Five Billion Years of Solitude: The Search for Life among the Stars
Lee Billings
Current, 2013 ($27.95)

Exoplanets get all the headlines these days, but most planet hunters will tell you that the search for Earth-like worlds orbiting distant stars is just a step in the age-old quest to learn whether or not we are alone in the universe. In his compelling, wide-ranging survey, Billings steps back to look at this broader picture, largely through richly textured portraits of some of the giants of the field, including Frank Drake, inventor of SETI; Geoff Marcy, the world's most accomplished planet hunter; Jim Kasting, who literally wrote the book on what makes a world habitable; and Sara Seager, whose thinking is firmly rooted in the exoplanetology of the future. That's just the smallest sampling, however, of where Billings's extraordinary tale of scientific discovery will take you.