Summer reading: Illuminating our planet and paths toward sustainability

(Courtesy Stanford Earth)

This year’s informal survey of faculty at Stanford’s School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences (Stanford Earth) yielded suggestions for summer reading that may inspire curiosity about our planet, conversations about the way we live on it and fresh perspectives on a more sustainable future.

Here are 24 titles to consider as companions for a summer of uncertainty and a season of change. Whether you’re ready to dive into a story of how pandemics begin, a memoir dealing with the intertwining of environmentalism and social justice, a sci-fi novel, a scientist’s journey of discovery or a collection of poetry, there’s a title for you.

JONATHAN PAYNE, professor of geological sciences: Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic by David Quammen. “Quammen is one of our best science writers and in 2012 he wrote a book that now appears eerily prescient,” said Payne. “It addresses how viruses can jump from non-human species into humans and potentially lead to pandemics. It combines clear explanation of the biology with Quammen’s own travel experiences to places where spillovers have occurred.”

JANE WILLENBRING, associate professor of geological sciences: Superior: The Return of Race Science by Angela Saini. “It is a beautifully written, timely reminder that the human race is a social construct – not a concept supported by scientific research of racial differences,” said Willenbring.

SONIA TIKOO-SCHANTZ, assistant professor of geophysics: Close Encounters with Humankind: A Paleoanthropologist Investigates Our Evolving Species by Sang-Hee Lee with Shin-Young Yoon. “This book is the perfect read for anyone who has ever wondered how modern humans evolved, and why we ended up with the characteristics we have that distinguish us from other animals,” said Tikoo-Schantz. “In particular, I enjoyed learning about hominins discovered in Asia and the emerging multiregional theory for human origins.”

Read the full recommended reading list on the Stanford Earth website.