Particle Physics Brick by Brick: Atomic and Subatomic Physics Explained … in Lego, Ben Still, Firefly Books, 2018, $24.95 (paper)

In this colorful explanation of particle physics, author and physicist Ben Still uses a popular children’s toy to illustrate the realm of the very small. He starts by assigning Lego bricks of different colors and sizes to the different fundamental particles and then proceeds to use them as literal building blocks to construct models of atoms and molecules. He uses those constructions in turn to discuss the Big Bang, the forces in the standard model, and more. With minimal text and full-color images and diagrams on almost every page, this book could provide an inviting introduction for the general reader to the world of atoms and particles. —cc

String Theory Methods for Condensed Matter Physics, Horaţiu Năstase, Cambridge U. Press, 2017, $79.99

In this ambitious advanced textbook, Horaţiu Năstase, a member of the Institute for Theoretical Physics at the State University of São Paulo, Brazil, aims to introduce graduate students and researchers to the application of string theory to condensed-matter physics. String Theory Methods for Condensed Matter Physics assumes previous graduate coursework in quantum field theory and some knowledge of solid-state physics and general relativity. However, Năstase writes that he intends for the book to be accessible to readers who are just beginning to learn about string theory and its relation to condensed matter. Each chapter includes exercises and a summary of important concepts. —mb

Spaceman of Bohemia, Jaroslav Kalfař, Little, Brown and Co, 2017, $26.00

With his debut novel Jaroslav Kalfař establishes himself as a unique voice in modern science fiction. Spaceman of Bohemia tells the fictional tale of Czechia’s first astronaut, Jakub Procházka, who embarks on a solo mission to an unknown dust cloud of interstellar origin that has settled near Venus. But what appears to be a simple story about a man on a difficult interplanetary mission soon becomes an intriguing character profile. When he receives news that his wife has disappeared, Jakub is forced to examine his relationships with not only his wife but his father, a Communist agent during the Cold War, and his grandfather, who raised him after his father’s death. Interwoven throughout is the thread of what may be humanity’s first interaction with alien life, which evokes the philosophical surrealism of Stanisław Lem. —gs

The Rightful Place of Science: Frankenstein, Megan Halpern, Joey Eschrich, and Jathan Sadowski, eds., Consortium for Science, Policy and Outcomes, 2017, $9.99 (paper)

This year marks the 200th anniversary of the publication of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, considered one of the world’s first science fiction novels. The Rightful Place of Science: Frankenstein, an essay collection edited by historian of science Megan Halpern and science studies scholars Joey Eschrich and Jathan Sadowski, grew out of a collaboration between the New America think tank and Slate magazine. The book’s essays consider the lessons Shelley’s tale can teach society, particularly scientists. The Rightful Place of Science: Frankenstein is full of thoughtful snippets that urge readers to consider the consequences of scientific advancement and the ethical dilemmas new technologies might pose. Fans of Frankenstein may also develop a new appreciation for Shelley’s thoughts on the success of Enlightenment science and philosophy. For a full review, see —pg

Comets: Nature and Culture, P. Andrew Karam, Reaktion Books, 2017, $24.95 (paper)

Comets have intrigued people over the millennia, as shown by cave paintings and petroglyphs, tapestries from the Middle Ages, and Renaissance paintings. They may have been the carriers of life to Earth, transporting water and complex chemicals, and the bringers of death, impacting Earth and causing mass extinctions. Science writer P. Andrew Karam starts off his slim paperback with an explanation of where comets come from and what they are made of, moves on to discussions of comets’ scientific and cultural effects, and considers some of the most awe-inspiring comets observed to date. Filled with photos, paintings, drawings, and other illustrations, Comets is aimed at not only astronomers but anyone interested in learning more about what Karam has called “some of the most fascinating objects in the solar system.” —cc