These 10 books will expand your mind this summer

Summer is the perfect time to engage in activities you never seem to find a minute to enjoy—like cracking open and devouring a new book. 

There's a stereotype of summer reading that the season unleashes a lot of fluffy, escapist options. While some of that stereotype is certainly earned, perusing reading lists from heady folks like Barack Obama and Bill Gates proves that not everything has to be a breathless page-turner.

In the spirit of hooking you up with some summer reading that can educate and inspire while it entertains, check out this selection of 10 summer reads curated by Barnes & Noble that are sure to pique your curiosity about all sorts of interesting ideas and topics. 

How To: Absurd Scientific Advice for Common Real-World Problems 

Bestselling author and cartoonist Randall Munroe explores the most complicated ways to do simple tasks—with all the absurdity that statement would lead you to expect. Can you predict the weather by analyzing the pixels of your Facebook photos? Or can someone tell if you're a baby boomer or a '90s kid by measuring the radioactivity of your teeth? Munroe unleashes a delightfully mind-bending way to better understand the science and technology underlying the stuff we do every day.

The Code Breaker: Jennifer Doudna, Gene Editing, and the Future of the Human Race

Driven by a passion to understand how nature works and turn discoveries into inventions, Nobel Prize–winner Jennifer Doudna and her colleagues unlocked the most important biological advance since the discovery of the structure of DNA, launching a revolution that could cure diseases, fend off viruses, and lead to healthier babies. Follow along with their story in this fascinating book.

Cosmic Queries: StarTalk's Guide to Who We Are, How We Got Here, and Where We're Going

This enlightening new book from America's favorite astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson jumps into the deep end, tackling the world's most important philosophical questions about the universe. We've all wondered about how life began or our place in the universe or whether humans are alone out here. Tyson may not have all the answers…but he offers data that'll get you closer to those answers than virtually anyone else.

World of Wonders: In Praise of Fireflies, Whale Sharks, and Other Astonishments 

If you need to seriously chill out and decompress this summer, this meditation on nature, including essays, tender illustrations, and illuminating stories about the way its inhabitants can teach, support, and inspire us will hit your happy zone. Award-winning poet Aimee Nezhukumatathil goes deep…and comes back with a look at the world around us that's both mesmerizing and uplifting at the same time.

Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds & Shape Our Futures

You probably never envisioned a summer spent reading about fungi…but that's just part of why brilliant young biologist Merlin Sheldrake's mind-bending journey into the hidden universe of the fungus among us is so wondrous. Named one of the best books of the year by outlets including Time,  BBC Science Focus, The Daily Mail, New Statesman, and more, you'll probably never look at individuality or even intelligence quite the same way again.

Shape: The Hidden Geometry of Information, Biology, Strategy, Democracy, and Everything Else

New York Times bestselling author and world-class mathematician Jordan Ellenberg looks at the hidden power of geometry—and you might be surprised how far down this rabbit hole leads. Shape reveals the geometry underneath some of the most important scientific, political, and philosophical problems we face. We're talking about things like if a democracy should choose its representatives or if a pandemic can truly be stopped. Yep, it's all in the geometry, folks. 

What Is Life?: Five Great Ideas in Biology

Nobel Prize–winning geneticist Paul Nurse has spent his career revealing how living cells work. In this book, Nurse guides readers through the five great ideas that underpin all biological study and introduces the scientists who made the most important advances, all with a personal relatability as he recounts his own lab stories and a-ha moments.

The Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration into the Wonder of Consciousness

A finalist for the National Book Award for Nonfiction and a fixture on most "best science book of the year" lists, popular naturalist Sy Montgomery opens up the world of the octopus in a way that will make you never look at this unusual sea creature the same way ever again. There's so much more to these fascinating animals, and Montgomery's funny, entertaining, touching, and profound exploration touches on it all.

The Bird Way: A New Look at How Birds Talk, Work, Play, Parent, and Think

There are mammals, and then…there are birds. We share a lot of space on this planet, but we're incredibly different. New York Times bestselling author Jennifer Ackerman examines the "bird way," a new look at bird behaviors thought to be understood for decades that may not be quite as well known as we all believed.

Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don't Know

For everybody who thinks intelligence is all about what you know, this book by organizational psychologist Adam Grant might just seriously break your brain. While intelligence is usually thought of as the ability to think and learn, Grant brings a compelling case that rethinking—the ability to question your opinions, change your mind, and open up the thoughts of others—may be even more important than smarts. 

Get all these books and plenty more at Barnes & Noble now.