The Universe: Order Without Design

by Carlos I. Calle

Amherst (NY): Prometheus Books, 2009. 304 pages.

Reviewer Ian H Redmount is disappointed with The Universe, complaining that it contains “glaring errors of facts and interpretation,” involves “enthusiastic and uncritical acceptance of some questionable ideas and some unfettered speculation,” and neglects the renaissance in scientific cosmology driven by advances in observing technology.

A Universe from Nothing: Why There Is Something Rather than Nothing

by Lawrence M. Krauss

New York: Free Press, 2012. 224 pages.

Science is increasingly able to address big questions like why is there something instead of nothing, reviewer Gordon Kane contends, and A Universe from Nothing offers a “basically fair and critically impartial” treatment of such progress: “The reader can learn about the developments and issues, and in general should assume that the situation in theoretical physics is at least as promising as Krauss suggests,” although Kane suggests that Krauss somewhat underestimates string theory and the idea of the multiv

Life's Ratchet

by Peter M. Hoffmann

New York: Basic Books, 2012. 288 pages.

“The underlying theme of Life’s Ratchet is how random thermodynamic fluctuations at the molecular level (what Hoffmann calls the ‘molecular storm’) are harnessed by molecular machines—biomolecules such as molecular motors, enzymes, and DNA—to generate the ‘purposeful motion’ that characterizes living cells,” writes reviewer Sonya Bahar, who praises the book as “a singular achievement,” adding, “The idea of an essential tension between chance and necessity has been explored before, … but I have never seen it

The Future of Life

by E. O. Wilson
New York: Vintage, 2003. 256 pages.

“The central thesis of this elegant manifesto is not unfamiliar: the impact of human population growth and ‘wasteful consumption’ on the biological diversity of our planet has been nothing short of disastrous,” writes the reviewer for The New Yorker.

The Creation: An Appeal to Save Life on Earth

by E. O. Wilson
New York: W. W. Norton, 2007. 192 pages.

Composed as a series of letters to a Southern Baptist pastor, The Creation tries to rally the resources of both science and religion in the service of maintaining biodiversity. “I suggest that we set aside our differences in order to save the Creation,” Wilson pleads. “The defense of living Nature is a universal value. It doesn’t rise from, nor does it promote, any religious or ideological dogma.

Speciation in Birds

by Trevor Price
Greenwood Village (CO): Roberts and Company, 2007. 480 pages.

Peter R. Grant writes, "Trevor Price takes up the challenge to explain how birds speciate, and succeeds magnificently. It is a comprehensive review of all the major ideas, beautifully illustrated with pictures of birds. More than 1300 works are cited, but more impressive is the range of subjects, from genetics to biogeography, from the reconstruction of phylogeny to ecology and the causes of reproductive isolation, all discussed with admirable clarity.

The Speciation and Biogeography of Birds

by Ian Newton
London: Academic Press, 2003. 656 pages.

"This book is about the formation and diversity of bird species, their geographical distributions and their migration patterns," Ian Newton explains in his introduction.

Ornithology, third edition

by Frank B. Gill
San Francisco (CA): W. H. Freeman, 2005. 720 pages.

The leading textbook in its field, now in its third edition, Ornithology begins, appropriately, with a section on origins, discussing the diversity of birds, their evolutionary history, and their systematics. "The power of evolution by natural selection is the central theme of this book," Gill explains.

Origins: Fourteen Billion Years of Cosmic Evolution

by Neil deGrasse Tyson and Donald Goldsmith
New York: W. W. Norton, 2005. 352 pages.

The companion volume to the NOVA special, Origins astonishingly compresses the fourteen-billion-year history of the universe, from the Big Bang to the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, in 288 fascinating pages. Michio Kaku describes it as "a remarkable text which is bound to set the gold standard for cosmology book for years to come.