NOTABLE POPULAR SCIENCE BOOKS
Carey, John, editor, Eyewitness to Science. An impressive collection
of short essays from Galileo to Isaac Asimov. (1995)
Bolles, Edmund Blair, Galileo's Commandment: An Anthology of Great
Science Writing. A large collection of exemplary essays, mostly
modern, but dating back as far as Herodotus in 444 B.C. (1997)
Davis, Wade, One River. The exciting story of Richard Schultes,
a Harvard professor, who explored the Amazon basin and founded the study
of ethnobotany, the study of how indigenous peoples use plants as food
and as drugs. (1996)
Ferris, Tim, The Red Limit. A classic popular history of the
discovery of the expanding universe, and a major best-seller. (1977)
Cokinos, Christopher, The Fallen Sky: An Intimate History of Shooting
Stars, Stories of meteorites and the men who hunt them. Good
story-telling interwoven with personal observations. (2009) Greenstein, George,
Frozen Star. The discovery and understanding
of black holes and neutron stars. (1983)
Hawking, Stephen, A Brief History of Time. Hawking's personal ideas
about the big bang, black holes, and the nature of the universe. Very popular
book, but not the clearest example of good science writing.
Mather, John, and Boslough, John, The Very First Light. An account
of the Cosmic Background Explorer Mission--which detected the light from
the big bang. A different personal account from George Smoot's book. Read
both for an interesting insight into how science is done. (1997)
Overbye, Dennis, Lonely Hearts of the Cosmos. Offbeat story of Edwin
Hubble, Alan Sandage, and the cosmologists who are attempting to determine
the age of the universe from the expansion of the galaxies.(1991)
Plait, Philip, Bad Astronomy: Misconceptions and Misuses Revealed, from
Astrology to the Moon Landing "Hoax" . Lively blogger and
astronomer Plait reveals the fads and fallacies in popular misconceptions
Preston, Richard, First Light. Eloquent journalistic account of
astronomers at work on Palomar Mountain. Appeared first in The New Yorker.
Smoot, George, Wrinkles in Time An account of the Cosmic Background
Explorer Mission--which detected the light from the big bang. A different
personal account from the book by Mather and Boslough. Read both for an
interesting insight into how science is done. (1993)
Thorne, Kip, Black Holes and Time Warps. Lively discussion of both
the physics and the personalities involved in the study of black holes.
Entertaining and thought-provoking. (1994)
Gould, Stephen Jay, Ever Since Darwin, Collected essays
on Darwin, evolution, science and society, extinctions, Velikovsky, and
other subjects. (1977)
Gould, Stephen Jay, Wonderful Life. An eponymous book. Wonderfully
written and profoundly argued, it's ostensibly about the discovery of the
rich and fantastic fossils revealed by the Burgess Shale in Canada. But
its really about how the madly innovative trial-and-error process of evolution.
Holldobler, Bert, and Wilson, Edward O. , The Ants. Fascinating,
encylopedic study of ants that succeeds both as a coffee-table book and
as a scientific treatise. (1990)
Novacek, Michael, Dinosaurs of the Flaming Cliffs. Describes recent
discoveries of many new types of dinosaurs in sediments in Mongolias Gobi
Desert, and the adventures of those who seek the fossils. (1996)
Quammen, David, The Song of the Dodo. All about the ecology of endangered
species on islands and the implications for diversity in the world at large.
Thomson, Keith Steward, Living Fossil: The Story of the Coelcanth.
