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.

Why Everyday Sexism Matters: A Personal Tale

Culture taught me to ignore women.

I wouldn’t have put it that way, back in the day. I’d have told you that the reason I didn’t read many female authors or didn’t know about many female scientists or like many female artists or musicians was because they just weren’t as good. I’d point defensively to the few women on my shelves or in my CD collection and say, look! I’m not prejudiced or anything, I’ve got women there, it’s just that there aren’t that many doing stuff I like.

Sound familiar? It’s the cry of every dudebro and unique-chick™ out there.

I didn’t realize I was blind to the thousands of women out there who were writing stuff I loved, creating art and music that kicked the shit out of the majority of bands I listened to, who were doing incredible science. I didn’t know society was conspiring to keep them hidden from me. I just didn’t think they existed. I didn’t think to look. And even when I saw them, I almost always had a knee-jerk response to the female name: this probably won’t be any good.

I’m remembering what it was like before the feminists came along and pried my eyes open. I’m going back through my blog archives right now, and I’m horrified by what I’m seeing. Five years ago, if I made a list of really influential scientists, chances are there wouldn’t be a woman among them. If I made a list of popular science books, it would probably include just male authors. Sci-fi and fantasy lists: overwhelmingly men, with a few women sprinkled sparingly in. By that time, I’d gotten over the women-can’t-do-metal attitude, and most of the bands I listened to included female vocalists, sometimes even women playing instruments, and I’d learned I was wrong to knee-jerk dismiss bands simply because they had females in them. Small consolation to the women in everything else I ignored because women automatically suck at x, so why bother?

Image shows a woman from the cartoon series Pokemon, with a building that has a sign saying "PMS" in the background. Caption says, "The one episode of Pokemon that has to do with women, Jessie and Misty shop a ton, fight like there's no tomorrow, and it clearly says "PMS" on that building."

Another fine example of unthinking sexism.

Yet I believed that women should be treated equally. I just didn’t think they measured up. The ones who did would of course succeed, because we’d done away with all the legal barriers and people all knew women could do stuff, right?

That’s what so insidious about this cultural messaging around us. On the one hand, we’re allowed to believe the problem is solved the instant there are laws against discrimination. Hey, look, we’ve got the vote, and people aren’t allowed to refuse to hire us cuz we might get preggers! Woo-hoo, equality! If you fail now, it’s your own fault!

On the other hand, we have a culture that tells us, from birth to death, what women are for. And it tells female people with ladybrainz that they’re not for science and math. They’re not for serious literature or groundbreaking SF. They’re not for leadership. Sure, there are women who can do all those things, no one denies it: they’re just unique-chicks™ who have dudely brains. They’re special.

That was a toxic, yet heady, brewski. Here I was, bathed in legal equality, and additionally, I was one of the unique-chicks™ who could, with effort, break into the dudebro spaces, because I wasn’t one of Those Girls. I wasn’t one of those terrible women who are womanly and boring, useful only for womanly things, which don’t get me wrong are totally important! Just not as awesome as the dudely things. I mean, how much effort does it really take to endure nine months of various medical problems plus someone’s feet in your bladder, then force an entire person out through a small opening, then raise that squalling, screaming, shitting bundle of supposed joy while also cleaning, cooking, running errands, and doing a cake job, like teaching dozens of selfish young fiends how to be good citizens and also read, write, and do maths? Totally easy compared to writing the Great American Novel or designing an MP3 player. Get back to me when you’re doing something important.

The casual contempt of women wasn’t intentional. It was just what we absorbed, along with the notion that women who didn’t like sex were prudes, women who did like sex were sluts, and rape victims should’ve been wearing longer skirts. And gawd, women sucked, right? They couldn’t throw a ball. They were so obsessed with hair-clothes-boys you couldn’t have a real conversation with them. When they wrote stuff, it was soft and domestic and full of icky feelings. When they did science, it was probably going to be squishy stuff, like sociology or something. She’s not pretty enough/she’s too ugly to listen to. On and on and on…

These things are held forth as truths: women are more emotional than men. They’re more into relationships. They’re softer, sweeter, less intellectual. They’re physically weaker. They’re more interested in babies. They’re all sorts of things, obviously, it’s biology, maaan. And those messages are a self-fulfilling prophecy. We’re told to see women that way all our lives, so we do. I couldn’t see women any other way. And that meant I didn’t see a lot of women.

