Best Science & Technology of 2023

The best science and technology titles of 2023 entice, educate, and entertain readers. These books are a mixture of dirt, delight, and a demand for change.


Crowther, Kathleen M. Policing Pregnant Bodies: From Ancient Greece to Post-Roe America. Johns Hopkins Univ. ISBN 9781421447636.

Historian Crowther’s timely title, a powerful call to action, explains the link between politics and the pregnant body. She traces the history of abortion, and she doesn’t sugarcoat her research findings that men of ancient times considered a fetus to be of significant importance, while they viewed the person carrying it as merely a vessel. Her book shows how early laws led to contemporary ones and how that affects miscarriages and maternal mortality.

Dungy, Camille T. Soil: The Story of a Black Mother’s Garden. S. & S. ISBN 9781982195304.

Dungy’s touching reflections on her life and heritage are intertwined with her vivid descriptions of her garden in Fort Collins, CO, and it’s the latter that drives the commentary and themes of restrictions, resistance, and revelation. Dungy’s poetic verve is displayed on every page as she centers environmental justice and urges readers to understand the rich value of one’s roots and their grounding effect.

Funk, McKenzie. The Hank Show: How a House-Painting, Drug-Running DEA Informant Built the Machine That Rules Our Lives. St. Martin’s. ISBN 9781250209276.

Big data is a big deal in award-winning journalist Funk’s engaging and astonishing tale. The book reads like a thriller as Hank Asher goes from being a pilot who helped smuggle drugs, to a DEA informant, to a billionaire computer programmer who created surveillance and tracking databases for governments, businesses, and law enforcement. Superior storytelling mixed with a refreshing ability to report without judging.

Mathevon, Nicolas. The Voices of Nature: How and Why Animals Communicate. Princeton Univ. ISBN 9780691236759.

Animal behavior expert and neuroscientist Mathevon’s first book is delightful. He explores how animals communicate with each other utilizing their own languages, describing in fascinating detail the way mammals and birds learn to vocalize and signal distress, desire for a mate, and more. Some can even converse underwater. This book is a definitive guide to animal sounds that will make readers better listeners too.

McKee, Guian A. Hospital City, Health Care Nation: Race, Capital, and the Costs of American Health Care. Univ. of Pennsylvania. ISBN 9781512823936.

McKee uses Johns Hopkins Hospital as a case study to thoroughly discuss health care spending and its consequences. His examination probes all angles, from the vitality of health institutions themselves and the economic and social impact on the communities they serve to racial disparities and restraints on reform. Extensive endnotes full of useful resources round out this thought-provoking and highly informative work.

Mistry, Rekha. Rekha’s Kitchen Garden: Seasonal Produce and Homegrown Wisdom from a Year in One Gardener’s Plot. DK. ISBN 9780744069617.

Mistry, known for allotment gardening and her experimental approach to growing vegetables, highlights her knowledge and skill in this beautifully photographed and charmingly illustrated guide to growing 40 fruits and vegetables, from apples to zucchini. She provides information on a variety of picks; instructions for sowing, planting, and harvesting; and tips on crop rotation and organic practices. Throughout, Mistry’s tone is companionable, expert, and can-do.

Oppenheimer, Clive. Mountains of Fire: The Menace, Meaning, and Magic of Volcanoes. Univ. of Chicago. ISBN 9780226826349.

Volcanologist Oppenheimer takes readers to the world’s active volcanoes, making stops in Antarctica, Iceland, the Sahara Desert, and North Korea, and noting characteristics, sensory details, and local cultural, political, and economic aspects and beliefs. This magnificent guide offers stories about his adventures, research observations, and science—including volcanoes’ link to climate and environmental changes—conveyed in memorable prose.

Yellowstone’s Birds: Diversity and Abundance in the World’s First National Park. Princeton Univ. ed. by Douglas W. Smith & others. ISBN 9780691217833.

Readers don’t need to be birdwatchers to appreciate this enchanting and accessible title, set in the oldest national park in the United States, home to more than 200 bird species. A dazzling array of anecdotes, scientific and historical facts, and infographics about these birds, contributed by more than 30 wildlife biologists and ornithologists, make it a grand cover-to-cover read and an outstanding ready reference—topped off with plentiful photographs.

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