The Thousand Best Popular-Science Books

By Sean Carroll | August 29, 2008 11:17 am

Over at Cocktail Party Physics, Jennifer has cast a baleful eye on the various lists of the world’s greatest books, and decided that we really need is a list of the world’s greatest popular-science books. I think the goal is to find the top 100, but many nominations are pouring in from around the internets, and I suspect that a cool thousand will be rounded up without much problem.

We played this game once ourselves, but like basketball, this is a game that can be enjoyed over and over. So pop over and leave your own suggestions, or just leave them here. To prime the pump, off the top of my head here is a list of books I would nominate. A variety of criteria come into play; originality, readability, clarity, and influence — but just because a work appears here doesn’t mean that it scores highly on all four counts.

  • Guns, Germs, and Steel, Jared Diamond
  • Godel, Escher, Bach, Douglas Hoftstadter
  • Cosmos, Carl Sagan
  • Einstein’s Clocks and Poincare’s Maps, Peter Galison
  • How the Universe Got Its Spots, Janna Levin
  • Chronos, Etienne Klein
  • The Language Instinct, Steven Pinker
  • Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman, Richard Feynman
  • The Mismeasure of Man, Stephen J. Gould
  • Lonely Hearts of the Cosmos, Dennis Overbye
  • The Inflationary Universe, Alan Guth
  • The Elegant Universe, Brian Greene
  • Warped Passages, Lisa Randall
  • The Astonishing Hypothesis, Francis Crick
  • The Double Helix, James Watson
  • Prisoner’s Dilemma, William Poundstone
  • The Blind Watchmaker, Richard Dawkins
  • One, Two, Three… Infinity, George Gamow
  • Warmth Disperses and Time Passes, Hans Christian Von Baeyer
  • Time’s Arrow and Archimedes’ Point, Huw Price
  • A Brief History of Time, Stephen Hawking
  • At Home in the Universe, Stuart Kauffman
  • Einstein’s Dreams, Alan Lightman
  • Black Holes and Time Warps, Kip Thorne
  • The First Three Minutes, Steven Weinberg
  • The Mathematical Experience, Davies and Hersh
  • The Periodic Table, Primo Levi
  • Beamtimes and Lifetimes, Sharon Traweek
  • The Diversity of Life, E.O. Wilson
  • The Emperor’s New Mind, Roger Penrose
  • Longitude, Dava Sobel
  • The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Thomas Kuhn
  • Flatland, Edwin Abbott
  • The Fabric of Reality, David Deutsch
  • Nobel Dreams, Gary Taubes

I didn’t peek at anyone else’s lists, but I admit that I did peek at my own bookshelves.

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  • http://matt.immute.net/ Matt Hellige

    The Triple Helix: Gene, Organism, and Environment, Richard Lewontin

  • http://www.twistedphysics.typepad.com Jennifer Ouellette

    We will easily top 1000, which is why I’m putting together a “master list” incorporating EVERYONE’s suggestions, to complement the “Top 100” we eventually come up with. (“We” is an inner cabal who’ve agreed to sift through everything and develop a balanced Top 100.)

    Matt, you’ll be pleased to hear that you’re the second or third person to recommend Lewontin. :) So many books, so little time to read….

  • Anna

    Another branch of science, but “The Coming Plague” is a fabulous book. Though it has its problems, “Scourge” (about smallpox) is also interesting and fairly clear in its science.

  • CosmicVarianceFan

    Shouldn’t “Wrinkles In Time” by George Smoot and Keay Davidson be on the list? That was the first book I ever read that discussed the cosmic background.

  • jc

    I thought It might have never been read in the US but Dover published What is Relativity? By Lev Landau, from where I learned my first concepts of the subject. Still recall the diagrams when I try to get right the dilation of time and the contraction of space. I was 15 (too old for sure)

  • R.L. Wagner

    How about “The Road to Reality” by Roger Penrose — a bit tough for those rusty in math, but a good read otherwise.

