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'Birds and Us,' by Tim Birkhead. (Princeton University Press, 496 pages, $35.)

Dogs may be man's (or humanity's) best friend, but birds hold another beloved place in our hearts and minds. In "Birds and Us," Tim Birkhead, a British bird behaviorist and scientific historian, explores the special relationship between birds and humans over 12,000 years. Birkhead, whose previous books include the delightful "Bird Sense," which offered answers to the age-old question "What's it like to be a bird?" has an approachable style, even when explaining complex scientific concepts.

'The Book Eaters,' by Sunyi Dean. (Tor, 304 pages, $26.99.)

Sunyi Dean takes the idea of devouring a book to a whole other level in her fantastical new novel: The book eaters of the title are a cultlike group who literally eat books. When these part humans consume, for instance, a dictionary, they not only get a filling meal, but also the knowledge contained in the reference material. It sounds like a great way to satisfy many needs. But in this clever dystopian tale, one book eater named Devon, who was raised on a diet of fairy tales, finds that life is anything but when she tries to save her son from the machinations of book eaters who want him for their own.