from the romance section when we were starving but it was too early for lunch. Just reading the titles was guaranteed to kill our appetites for a few hours. I’ve spent the majority of my life thoroughly loathing romance, so it’s a little odd to be thoroughly loving a trilogy based on The Worst Romance of Our Time.

It’s Jenny Trout’s fault.

She wrote a thorough takedown of the FSOG trilogy. Somewhere in there, she also decided to jump in the inspired-by-FSOG pool, and show everyone how an actual champion can write. As Abigail Barnette, she wrote The Boss trilogy, which is basically the finest fuck-you to FSOG ever. It’s everything FSOG isn’t: scorching hot BDSM between a sophisticated billionaire and a smart, confident woman. It doesn’t get into extreme stuff, but it goes far enough to show how truly awful and fake the FSOG version of BDSM was. It’s also feminist. I am in love.

SPOILER ALERT: I’ll be reviewing these books in some detail. Stop here, download The Boss, and proceed with reading that if you want to find out what happens without me blurting a lot of it at you in advance.

Cover shows the torsos of a man and a woman in evening dress, sexily pressed against each other. Image is black and white.

The Boss Cover art.

The Boss starts off with Sophie Scaife, overworked PA to an incredibly demanding fashion magazine maven, discovering her boss has been tossed out. She won’t have to take the boss’s dog in for ear candling anymore. Yay! Her new boss, Neil Elwood, the billionaire who unexpectedly bought the magazine to eventually give to his ex-girlfriend and business partner, doesn’t have a dog. He does have a history – with Sophie. Yes, the new boss being the man she had a one-night stand with in a hotel room six years ago definitely complicates the transition.

After some misunderstandings and divesting of baggage, they resume their relationship. He’s in the throes of a divorce, so there are shenanigans in a very posh hotel room rather than his house. They go beyond the spanking and anal they’d engaged in before, and start exploring the delicious depravity of a great BDSM relationship. People, this is a book you need to get for all your FSOG-loving friends, right now, and you can get it for all of them because right now, it is free. It models what a good relationship should be:

  • Consensual (and believe me when I say consent makes it extra-sexy).
  • Respectful: Sophie and Neil respect each other’s boundaries, wishes, and careers. Safe: both in the no-abuse sense and the watch-out-for-STDs sense.
  • Caring: they take good care of each other, checking in and generally assuring the relationship and the hot sex within are good for both parties.

There’s conflict, of course: things like Neil deciding to make the magazine cruelty-free (which everyone else, Sophie included, is convinced will sink it); Sophie putting her career ahead of her fuck-buddy without being completely open about it, and the difficulties inherent in having sex with your boss. They work these things out via communication. Love happens. The Sophie gets pregnant, Neil gets sick, and they (briefly) break up.

SPOILER ALERT! Stop reading here if you don’t want to know about the rest of the trilogy, but would rather read it unspoiled.

Black and white image of a sexy woman wearing a man's white shirt and nothing else.

The Girlfriend cover art.

Never fear! Because it’s a trilogy, and you know they get back together. There’s no Sophomore Slump with The Girlfriend. In fact, in my opinion, it’s the best book of the series. How many romances start with an abortion? One during which neither partner wangsts, and guilt is not felt, and after which freedom from parenthood is enjoyed? They have to savor the brief time they have, because Neil has got leukemia, and it has come roaring out of remission.

And so Sophie decides she will move to England with him while it’s treated. They have a lovely Christmas. They go to Paris. They go to a BDSM dungeon there and have a blazing-hot three-way. They have a happy New Year. And then they go through hell, because cancer is horrible. Yet the book remains romantic and wonderful and sexy as hell. Including Neil directing the action as Sophie and Paris-three-way guy go all the way, since chemo has made it more difficult for Neil to perform, but he wants Sophie’s sex life to thrive, and they both have the hots for that dude.

The end of this book had me bawling, people, and I don’t tend to feel that way in romances. I mean, I was dissolved in total sad-happy tears, the kind of crying that only happens because you love these characters intensely and you know they may lose each other and yet even death isn’t going to end the romance, because they have convinced you it’s That Kind of Love.

SPOILER ALERT: Stop here etc. You know the routine by now.

Black and white image shows a man and woman kissing in bed.

The Bride cover art.

It’s not a supernatural trilogy, so you know Neil survives. Mark of a good author, though, is having you half-convinced he won’t.

The Bride is life-after-cancer, and mostly family drama. It didn’t really pick up for me until the last third, when Sophie lost her best friend due to having to rat her best friend’s soon-to-be wife out for corporate espionage. And the ex-girlfriend business partner nearly destroys happily-ever-after. I don’t want to give too much away. Just that the end had me punching the air and shouting “Yes!!” and budding with happiness and sexual satisfaction. Oh, and did I mention this series improved my sex life by 1000% and taught me how to masturbate better? It absolutely did.

