Update: here is the list I compiled from all the suggestions: A List of Must Read PopSci Books. Thanks everyone!
This is a blog post inspired by a Tweet from @Stephen_Curry:
Basically, I’m stealing the idea. Thanks Stephen! Here is his Storify of the responses to his Tweet.
I’d like to compile a list of recommended Popular Science books. Books that you think everyone needs to read. Books that you would recommend to people that would not normally read a science book. Books that you would recommend to someone who is already knowledgeable about, say, physics, but knows very little about about, say, human evolution.
Let’s face it, there are a lot of Popular Science books out there – and some are a lot more accessible than others. I remember reading Brian Cox’s Why Does E=mc2?: (and Why Should We Care?), loving the first few chapters, but then struggling after that. I’d decided that I’d have to come back and re-read it after I’ve done some more of my physics degree! A friend at work read it as her first ever physics book and gave up. I responded with a Marcus Chown book she should read instead – and she loved it.
So, I’m after books for situations like this. Books you can recommend to people possibly as their first ever read in a particular area of science. Perhaps someone at work tells you that they loved the latest Wonders episode – you can respond with a book recommendation.
- Like Stephen’s suggestion, not too many pages – but it can be longer than his requested 200-250 pages. Just remember that recommending a 500-600+ page to someone may just put them off!
- Accessible to someone who hasn’t studied the subject before.
- You can recommend as many books as you want, but I really want to see your favourite books. I want you to really think carefully about you book: “would I recommend this book to someone who knows nothing (or very little) about <insert subject area here>?”
- Stephen also suggested that the book should be relatively cheap and readily available.
I’ll start off with:
- Your Inner Fish - by Neil Shubin (256 pages). “The amazing discovery of our 375-million-year-old ancestor”. At times it reads like a thriller. I’ve read it twice – not because it was hard to understand, but because it was so good.
- The Code Book - by Simon Singh (402 pages). The history of code breaking from Ancient Egypt to the modern day. A wonderful, fascinating book.
- Quantum Theory Cannot Hurt You - by Marcus Chown (224 pages). Everything explained brilliantly, and full of “wow” moments.
- The Selfish Gene - by Richard Dawkins (384 pages). Whatever your feelings about him…he’s still a damn good writer!
- Supersense: From Superstition to Religion – The Brain Science of Belief – by Bruce Hood (320 pages). Another book full of “wow” moments, this time brain related.
- Mistakes Were Made (but Not by Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions and Hurtful Acts – by Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson (304 pages). I think the title explains it all. A cracking read.
- Antimatter – by Frank Close (176 pages). A superb look at everything to do with these particles.
Please add a comment below with your book recommendations.
And feel free to recommend a book that has already been recommended - I’ll leave this blog post running for a while and then compile the comments down into an ordered list of books into another blog post. I’ll also take the book recommendations from Stephen’s Storify page.
UPDATE: Book recommendations via Tweets and Google+
I’ve had a few recommendations sent to me via Tweets and on the Google+ post for this blog. I thought I’d keep track of them here:
- Robin Ince: Six Easy Pieces: Fundamentals of Physics Explained - by Richard Feynman (176 pages).
- Robin Ince, Alun Salt: Life Ascending: The Ten Great Inventions of Evolution - by Nick Lane (352 pages).
- Robin Ince, David Steele: The Demon-haunted World - Carl Sagan (436 pages).
- Rob: Trilobite: Eyewitness to Evolution - by Richard Fortey (256 pages).
- Alun Salt: Last Chance to See - by Douglas Adams and Mark Cawardine (224 pages) [I agree, this is a fantastic book that I highly recommend. However, does it count as a Popular Science book? I mean, are science books supposed to make you laugh out loud?!]
- Martin Orman: Paranormality - by Richard Wiseman (336 pages).
- Mark Lewney: The Origin of Virtue - by Matt Ridley (302 pages).
- Doug Cairns: The Phenomenon of Man - by Pierre Theilhard de Chardin (319 pages).
- Mike Ward: How to Lie with Statistics - by Darrell Huff (128 pages).
- Mike Ward: The Ambidextrous Universe - by Martin Gardner (416 pages).
- Mike Ward: Afterglow of Creation: Decoding the message from the beginning of time - by Marcus Chown (288 pages).
- Mike Ward: We Need to Talk About Kelvin: What Everyday Things Tell Us About the Universe - by Marcus Chown (288 pages).
- John Tweedie: Dry Store Room No. 1: The Secret Life of the Natural History Museum - Richard Fortey (320 pages).
- Sam Hawkswell: Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth - by James Lovelock (176 pages).
- Ed Yong: Parasite Rex: Inside the Bizarre World of Nature’s Most Dangerous Creatures - by Carl Zimmer (288 pages).
- Ed Yong: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks - by Rebecca Skloot (384 pages).
- Ed Yong: Superbug: The Fatal Menace of MRSA - by Maryn McKenna (288 pages).
- Ed Yong: Before the Lights Go Out: Conquering the Energy Crisis Before It Conquers Us - by Maggie Koerth-Baker (304 pages).
- Sam Hawkswell: The Planet in a Pebble: A Journey into Earth’s Deep History - by Jan Zalasiewicz (256 pages)
- Rob Sharp: Chaos: Making a New Science - by James Gleick (368 pages)
- Andrea Sella: Periodic Tales: The Curious Lives of the Elements - by Hugh Aldersey-Williams (448 pages).
- Andrea Sella: H2O: A Biography of Water - by Philip Ball (400 pages).
- Bob: Mutants: On the Form, Varieties and Errors of the Human Body – by Armand Marie Leroi (320 pages).