The Possibility of Life: Science, Imagination, and Our Quest for Kinship in the Cosmos by Jaime Green ’04 (Hanover Square Press)
There are thousands of exoplanets out there far older than ours and maybe they’ve had a head start in developing life. Yet, after decades of searching for signals, we haven’t found signs of life—anywhere. That’s the valley this rich and ingenious volume explores. Green is the series editor of The Best American Science and Nature Writing and here she argues (among other things) that science and science fiction are not that difficult to align. Scientists, she points out, imagine things all the time and then test those hypotheses. And science fiction, or imagining other ways that life might evolve, can eventually lead to new paths of discovery. Plenty of surprising ideas to orbit here.
City of Blows by Tim Blake Nelson ’86 (Unnamed Press)
In this sprawling debut, Nelson, an actor (The Ballad of Buster Scruggs) and director with a vast list of credits, takes readers on a darkly fictional Hollywood ride. It’s 2019, COVID is near, and David Levit, a classically-trained actor pivoting to directing, has been hired by Jacob Rosenthal, a famous and controlling producer, to direct Coal, the adaptation of a contentious race-based novel. The catch is that Levit has a contract with producer Brad Shlansky to direct a different film and Shlansky won’t release him. Soon Paul Aiello, Shlansky’s agent and someone with deeply corrupt tendencies, spirals in to complicate things. There’s an inescapable collision and patient readers will be rewarded with plenty of pointed dialogue and equally pointed insights.
Everything That Rises: A Climate Change Memoir by Brianna Craft ’13 (Lawrence Hill Books)
In her debut, Craft—a senior researcher at the London-based International Institute for Environment and Development—weaves between giving readers an inside look at the United Nations climate negotiations, beginning in 2011 and on through the Paris Agreement of 2015, and the story of growing up in small-town Kelso, Washington, under the shadow of an overbearing, abusive father. Craft was a member of the Least Developed Countries (LDC) Group negotiating team, who are also at greatest risk for the effects of climate change. Her vivid voice, twined with an intimate family story, enlivens and heightens what otherwise could have been a dry chronicle of slow international progress.