Relics: Travels in Nature’s Time Machine
by Piotr Naskrecki. University of Chicago Press, 2011

Take a photo safari through the world as it used to be, as revealed by living organisms little changed from their ancient ancestors. Naturalist and photographer Piotr Naskrecki gives creatures ranging from horseshoe crabs on the eastern shores of the U.S. to three-toed sloths in the forests of Guyana their due.

Magical Mathematics: The Mathematical Ideas That Animate Great Magic Tricks
by Persi Diaconis and Ron Graham. Princeton University Press, 2011

The Riemann hypothesis, the Mandelbrot set, Fermat’s last theorem—these mathematical notions and others underlie all manner of magic tricks. Mathematicians Persi Diaconis—also a card magician—and Ron Graham—also a juggler—unveil the connections between magic and math in this well-illustrated volume.

Neurogastronomy: How the Brain Creates Flavor and Why It Matters
by Gordon M. Shepherd. Columbia University Press, 2011

Making the case that the role of humans’ sense of smell in producing flavor has been vastly underappreciated, neuroscientist Gordon M. Shepherd lays out the new science of food perception and upends the received wisdom that the sense of smell diminished over the course of human evolution.

Alone in the Universe: Why Our Planet Is Unique
by John Gribbin. Wiley, 2011

“There may be more habitable planets in the Galaxy than there are people on planet Earth. But ‘habitable’ does not mean ‘inhabited.’” Astrophysicist John Gribbin describes the cosmic events that have made Earth special and argues that ours is almost certainly the only intelligent civilization in the Milky Way.