Explore the far corners of the natural world in five new books, where you’ll find fascinations ranging from the remnants of a supernova to killer whales kicking up white spray in the Atlantic.
How do we see our universe? The answer to this question continually changes as science marches forward, which the gorgeous, thought-provoking Universe: Exploring the Astronomical World thoroughly illustrates. Universe pairs 300 images from art and science, selected by a panel of astronomers, curators, astrophysicists and art historians. A photograph of Buzz Aldrin’s footprint on the moon occupies a spread alongside Andy Warhol’s stylized screen print of Aldrin in his space suit next to the American flag. Vincent Van Gogh’s “The Starry Night” is coupled with a luminous 2015 print that re-creates a picture of the cosmos in pigment and gold.
The images are bold, beautiful and intriguing, drawn from a tremendous range of sources, including an image painted around 15,000 B.C. in France’s Lascaux Cave, thought to be one of the earliest celestial maps; an Infinity Mirrored Room by Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama; and the “First Moon Flights” Club Card issued by Pan Am Airways in 1968.
Universe is an imaginative, informative and unexpected cosmic journey.
STORIES OF THE STARS
Discover the wonders of the night in What We See in the Stars: An Illustrated Tour of the Night Sky. Naturalist illustrator Kelsey Oseid has created a delightful compendium of constellations, celestial bodies, asteroids, deep space and more. What We See is a handy reference guide for all ages with its brief, clear explanations that combine mythology with modern science.
There are sections devoted to Ptolemy’s constellations as well as “modern” constellations such as Microscopium (the microscope), Fornax (the furnace) and Tucana (the toucan). Did you know that shadows cast on the moon are much darker than those cast on earth? Or that Mercury has craters named after Duke Ellington and Van Gogh, while Mars has a crater named after “Star Trek” creator Gene Roddenberry?
Oseid’s luminous illustrations act as eye-catching anchors on each page, in hues of black, slate blue and white that remind readers of the mysteries of the night sky.
ALL THOSE WHO WANDER
We’ve come a long way from the days when John James Audubon tied threads to the legs of birds to prove that certain ones returned to his farm year after year. As geographer James Cheshire and designer Oliver Uberti explain in their fascinating collaboration, Where the Animals Go: Tracking Wildlife with Technology in 50 Maps and Graphics, today’s scientists can rely on any number of innovations, including radio, satellite and GPS to track animals.
Not only does Cheshire and Uberti’s book contain gorgeous graphics (maps of sea turtles swimming through the seas, Burmese pythons slithering through the Everglades, geese migrating over the Himalayas), it also presents an amazing series of stories to accompany their maps. Who can resist tales like “The Elephant Who Texted for Help,” “The Jaguars Taking Selfies” or “The Wolf Who Traversed the Alps”?
Whether you’re a lover of data, animals or informatics, you’ll soon find yourself caught up in this wonderful book.
LOVELY, DARK AND DEEP
If you’re in the mood for some armchair forest viewing, cozy up with The Living Forest: A Visual Journey into the Heart of the Woods, written by Joan Maloof and exquisitely photographed by Robert Llewellyn. Leaf through this book and you’ll be transported to a world of soaring branches, misty mountains and a treasury of living things that includes acorns, fungi, eagles, coyotes, snakes and millipedes.
Moving from the canopy to the ground, Maloof, who founded the Old-Growth Forest Network, writes eloquent essays that read like personal tours, concentrating on both the scientific and the spiritual. As she concludes, “The forest offers beauty and poetry to those who are open to it, perhaps waiting in silence for it to appear. It feels like a shift of the heart, like falling in love.”
OFF THE MAP
Islands have long fascinated travel writer Malachy Tallack, who grew up on Scotland’s Shetland Islands and edits The Island Review. He takes readers on a journey to isles real and imagined in The Un-Discovered Islands: An Archipelago of Myths and Mysteries, Phantoms and Fakes. This unusual travelogue, full of history and stories, is illustrated with fanciful creations by noted botanical illustrator Katie Scott.
There’s a section on Atlantis, of course, and many other mythical kingdoms that you’ve likely never heard of, such as the “fraudulent” island of Javasu, which a strange woman who called herself Caraboo claimed to have come from when she appeared on the doorstep of an English village home in 1817, wearing a turban and speaking unrecognizable words. (Turns out she was an imposter named Mary Willcocks.)
Even in our modern age of satellites and GPS, mysteries like Sandy Island, noted in 2012 on maps and Google Earth as being near New Caledonia, still crop up. In fact, the island doesn’t exist, and was simply an error that had persisted since a supposed sighting in 1876.
Sit back and prepare to pleasantly lose yourself.