The Truth About Animals: Stoned Sloths, Lovelorn Hippos, and Other Tales from the Wild Side of Wildlife
by Lucy Cooke.
Basic Books, 2018 ($28)

Aristotle thought eels were spontaneously produced by mud, and 17th-century Europeans believed ostriches could digest iron. Filmmaker Cooke, who has a background in zoology, sifts through some of the most egregious myths about the animal kingdom and sets the record straight. In her quest for the facts, she watches panda porn, narrowly escapes a pack of hyenas and stalks drunken moose. She is especially eloquent in defending her beloved sloth, which she calls “one of the world's most misunderstood creatures,” unfairly maligned as indolent and lazy when it actually efficiently makes use of its available resources. Cooke, founder of the Sloth Appreciation Society, raises the profile of many poorly understood animals, revealing surprising, and often hilarious, truths that are much better than the fictions. —Clara Moskowitz

Chasing New Horizons: Inside the Epic First Mission to Pluto
by Alan Stern and David Grinspoon.
Picador, 2018 ($28)

On July 14, 2015, after a journey of more than three billion miles, NASA's New Horizons spacecraft flew by Pluto, beaming back astounding images of cryogenic geology and completing a robotic reconnaissance of the solar system that began more than half a century ago. Far from being an inert snowball, Pluto proved to be an active world of mountains, glaciers and perhaps even a subsurface liquid-water ocean. Stern, the mission's principal investigator, collaborated with Grinspoon, an astrobiologist, to deliver a spellbinding insider's account of New Horizons's long journey to Pluto, its important results and what comes next in exploring the solar system's last frontier. —Lee Billings

The Order of Time
by Carlo Rovelli.
Riverhead Books, 2018 ($20)

Time defines our lives; alarm clocks wake us; we spend segments of time in school and at work; we mark the lengths of relationships and sporting matches. Time goes in one direction: a glass shatters into thousands of pieces, but time does not reverse so that the pile of shards can reconstruct itself into a glass. Surprisingly, this experience of time may be a product of our brain and not an intrinsic feature of the universe. Further, any explanations or equations that physicists have devised about the universe and existence lack the element of time completely. Rovelli, a physicist and one of the founders of loop quantum gravity theory, uses literary, poetical and historical devices to unravel the properties of time, what it means to exist without time and, at the end, how time began.

The Feather Thief: Beauty, Obsession, and the Natural History Heist of the Century
by Kirk Wallace Johnson.
Viking, 2018 ($27)

A most unusual heist took place in June 2009 at the Natural History Museum in London—a 20-year-old musician stole 299 bird skins, many collected about 150 years earlier by naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace. The thief, a champion fly tyer, sold some of the rare bird skins and feathers—altogether potentially worth about $1 million—for use on fly-fishing hooks. Years later Johnson, a humanitarian advocating to resettle Iraqi refugees, was fly-fishing in New Mexico on a day off when his guide first told him about the heist. Johnson embarked on a five-year investigation into the crime and the whereabouts of the lost feathers—talking to hundreds of people, including the feather thief himself. —Yasemin Saplakoglu