Thursday, Feb. 5
Poor little Pluto. Already the tiniest member of its family, it tags along in the orbit farthest from the Sun, the kiddie table of the solar system. And then it got demoted. In 2006, the International Astronomical Union reclassified Pluto as a "dwarf planet" or "minor planet," effectively undoing years of clever mnemonic devices. Astrophysicist and head of the American Museum of Natural History's Hayden Planetarium in New York, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, who was one of the bullies leading the charge to downgrade Pluto, will discuss his book, The Pluto Files (W.W. Norton, $23.95), at the Commonwealth Club, 595 Market (at Second St.), S.F. 6 p.m., $18; 597-6701 or www.commonwealthclub.org.
Thursday, Feb. 12
Conceptual artist Jonathon Keats has copyrighted his brain, sold his thoughts, attempted to engineer God (with the help of actual geneticists), afforded trees the opportunity to make art by providing them with easels, and marketed silent cellphone ringtones. In his new collection of short stories, The Book of the Unknown: Tales of the Thirty-Six (Random House, $13), he inverts the folktale standard and casts villains like common thieves and other malcontents as heroes. Keats speaks at 7 p.m. at City Lights Books, 261 Columbus (at Broadway); 362-8193 or www.citylights.com.
Saturday, Feb. 14
On Valentine's Day, pack the ragged hole in your heart where love should be with sweet, sweet pastries. Chef Mani Niall will talk about her new book, Sweet! (Da Capo, $18.95), which teaches readers how to bake delectable desserts using alternative sweeteners like agave nectar and jaggery. Niall speaks at 2 p.m. at Omnivore Books, 3885a César Chávez (at Church), 282-4712, www.omnivorebooks.com.
Wednesday, Feb. 18
Naturalist and activist Terry Tempest Williams touches on a myriad of topics in her nonfiction, including feminism, birds, Mormonism, atomic bombs, and breast cancer. She weaves the disparate themes together in stark but vivid essays that evoke the desert landscape and raptors she writes about. In her most recent book, Finding Beauty in a Broken World (Pantheon, $26), Williams draws comparisons between actual mosaics and the fractured environment. She talks with KQED's Michael Krasny as part of the City Arts and Lectures series at Herbst Theater, 401 Van Ness (at Grove), S.F. 8 p.m., $20; 392-4400 or www.cityarts.net.
Wednesday, Feb. 25
Many people's sole reference point for Mahmoud "There Are No Gay People in Iran" Ahmadinejad derives from Andy Samberg's lampoon of the Iranian president in a Saturday Night Live digital short. While Ahmadinejad may indeed have "butter pecan thighs," author Azadeh Moaveni can provide more timely insight. Time magazine's Middle East correspondent began writing Honeymoon in Tehran (Random House, $26) in 2005 to explore Ahmadinejad's rise to power, but while in Iran fell in love and subsequently got married there. She speaks at the Jewish Community Center, 3200 California (at Presidio), S.F. 8 p.m., $18; 292-1200 or www.jccsf.org.