Not until I fell in by accident with a few feminists, both women and men, who told me to actually look. Look for the women who are already there, the ones you dismissed without honestly assessing their work, the ones you couldn’t even see because this culture ensured the men were given top billing. Look beyond the assumptions as to why there are fewer women. Look beyond that easy it’s-just-the-way-things-are narrative and find out if maybe, just possibly, there are other reasons why so many women are rare or absent in certain areas.

I found women doing extraordinary work, everywhere. Women who had been completely overlooked because people like me automatically dismissed them, didn’t even think to see if they were there and, if so, doing anything interesting.

I saw the things making them invisible.

I saw that the work they did, that I held in such contempt, was difficult and important and mattered.

I found out I’m not a unique-chick™. I was just being an oblivious asshole, like nearly everyone else.

This is why things like casual sexism matter. No one would give a rat’s ass about a shirt full of half-nekkid women or describing a piece of equipment as a woman you’re trying to bed if women were fully equal and represented. In another culture, that would just be quirky stuff. But not in this climate. In our culture, it’s another brick, more mortar, in the wall that keeps women out of certain fields. It’s part of the smokescreen that keeps women out of the public view as professionals worth taking seriously. It doesn’t matter that the people doing or defending it don’t realize that’s the impact they’re having, and don’t intend for it to be that way.

I didn’t intend to ignore women’s contributions to science, but I did. And part of the reason I did that was because ten thousand tiny messages told me that women were more objects than people, not worth considering unless they were really-really extraordinary. Messages often delivered by people who wouldn’t dream of telling women they were less-than people. But all of those messages, combined, say that women are, indeed, less-than. They have the result of turning women’s accomplishments invisible unless they fall within a narrow spectrum of “things women do.” They depreciate the worth of those “things women do” because, hey, if women can do them…

Image is a page from the Barbie book "I Can Be a Computer Engineer." Barbie is in a computer lab with two guys. She's holding up a disc. Text bubble says, "'It will go faster if Brian and I help,' offers Steven. 'Great!' says Barbie. 'Steven, can you hook Skipper's hard drive up to the library's computer?' 'Sure!' says Steven. 'The library computer has excellent security software to protect it.'"

Another unlovely example of subconscious sexism at work. The author says “it’s possible stuff slipped out.” Ya think?! Image from Pamela Ribon’s excellent smackdown. Click the image for her post.

We’ve got to be more careful of the messages we’re sending. We’ve got to be more aware of our bias, even when we believe we aren’t biased. We have to question those lazy assumptions handed down as unquestioned fact.

We have to do better.


The same image as the previous one. The text bubble has been reformatted to say, "This is the last time I'm giving you boys this anti-virus install. Next time you bork your machine by browsing porn sites with IE as an admin, you're on your own."

This is what could have been – and an idea of how it should be. Image from I Can Haz Cheeseburger.

Dana’s Super-Awesome Mount St. Helens Field Trip Guide V: Johnston Ridge

After leaving Coldwater Lake and the Hummocks, you’ll wend your way out of the North Fork Toutle River valley. Vegetation is trying its best to return. In the spring and summer, groves of slender young trees shake green leaves at you, reminding you that life here in the Pacific Northwest can be temporarily routed, but never conquered.

Still, the flanks of the ridges are virtually naked. The volcanic history of this region lies stripped and exposed, In places, bits of Mount St. Helens’s modern cone are smeared and plastered on those ridges. A red waterfall cascades down stark, dissected slopes in the distance. Stumps of grand old trees form a gray stubble. In places, logs lay straight and still. They mark the direction of the cataclysmic lateral blast.

View of ridges and red waterfall from Johnston Ridge.

View of ridges and red waterfall from Johnston Ridge.

This is a silent, solemn road for me. As ecstatic as I get over the wonderful fresh geology, I can’t forget I’m on my way to the place where David Johnston died.

If you’re able to walk a reasonable distance, you’ll be parking in the main lot, behind the crest of the ridge. Look closely at the pavement. They’re fading now, since Mount St. Helens stopped spitting hot pyroclastics all over the place, but you can still find rusty little scorch marks here and there. The lot was heavily pocked with them when I first visited with my friend Victoria in 2007. They made us realize the volcano wasn’t so sleepy as we’d supposed, and question the wisdom of coming there in a cloth-top convertible.

