If the very subject of science suggests to you the sort of serious reading that rules out pure entertainment, let me offer a corrective in the form of some marvelous new books that not only celebrate science (and scientists) but are also highly accessible and fun.
Let’s begin at the literal beginning, with “A (Very) Short History of Life on Earth: 4.6 Billion Years in 12 Pithy Chapters,” by Henry Gee, a British paleontologist and senior editor of the Rolls- Royce of science journals, Nature. The saga actually begins almost 14 billion years ago, when almost nothing became a whole lot of something; that something coalesced eventually into us and everything around us. “The earliest living things were no more than scummy membranes across microscopic gaps in rocks.” If you don’t know about the Great Oxidation Event, here’s your chance. And if you never learned that “life on Earth was forged in fire, [and] hardened in ice,” this, too, is for you.