You will find passion, kink, and plots within these pages, all of which were lacking in FSOG. You won’t find abuse of any kind masquerading as love. Sophie and Neil aren’t sad little codependent freaks: they’re accomplished, independent adults who are wild for each other, and work through their problems with open communication and couples’ therapy. If people want to pattern their lives on a fictional love story, burn their copy of FSOG and give them this trilogy instead.

Best. Alternative. Ever.

And Hollywood? I want these made into movies. You owe us after putting FSOG on the silver screen. Give us a groin-grinding feminist romance with fully-realized characters facing real-life trauma and drama for once. Give use role models worth modeling ourselves on. The world – and our love lives – will be better for it.

PS. The fourth book in the no-longer-a-trilogy-but-is-now-a-proper-series will be out soon! Read a preview chapter here, and I’ll update this post when ordering info is available. Or you could just read Jenny’s blog, which is worth doing anyway.

Why Am I Torturing Myself With Twilight?

Are you going to make it worse?

The reason I ask is because I’d got rather addicted to this Twilight sporking by Das Mervin. All right, so the homophobia and gendered slurs make me wince, and I wish she wasn’t so Catholic that she refrains from giving religious fuckery a good pounding when necessary, but I still couldn’t stop reading. I couldn’t stop even though I kept kicking myself over spending time with this when I had other things to do. I couldn’t stop even when I was screaming along with her at the sheer bloody awfulness of these books. I don’t even remember exactly how I got started – something about wanting to know a bit more about Twilight because of Fifty Shades, but not wanting to go through the agony of reading the actual books. I mean, I appreciate good books. Everyone I’ve ever loved and trusted have said these books are horrible, even the people who like them. They’ve told me enough about them for me to know I should never read them. I will end up like Mervin, tearing out my hair, doing other violence to myself, and screaming myself hoarse over the lack of plot, the horrific grammar, the awful storytelling, the abusive relationships, the g-rated rapes, and other awfulness I can glimpse only dimly through the protective glass others have placed between me and these books.

But…

I’m actually tempted to read them myself, just to see how horrific they really are.

Image shows a white and gray cat, sitting on a table with its paw on an open book, looking at the camera. Caption says, "Sparkly vampires? Why you read this crap?"

Alone and unshielded, I would read every damned word, and report my findings to you, so that you may laugh at my pain. But it’s only worth it if you want my impression of these things. Otherwise, I will set temptation aside, and aside from sporkings, never touch it again.

What do you think? Do you want me to do this? Do you have certain themes you want me to look for and expound upon? Would you like these books thoroughly savaged, even if you love them? Do you want me pointing out where she got the local geology laughably wrong? If you ask me, I will do this for you. Because I love you. But not like Edward loves Bella, because that’s just dysfunctional.

Image is an extreme close-up of a cat's face. Caption says, "Edward kitteh watchez you sleepz. You smell liek bacon."

Along the way, I’d be reading some better fiction, and giving you reviews of it as an antidote to Twilight. Also, we’ll take a trip to Forks, and poke around the local geology while we tip our hats to the locals’ ability to mine shit for gold. (I’ve been through Forks, once. They’ve branded everything with Twilight crap, and the fans apparently eat it up. We’ll see if everything’s still Twilight-branded now or if they’ve decided cash isn’t as crucial as dignity.)

So, what do you think? Want this done? I’ll do it under one condition: one of you will have to send me the books. I’m not going to buy the damned things. I don’t want you buying them for me, either. Stephenie Meyer has made enough money from this drivel. But if you’ve got copies haunting your house, and you haven’t wanted to take them to the used bookstore because you’re a better citizen than to release that tripe into the community, then let me know, and I’ll pay the shipping for you to send them to me.

We’ll mine their rich veins of fail.

Then I’ll figure out something useful to do with them. Perhaps turn them into pet bedding, or use their crumpled pages as packing material as I ship you the rocky trinkets you’ve ordered from the Etsy store I swear is coming soon and will probably be called Dana Hunter’s Gneiss Schist because I can’t bloody resist a geological pun. Or perhaps you’ll come up with an even better fate for them.

So let me know at dhunterauthor at gmail whether you want me to murder brain cells like this. And if you do, we’ll get started just after I finish setting up stores and bleaching my brain with some good fiction.

Also, if you wish to donate small amounts of cash for the copious amounts of alcohol it will take to survive this, or larger amounts for the diligent medical attention it will take to recover from the alcohol poisoning, feel free to make enthusiastic use of the donate button in the sidebar.