Scorch mark in the pavement at Johnston Ridge Observatory.

Scorch mark in the pavement at Johnston Ridge Observatory.

At the far end of the lot, there’s a trail up the ridge. Take that long way round to the visitor’s center. You won’t see St. Helens just yet. It’s a good time to study the devastated area without her as a distraction. This is a remarkable place for the west side of the Cascades. I’m calling it volcanic desertification. Woods and streams and all of that lush, wet wildland became an instant desert when the mountain blew. Being from Arizona, this feels like home to me: the dry dirt and rock crunching underfoot, the stunted trees, the little plants clinging to the ground, determined to hang in there despite the odds. But this is a young desert, ephemeral: the pyroclastic sands will be turned into soils soon enough, as venerable old forests once again take over from the temperamental fire mountain that destroyed them.

If you look to the east, you’ll see the round white top of Mount Adams peering over the shoulder of a ridge. This is a brother to Mount St. Helens, born of the same subduction zone. Climbers on Adams watched her empty her interior to the north; someday, climbers here will watch Adams put on a similar show.

Our girl will soon reveal a shoulder as you ascend Dave Johnston’s ridge. She begins by looking like a fragment of a jagged mountain range. Then, gradually, the whole of her comes into view. She used to be lovely and round, sleek, snow-covered, like Adams. Her flanks are once again mantled in white, but this is veiled in gray. Listen: you may hear the rocks fall from those stark, steep crater walls. You may see a plume of dust rise. This is the place for these things.

You top the ridge, and stop, because she is titanic.

View of Mount St. Helens's gigantic crater and lava dome. If you look veryvery closely, you'll see a helicopter for scale.

View of Mount St. Helens’s gigantic crater and lava dome. If you look veryvery closely, you’ll see a helicopter for scale.

Nothing quite prepares you for that first instant, when you are staring directly into her enormous open crater. You’re practically eye-to-eye with it. Only 5.5 miles (8.85 km) across the valley, the mountain commands your attention. Can you imagine standing here, watching her symmetrical summit roar into the river valley, watching her heart blast out, straight at you?

On a clear day, in this place, you will see past, present, and future.

Past. First, let’s look at missing time. Have a glance at the plump round top of Adams, off to your left: you can get an idea of what his sister was before those catastrophic May morning minutes. You see that St. Helens is truncated, her top sliced off in a neat horizontal line, her insides hollowed. Quite a bit of her history, the effort of nearly three thousand years of summit-building, ended up spread all over the valley at your feet. Only a shell remains.

Look for Sugar Bowl Dome, which survived the May 1980 eruption.

Northeast crater wall above Sugar Bowl, Mount St. Helens with annotated deposits from some of the Spirit Lake Stage eruptive periods. Image and caption courtesy USGS.

Northeast crater wall above Sugar Bowl, Mount St. Helens with annotated deposits from some of the Spirit Lake Stage eruptive periods. Image and caption courtesy USGS.

You’ll see much of her eruptive history on display here. Fragments of andesite from the time when Europeans were just beginning to exploit Columbus’s “discovery” of America survived. So did various volcanic products of much earlier ages, going back nearly three thousand years.

But it’s the more recent past that grabs you by the lapels and demands you pay attention. There’s the obvious great bloody hole in the mountain, for starters. There are mounds left by the debris avalanche, bits that didn’t make it down-valley. And there’s that extraordinary, smooth ram extending like an excessively long cravat from the lowest point of the crater rim all the way to the river valley below. This is the Pumice Plain, formed by pyroclastic flows barreling down the breach and heading north. They stopped a mere half-mile (.8 km) from here. You can see, below you, that the lumpy-bumpy hummocks terrain of the debris avalanche has been somewhat smoothed by pyroclastic flow and ash-cloud deposits. Lahars contributed to smoothing things over. And if you look closely, you’ll see pits caused by phreatic eruptions in the deposit.

Present. Time marches on; heedless of volcanic eruptions, it continues, relentless. You can see its work here, in the gullies, carved by water, incising the volcanic deposits. The North Fork Toutle River has excavated terraces in the debris avalanche and Pumice Plain. Wind blows the fine volcanic materials, shifting and shaping. Plants are getting their own back, beginning to green barren slopes.

