I've been spending my evenings this past week reading through Michael Bender's excellent paleoclimate book. Quite concisely, it goes through what is known about the climates of the past, starting early in Earth's history, when the sun was about 2/3 as bright as it is today, and ending with human impacts on present-day climate. His writing style is rigorous, thorough, well-reasoned, and crystal-clear to someone who has thus far resided at the margins of paleoclimate research, wanting to break in. The book covers not just the current understanding of past climates (grounded in a staggering suite of observations), but also the hypotheses for how and why these climates came to be. I highly recommend it, although some familiarity with the tools and vocabulary of paleoclimate research will serve the reader well.
Truth be told, Bender's a bit of a hero of mine. Early in my postdoc, he and I corresponded over email about my various projects, and he made a special effort to support me when he had no good reason to do so. Two incidents come to mind: The first was when he invited me to have lunch with him at a conference a couple years ago, just the two of us, where we talked not only about science, but also life, and more normal things like how we both liked guitar jazz. At the end of it, he offered to help me get set up to do ice core work, advising me on things such as how to extract gases from ice, what ice to use, and who to talk to for access. It was a huge vote of confidence in my work from one of the giants in the field (he is sometimes called "the gas man"), and it really made the ice core work approachable. The second incident happened over email, when I hinted at wanting to collaborate with him to study the clumped isotopes in oxygen that had been occluded in glacial ice. He responded by saying that no, he did not want to collaborate with me because he didn't want to take any undue credit for the science I had obviously come up with on my own. He reiterated that he'd set me up with the right people (which he did), and we left it at that.
I aspire to be this type of rigorous, careful, creative, and unselfish scientist. It's getting more difficult these days with the pressure to publish more and more first-author papers in high-profile journals. One can only hope to be reminded, from time to time, to always do the Right Thing.