How the weird fish was discovered , and what we know about its ancient
Weiner, John, The Beak of the Finch. Pulitzer-prize winning story
of Darwinian evolution in action in our times. Exquisitely written and
carefully argued. (1994)
Zimmer, Carl, Parasite Rex : Inside the Bizarre World of Nature's Most
Dangerous Creatures. Parasites are everywhere, and their behavior
is often chilling. Zimmer's is one of the best written of recent science
books, combining riveting narrative and lots of fascinating ideas. (2001)
Hoffman, Roald, The Same and Not the Same. Eloquent essays
on the intellectual and ethical issues inherent in doing chemistry research,
by a Nobel prize winning scientist and poet. (1995)
Weizenbaum, Joseph, Computer Power and Human
Reason. Somewhat dated, but thought-provoking essay on the uses
and abuses of computers. Are there some things computers shouldn't
do, even if they can? (1976)
Cohen, Joel, How Many People can The Earth Support? A
definitive treatment of the population problem. The answer, of course,
depends on how one chooses to interpret the question. (1995)
Diamond, Jared, Guns, Germs, and Steel. A masterful discussion
of how the fate of civilizations is influenced by biology. (1999)
Pyne, Stephen J., World Fire. The role of fire in the environment,
and in human culture. (1995)
Streever, Bill, Cold: Adventures in the World's Frozen Places.
Personal journeys to cold places and cold climates, from avalanches to
glaciers, to igloos and icebergs, and even laboratories looking for absolute
Wilson, Edward O., The Diversity of Life. Eloquent book by the eminent
writer, researcher, and teacher, describing how diverse life is, and why
maintaining biodiversity is important.
McPhee, John, Basin and Range. Wide-ranging and literate essay
about the geology of the Western United States, and the people who study
Sullivan, Walter, Continents in Motion: The New Earth Debate. Readable,
informative story of the discovery of continental drift by a veteran New
York Times science reporter.(2nd ed. 1991)
Holton, Gerald, Science and Anti-Science, Essays on the
epistemology of science, including the question of whether science
is a social construction. (1993)
Sagan, Carl, Billions and Billions. Sagans last collection of
essays, ranging widely from the wonders of astronomy to the meaning of
Sagan, Carl, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a candle in the dark.
Essays on why science is important as an antidote to superstition. (1995)
Taubes, Gary, Bad Science: The short Live and Weird Times of Cold Fusion.
The story of Drs. Pons and Fleischman, who electrified the world by
announcing that theyd produced limitless supplies of energy from water
in a canning jar. (1993)
History and Biography of Science
Ferris, Tim, Coming of Age in the Milky Way. History of major
astronomical ideas since ancient times (1988).
Desmond, Adrian, Huxley: From Devil's Disciple to Evolution's High Priest,
More than a biography, a social and intellectual history of the late Victorian
Desmond, Adrian, and Moore, James, Darwin: The life of a Tormented
Evolutionist, A mammoth, informative biography of the great biologist
and naturalist, again with Desmond's wide-ranging political and social
Gleick, James, Genius. Biography of Richard Feynman, Nobel Physicist,
one of the most remarkable personalities of the century. (1992)
Koestler, Arthur, The Sleepwalkers. A classic, highly readable account
of the development of our concepts of the universe from ancient Greece
through Galileo and Newton. (1954)
Landes, David S., Revolution in Time. The history of clocks, clockmaking,
and how they changed our concepts of time and space and led to the making
of the modern world. (1983)
Quinn, Susan, Marie Curie. The life of the great chemist, who won
two Nobel prizes for her discovery of radium and her work with radioactivity.(1995)
Russell, Jeffrey Burton, Inventing the Flat Earth. Describes what
Columbus and his contemporaries knew and didnt know about that the earth(they
did know, for instance, that it was a globe, though they differed about
its size), and how the myth that they thought the earth was flat arose
in the late 1800s. (1992)
Berlinski, David, A Tour of the Calculus. Quirky, impressionistic
exploration of the major ideas of mathematics and the history of calculus.
Not your usual math book, nor your usual popular science book.(1995)
Holmes, Richard, The Age Of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation
Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science. Well-written and
revelatory account of the late 18th and early 19th century, and how
science inspired the arts in the works of people like Coleridge, Mary
Shelly, and Keats.