Mount St. Helens and the Toutle River Valley from Johnston Ridge.

Mount St. Helens and the Toutle River Valley from Johnston Ridge.

Look up: a plume of dust may be rising from a rock fall in the crater walls. Gravity is tugging mercilessly on those over-steepened bits, aided by cold frost action and frequent rainfall.

Look in: there’s the dome, building on and off since the early 1980s. This is the present: pulses of magma slowly, fitfully, building the cone once more. And here, you see:

Future. The mountain goes ever on. She’s not finished, not by half. That dome will continue to grow. I’ll bet my aged cat, whom I love with unwarranted fierceness, that she’ll erupt again within the lifetimes of some of those reading.* We probably won’t see a replay of that extraordinary May 18th paroxysm: she’ll need a long time to build before that. She won’t achieve that smoothly-rounded summit in our short span. But she will, once again, present a serenely-snowcapped summit to your descendants, putting them in mind of ice cream cones. They’ll spend many peaceful hours exploring her noble old-growth forests. They’ll scramble over the rocks left behind by this 20th century episode. And one day, there will be an earthquake.

The cycle will begin again.


Continue on the path west, toward the visitor’s center. Pause at the granite monument to the victims of the May 18th eruption. Take a moment to read their names. Geologists, monitors, reporters, loggers, visitors are united here. And we remember. They’re more than letters carved into stone.

Mount St. Helens and monument.

Mount St. Helens and monument.

You’ll pass downed trees and shattered stumps, chunks of rock, and spectacular views of mountain and valley. It’s not a long walk before you reach the beautiful Johnston Ridge Observatory. If you’ve made good time and arrived while it’s open, head on inside. You can play with a gigantic topographic model of St. Helens and her environs that tells the stories of the May 18th eruption with thousands of colorful lights. You can see the areas impacted by the lateral blast, the debris avalanche, lahars, and other aspects of the eruption. Excellent movies play in the theater, with a phenomenal reveal of the mountain when the curtain goes up. Interactive exhibits let you feel what the seismometers learn from the shaking ground. You’ll learn what distinguishes different volcanic rocks created by St. Helens, and in one particularly notable display, show you the eruption-blasted trunk of an enormous old tree. The bark on only one side is particularly striking. If you’re there for one of the rangers’ talks, be sure to have a listen. You never know what might happen: she erupted beautifully (and safely!) during one.

Ranger holding a photo of Mount St. Helens, erupting during another ranger's talk.

Ranger holding a photo of Mount St. Helens, erupting during another ranger’s talk.

The JRO is a working observatory, not just a visitor’s center. They’ll be there to warn us when St. Helens awakens again. They’ll watch, as David Johnston watched, from the same ridge. Because of them, we can live relatively safely beside “one of the most active and most explosive volcanoes in the Cascade Range.”

Give them some love.

Bid our dangerous beauty a final adieu.

Then prepare your tummy for our final stop…


*The volcano, not the cat. Although I’m positive my cat will also erupt again, and rather more frequently than St. Helens.

Previous: Dana’s Super-Awesome Mount St. Helens Field Trip Guide IV: Hummocks Trail

Next: Dana’s Super-Awesome Mount St. Helens Field Trip Guide VI: Patty’s Place at 19 Mile House


Burns, Scott (2011): Field Guide to Mt. St. Helens north. Portland State University.

Decker, Barbara and Robert (2002): Road Guide to Mount St. Helens (Updated Edition). Double Decker Press.

Doukas, Michael P. (1990): Road Guide to Volcanic Deposits of Mount St. Helens and Vicinity, Washington. USGS Bulletin 1859.

Pringle, Patrick T. (2002): Roadside Geology of Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument and Vicinity. Washington DNR Information Circular 88.

Holy Schist! Dana Hunter’s Gneiss Schist is Open!

It’s here! It’s finally here! Dana Hunter’s Gneiss Schist is open for bidness on Etsy!

There, you’ll find some awesome Gnaughty and Gneiss gifties for rock lovers. A sample of anthracite coal from Pennsylvania and a bit of orthogneiss from the Skagit Gneiss Complex will surely delight anyone who loves rocks and puns.

