What On Earth Happened? (Bloomsbury, $45) is a marvelous family present—adults will love it and they can read it with their older children. Christopher Lloyd, a science writer, has fashioned a highly readable history of Earth by time periods, employing scientific discoveries, history, religious and technological developments.  The book is illustrated with maps, photos, and gorgeous reproductions of art masterpieces. Humility is called for: scientists estimate that animals emerged onto land 400 million years ago, modern humans evolved in Africa only 130,000 years ago and spread to other continents around 50,000 years ago—and the first powered flight took place merely 100 years ago.

The Seventy Great Mysteries Of The Natural World (Thames & Hudson, $45) is a stunning collection of essays and photographs on a large array of subjects.  Broken down into seven sections, each containing ten essays, the book asks, among a great number of other things, “How did the Earth form?” “What makes volcanoes explode?” “How did the eye evolve?” “Why are insects so diverse?” and finally, in the last section, “What will Earth’s climate be like in the future?” Seventy Great Mysteries will certainly find a home on many families’ reference shelves; this is a book for all ages.  Editor Michael J. Benton has assembled a talented group of contributors, each an expert in his or her field. Their clear, cogent explanations, together with color photographs, drawings, graphs, and illustrations, make this a wonderful book to browse in and learn from.

The Seventy Great Mysteries of the Natural World Cover Image
By Michael J. Benton (Editor)
ISBN: 9780500251430
Availability: Special Order—Subject to Availability
Published: Thames & Hudson - November 17th, 2008

I have a picture of the Lagoon Nebula as the screen saver on my computer. It’s so beautiful, so full of color, that it’s hard to imagine that something so stunning is part of what we see when we look up at the stars at night. The Hubble telescope of course makes it possible to see myriad images we’re blind to without it. Hubble: Imaging Space and Time (National Geographic, $50), by  David DeVorkin and Robert W. Smith, explores the history of the telescope and the way it operates. It’s also full of beautiful pictures of nebulae, planets, galaxies, and supernovas, among other things.

Hubble: Imaging Space and Time Cover Image
ISBN: 9781426203220
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: National Geographic - September 30th, 2008