Top illustrated science books of 2016


Six gloriously illustrated science books on the Cosmos Christmas wishlist, reviewed by Bill Condie.


NON-FICTION
Story of Life: Evolution Illustrated
by Katie Scott
The Five Mile Press
RRP $24.95

Another stunner from The Five Mile Press, the producers of the beautifully illustrated Animalium – one of our picks of top illustrated science books of 2015.

The same philosophy and high production values are brought to bear on the Story of Life. The book unfolds like a concertina into an illustrated timeline of evolution, beginning with a self-replicating molecule of RNA all the way up to Homo habilis, the earliest species of the Homo genus. The reverse side explains how the ages fit together from Precambrian to the Neogene and Quaternary Periods. This a beautiful book for all ages.




NON-FICTION
Coloring the Universe: An Insider’s Look at Making Spectacular Images of Space
by Travis A. Rector, Kimberly Kowal Arcand and Megan Watzke
University of Alaska Press
RRP $50.00

Capturing the beauty of the Universe through the (colour enhanced) eyes of the astronomers, this book shows how they have woven art from the images they capture in their telescopes.

Hundreds of spectacular colourful pictures have become the way most people know the cosmos. But does it really look like this?

Maybe not but, as this book explains, scientists have brought the un-seeable radio waves, infrared light, X-rays and gamma rays to life in a way our own eyes could not.

A fascinating and breathtaking collection of the pictures from deep space and an insider’s guide to those who make them.





NON-FICTION
Truly, Madly, Deeply
by Ali Bin Thalith
Clearview Books
RRP $100.00 USD

Emirati documentary filmmaker and photographer Ali Khalifa Bin Thalith’s father and grandfather were pearl divers and he grew up in Jumeirah, UAE, where his family home was just 30 metres from the shore. And the sea has stayed with him.

His love for it and its creatures is clear from this wonderful book cataloguing his adventures diving in the UAE, Oman, and 40 other destinations including the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Bahamas.

There are more than 100 beautifully presented colour plates of the familiar and not so familiar marine life, from giant tuna, dancing squid and floating flatworms to the tiny and all but invisibly camouflaged crinoid shrimp.





NON-FICTION
Historium
by Richard Wilkins and Jo Nelson
Five Mile Press
RRP $39.95

This is a welcome addition to the collection of gloriously illustrated books from Five Mile Press. This time the subject is antiquities with a collection of objects from ancient civilisations around the world.

The book shares the exceptional production values of its sister volumes such as Animalium and The story of Evolution, with high-quality paper and coloured pen and ink illustrations by Richard Wilkins.

The book is arranged as if it were a museum with different rooms representing different exhibitions from regions around the world.

The clear and informative text puts each of the 130 objects into archaeological context.

As with other Five Mile Press books in the series, it is targeted, one suspects, at children, but plenty in this classy volume will appeal to adults as well.





NON-FICTION
Professor Astro Cat's Atomic Adventure
by Dr Dominic Walliman and Ben Newman
Flying Eye Books
RRP $29.99

This is the second collaboration between science writer Dominic Wallman, who has a PhD in quantum physics, and illustrator Ben Newman. Previously their wonderful inventions, Professor Astro Cat and his mouse Offsider, guided kids of all ages through the frontiers of space.

Now they are back to tackle the world of atomic physics in all its mysterious complexity. The result is a feast for eye and brain, marrying Newman’s charming graphics with Wallman’s knack of making the most baffling atomic concepts accessible.

It is hard to think of a better introduction to serious science in these days when the importance of early engagement of young people with STEM has never been greater.





NON-FICTION
Map Stories: The Art of Discovery
by Francisca Mattéoli
Hachette Australia
RRP $55.00

Ah, maps! They’re the way we used to find our way around, you know, before there was Siri to pass on directions from Google for us.

This book tells us two things. First, that maps are already looking like distinctly old technology but, second, they are still such beautiful objects in themselves and packed with romance and possibility in a way that their online counterparts are not.

Francisca Mattéoli presents historic charts as an invitation to the reader on a journey, from map to map, letting our imaginations run free. She has based the experience on her own, as a child, when her grandfather spread out a map of her native Chile.

She came to see maps not as geography but as a treasury of stories, to be opened as we would a novel.

With a map, she says, anything is possible.




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Bill Condie is publisher of Cosmos.
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