An example of our own awesome Gnaughty and Gneiss cards.

An example of our own awesome Gnaughty and Gneiss cards.

But the most special gift in the store is the Holy Schist, blessed by your own Right Irreverand Dana Hunter, in her very own kitchen, after she hand-collected it for you from the Cascades.

Image shows me dressed as a pirate, waving a collander full of schist over a pot full of pasta.

The blessing o’ the schist.

I’ve got several pieces in small and medium sizes up on Etsy, but I saved the best one for you, my darlings.

Image shows a piece of garnet schist in a small jewel box, with a Holy Schist label on the lid.

The holiest of holy schist.

Most of the garnet schist I have has tiny garnets. This one has a much larger one. Not a perfect one, by any means, but lovely and sorta large, just the thing for folks who loves them some garnet schist.

Image shows the schist out of the box.

The schist up close.

I’m reserving this one at a special price for cantina patrons only: $5, no shipping or handling. If any of you wish it to be yours, email me at dhunterauthor@gmail.com. UPDATE: This piece has been claimed, but there are plenty of wonderful pieces with guaranteed garnets available at the store. Get ‘em before they’re gone!

Please be sure to share the link to the store far and wide. The more successful this enterprise is, the better the chances I’ll be able to write you the books you’ve been demanding within our lifetimes.

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


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.

Back to contents



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.

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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

Dear Richard Dawkins & Co.: Please Look In This Mirror

Kengi’s holding it up for you. Have a good, long look:

Dear Atheist Political Prisoner

Stop whining, will you. Yes, yes, I know you were expelled from your homeland, and . . . yawn . . . don’t tell me yet again, I know you aren’t allowed to write a blog post without the police arresting you, and you can’t leave the house without being killed by angry theist mobs, and your family is allowed to beat you, and you’ll be stoned to death if you set up a website. But stop whining, will you. Think of the suffering your poor British brothers have to put up with.

Only this week I heard of one, he calls himself a “Horsemen of the Non-Apocalypse”, and do you know what happened to him? Some people openly criticized something he said. I am not exaggerating. They really did. They were critical of his comments. Of course he was able to get his rebuttal published in major news sources, and of course he didn’t lose his job or speaking engagements or anything, but even so . . . He feels “muzzled!”

And you, Political Prisoner, think you have speech freedoms to complain about! For goodness sake grow up, or at least grow a thicker skin.

Stings a little to have your own attitude reflected back on you, dunnit?

Image shows a cat with its butt against a mirror. Caption says, "Halp! Mai evil twin has got me by tha butt!"

I just want you to remember this moment the next time you expect some sympathy from me for one of your Very Important Problems. I shall have to direct your attention to Those In Other Countries Who Have It So Very Much Worse So Shut Up About the Things That Harm You. You should be happy – after all, one leads by example, and that’s the example you’ve set. I, lowly woman who has too much of an Estrogen Vibe™ to be a Thought Leader™, can only follow your shining example.

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.

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Back to Part I.
Continue to Part III.

Mystery Flora: Sweetest Bud

How’s everyone? Are my American readers enjoying their weather? I hear most of ya’ll are freezing. Here in Seattle, it’s dark and dreary. Even if you’re in a happier hemisphere, I’ll bet you’d be down with some flowers. Happily, I have some very sweet buds from western Oregon for ye.

Image shows a mossy scene with wee purple buds growing from it.

Mystery Flora I

These tiny delights were gracing the trailside at Proxy Falls, Oregon. I was a little surprised – it was early October, not exactly a notable time for new flowers in the Cascades. I’m wondering if these are super-late bloomers or if they’re confused due to anthropogenic climate change. If ya’ll can figure out what they are from buds and leaves, then we’ll know. Yay, knowledge!

A closer view of the same buds. The leaves are narrow and smooth: the buds are ridged.

Mystery flora II

Shakespeare once wrote that “loathsome canker lives in sweetest bud,” but I don’t think these buds have got anything like that going on. They seem absolutely perfect.

Crop of the previous image, showing the buds more clearly.

Mystery flora III

I’ve mentioned before how much I love the Pacific Northwest for both its geology and its flora. It’s awesome to have flowers going on nearly year-round.

