Inspired by a conversation yesterday, I’m posting a list of popular science books (i.e. science for the non-scientist reader) that I particularly like. Disclaimer: I don’t read lots of popular science — most of my non-fiction reading consists of travel writing.
The Trouble With Testosterone: And Other Essays On The Biology Of The Human Predicament — Robert M. Sapolsky, 1998. It’s about neuroscience, and human (and baboon) behavior, spanning things as diverse as schizophrenia and rubbernecking at car crashes. One of my favorite popular science books: entertaining, but also deep, with insights into everyday experience as well as the extremes of human behavior. http://www.amazon.com/The-Trouble-With-Testosterone-Predicament/dp/0684838915
A Short History of Nearly Everything — Bill Bryson, 2010. The strange histories of nearly all branches of science — it’s funny, exciting, accurate, and engaging.
Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman — James Gleick, 1993. An excellent biography of Feynman, capturing the drama of the Manhattan Project, the highlights of twentieth century physics, and Feynman’s famously colorful character. http://www.amazon.com/Genius-Life-Science-Richard-Feynman/dp/0679747044/
Chaos: Making a New Science — James Gleick. I assign this in my Scientific Revolutions course. Gleick describes chaos well and, more importantly, conveys the creativity and insights that led to our understanding of chaos and its significance. http://www.amazon.com/books/dp/0143113453
The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat — Oliver Sacks. I read this a very long time ago, and don’t remember it well, but I recall that it’s a stunning look at life with odd neurological disorders. (Popular opinion agrees that it’s great!). http://www.amazon.com/Man-Who-Mistook-His-Wife/dp/0684853949/ This is perhaps a good place to mention How We Decide by Jonah Lehrer, a book I read a few years ago and loved, about the neuroscience of perception and decision making, reason and emotion. Unfortunately, Lehrer’s later work appears fraudulent, putting a cloud over everything he’s written (see e.g. http://www.poynter.org/latest-news/mediawire/204136/jonah-lehrer-apologizes-makes-everyone-angrier/).
On graphic non-fiction, see my earlier post:
One thought on “Favorite Popular Science Books”
Great list. I’ve got Feynman’s Six Easy Pieces somewhere, so will have to find it, and invest in Gleick’s book (I loved his biography of Newton). I’m a big fan of Stephen Jay Gould’s books – I think on the biology/natural history side, he was one of the best popularisers and communicators of scientific thinking.