Jardine, Lisa, Ingenious Pursuits: Building the Scientific
Revolution. The men and institutions of the late 18th Century that
laid the groundwork for modern science---especially the Royal Society of
Livio, Mario, The Golden Ratio: The Story of Phi, the World's Most
Astonishing Number. A theoretical physicist traces the history of a
remarkable but little-known number from the time of Plato to the present.
Paulos, John Allen, Innumeracy: Mathematical Illiteracy and its consequences.
Influential short book on why Johnny and Jane can't do numbers, and
what can be done about it. (1988)
Hall, Stephen S. A Commotion in the Blood. Recent advances
in understanding the immune system and how it can be used to combat various
illnesses. Discusses the current research on inteferon, immune diseases,
cancer therapies, etc. (1997)
Preston, Richard, The Hot Zone. Terrifying story of the emergence
of the ebola virus, and other virulent diseases that threaten epidemics.
Broad, William J., The Universe Below. How the end of the Cold
War has brought about an explosion of knowledge about the sea; and what
we are learning about the life and geology of the depths. (1997)
Bascom, Willard, The Crest of the Wave. Reflections and
remembrances of the birth of modern oceanography, by one of the veterans
of the field., a practical scientist who helped develop deep-sea drilling.(1989)
Bartusiak, Marcia, Einstein's Unfinished Symphony: Listening to the
Sounds of Space Time. The story of graviatational waves, why they are
important, and how scientists are building huge devices to detect them.
Chandraskhar, Subramanyan, Truth and Beauty, Musings on aesthetics
in science by one of the masters of 20th century astrophysics.
Gleick, James, Chaos, Best-selling book on how physicists are
discovering that seeming simple systems can behave in very complex fashion.
Greene, Brian, The Elegant Universe, A best-selling book
later made into a TV series on the fundamental structure of subatomic
matter, and how superstrings and hidden dimensions may give us insight into
a unified theory of everything.
Krauss, Laurence, The Physics of Star Trek. What would work, and
what wouldn't, in the popular TV/film series. (1995)
Pagels, Heinz R. The Cosmic Code. An eloquent explanation of
how quantum mechanics works, and why what it tells us about the microstructure
of matter is so strange. (1982)
Taubes, Gary, Nobel Dreams: Power, Deceit, and the Ultimate Experiment.
Portrait of Carlo Rubbia, who shared the 1984 Nobel Prize for work leading
to the discovery of the W and Z particles. It's a no-holds-barred
portrayal of the world of high-energy physics research, which illuminates
the good and the bad aspects of high-stakes science. (1987)
Von Baeyer, Hans Christian, The Fermi Solution, Eloquent narrative
essays on the methods of science and some of its recent developments. (1993)
Buderi, Robert, The Invention that Changed The World. A history
of Radar in World War II and beyond. (1966)
Levy, Matthys, and Salvadori, Mario, Why Buildings Fall Down. Two
architects, with a flair for storytelling, explain how we learn to build
better buildings from studying the ones that dont make it. (1992)
Petroski, Henry, The Pencil: A History of Design and Circumstance.
Masterful telling of how a simple item we take for granted came into being,
and the many choices that people made in producing and adopting it. Surprisingly
Rhodes, Richard, The Making of the Atomic Bomb. Pulitzer-prize winning
account of the discovery of atomic power and its first, horrific application.
A classic of modern science writing.(1986)
Rhodes, Richard, Dark Sun. The history of the US-Soviet race to
create a superweapon, the Hydrogen bomb. (1995)
Calvin, William H., The River that Flows Uphill, While floating
down the Colorado in the Grand Canyon, the author muses on the meaning
of consciousness and the vastness of the evolutionary time scale. A meandering,
fascinating book. (1986)
Norman, Donald A., The Psychology of Everyday Things. What cognitive
psychology tells us about how humans interface with machines and other
artifacts. Tells what we know about how to design teapots that we
won't spill, and light switches that turn on just what we think they ought
Pinker, Steven, How the Mind Works. An eloquent Harvard
scientist and writer explains what the mid is, how it evolved, and how it
interacts with the outside world.
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