Same buds viewed from the top.

Mystery Flora IV

I hope these little lovelies have brightened your day, my darlings.

Gnaughty or Gneiss Cards Are On Sale Today! For Cheap!

Zazzle’s having a maclargehuge Black Friday sale thingy today. If you were thinking of grabbing some of these beauties:

Image shows a cartoon Santa head, looking pensive. Santa's hat has a rock hammer on the white brim. Thought bubble says, "Gonna find out who's..."

Geologist Santa card cover.


Image is a photo of a lump of coal and a piece of gneiss. They've been filtered as a watercolor. Caption says, "Gnaughty or gneiss."

Card Interior.

Now’s the time – they’re only $1.47 per card right now. Gneiss! If you have any geologists, rock hounds, or people with really odd nerdy senses of humor on your list, you should totally pick one up for them. Especially if you plan on getting them a gift card to some place. A gift card inside a funny greeting card is always a hit.

This is a Black Friday only sale they’ve got going on, but if you miss this one, I’ll be keeping you informed of any others. I get about seventy thousand emails a day from Zazzle telling me what’s on sale, and I’m sure they’ll have another discount on cards, just probably not quite this deep.

If you have any ideas for designs you want me to whip up, ask away! I should either have my old machine up and running soon, or have a brand new one, so I’ll have that gorgeous graphic design capability back, and can create you a little something in time for the holidays. Also, keep an eye on this space: I should have some extra-special gifties on sale by Monday, as long as no other electronics decide to die round here. I’ll give you dibs, my darlings, and special pricing, too!

For those of you trying to avoid all mention of Black Friday, I’m so sorry. Please return to solidly ignoring the whole sordid affair, with my sympathies.

It’s a Moider! Moider, I Tells Ya!

Actually, it’s a double-feature! We’ve also got Blue Heron Noir. Stay tuned after the film!

B brought turkey over for Thanksgiving. He arrived just at dusk (which is 4 bloody 30 in the pee-em at this time of year), which is when the local crows begin gathering before they head off to roost. The roads, trees, and ball fields begin looking like an Alfred Hitchcock film. B’s never seen quite so many at once, so he came bouncing in wanting to go walk with corvids. I was totally down with that.

So we headed down to the creek, where clouds of corvids flew overhead, and turned the trees black.

Image shows a few crows clinging to the tops of poplar trees.

They even flock to poplar trees, although the branches are super-skinny and it’s really hard to get a grip.

They also fill the ball fields. Alas, it was so close to dark, it was hard to get a good shot, but we tried.

Image shows a baseball field with a murder of crows upon it.

I don’t think they’re playing ball…

We gotcha enough footage for a wee video. It’ll give you some small idea of what it’s like to be walking down a path between trees full of hundreds of cackling crows. The sound is just overwhelming, and the motion as they wheel overhead is exhilarating. It can either scare the shit out of you, or it can make you feel like you’re a little kid again, and leave you nearly screaming in delight.

We might’ve gotten you more clouds of crows if we’d been brave enough to actually agitate them, but we’re not planning on moving away any time soon, and corvids tend to remember people who annoy them. We like to stay on their good side.

After filming our moiderous film, we finished a fairly brisk walk along the creek, and found ourselves coming back in the dark. The ducks had gone to bed. But we heard a rather large-sounding rustle on the riverbank, and a bit of a splash. There wasn’t quite enough light to make out what it was, but B suspected a blue heron. Since blue herons and ducks aren’t reputed to hold grudges against people who piss them off, I decided to risk a wee bit o’ flash photography. I pointed the flash away from the UFD, so as not to interrupt it too badly, and took a chance.

Image shows a vaguely-illuminated heron standing in the creek.

Heron Noir

Blue herons are badass. This one didn’t even twitch. It gave precisely zero shits. I had no idea their eyes reflect like that, but I suppose if they’re out fishing at night, it makes sense they’ve got something to make their night vision better. Is it a tapetum lucidum? My google-fu was inadequate to the task of determining for certain. Perhaps one of you know – ya’ll are better at birds than I am.

I’m arse-deep in books to review, B and I will be working on some fun little geologically-themed gifties for the holidays, and I may brave the crowd at Staples later and see if they have any nifty desktops at a price I can afford. I’ll probably return. Probably.