  • http://home.uchicago.edu/~zosia/ Zosia Krusberg

    You’ve got an impressive list already, but I would add:

    “Longing for the Harmonies” by Frank Wilczek and Betsy Devine
    “The Dancing Universe” by Marcelo Gleiser
    “Isaac Newton” by James Gleick

    Although I doubt it’s been translated to English, I’d also like to add

    “Stjärnor och äpplen som faller” by Ulf Danielsson

    who is our favorite popular-science-writing physicist in Sweden.

  • ts

    “Ever Since Darwin: Reflections on Natural History”
    by Stephen Jay Gould

    “In the Name of Eugenics: Genetics and the Uses of Human Heredity”
    by Daniel Kevles

  • http://darwin.gruts.com/weblog/ Richard Carter, FCD

    ‘On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life’ by Charles Darwin. Publish 1859, and never out of print.

  • http://darwin.gruts.com/weblog/ Richard Carter, FCD

    Oh, and ‘Bully for Brontosaurus’ by Stephen Jay Gould.

  • blogfog

    The three science of the discworld books are awesome, both as an introduction to science books and discworld novels. The topics range from space elevators to the specifics of evolution.

  • Rich

    I’ve always been a fan of Charles Seife, particularly “Zero: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea”

  • Zhao

    Naked Economics (Charles Wheelan)
    Consciousness Explained (Daniel Dennet)

  • Zhao

    Also, Atom, by Issac Asimov (a bit dated, but still excellent).

  • insomniac

    Fermat’s Enigma 😀 Made me love math…

  • Pingback: Top popular science books - TechMan - post-gazette.com()

  • Joe

    What is Mathematics? by Courant and Robbins.

    Something by Martin Gardner, maybe Aha! Insight (on problem-solving) and Aha! Gotcha (on paradoxes, mathematical and logical).

    Microbe Hunters, by Paul de Kruif — a lively history of microbiology, with the caveat that it was written in the 20’s and contains some jarring racial slurs.

    And even though it’s a children’s book: The Way Things Work, by David Macaulay.

  • Marco

    Just about everything by Stephen Jay Gould, except ‘Rocks of Ages’ (‘Non-Overlapping Magisteria’… *FEH!*. Talk about fence-sitting…)

    Much as I loved it, calling ‘The Road to Reality’ popular science is stretching it beyond the limit, I think. Remember that ‘A Brief History of Time’ was/is considered difficult by most…

  • passing by

    “The Self-made Tapestry: Pattern Formation in Nature” by Philip Ball
    “Lise Meitner: A Life in Physics” by Ruth Sime
    “From Falling Bodies to Radio Waves” by Emilio Segre
    “From X-rays to Quarks” by Emilio Segre
    “Soft Machines: Nanotechnology and Life” by Richard Jones
    “Good Calories, Bad Calories” by Gary Taubes

  • True_Q

    And what ’bout “The Selfish Gene” by Dawkins? The most awesome popular-science (and not only popular) book ever writen;)

  • Sad

    The first science-themed books I ever read outside of school were by Dawkins.

  • Auders

    Surely QED, – the book transcription of Feynman’s famous popular science lectures on the subject – should be on the list.

  • Ijon Tichy

    What is the Name of this Book? by Raymond Smullyan: An entertaining introduction to logic via increasingly challenging problems; a very good workout for the brain.
    Infinity and the Mind by Rudy Rucker: A mixed bag overall, but contains a really wonderful description of Cantor’s theory of transfinite numbers.
    Abel’s Proof by Peter Pesic: A marvellous exposition of Abel’s proof that there is no general solution in radicals to polynomial equations of the 5th degree (and higher), and also what Galois cooked up from this result.
    Darkness at Night by Edward Harrison: Explains the history of our ideas behind the darkness of the night sky, dispelling a few annoyingly persistent myths about it along the way.
    From X-Rays to Quarks by Emilio Segre: The best history of modern physics I’ve read; it really nails home the point about the importance of experiments.
    The Blind Watchmaker by Richard Dawkins: From the greatest pop-science writer of them all, here is a superb explanation of the Darwinian theory of evolution. The clarity is unsurpassed. Read his The Selfish Gene as well.

  • Belizean

    Thirty Years that Shook Physics by George Gamov

  • snoopy

    What is life? (Erwin Schrödinger)

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/What_is_Life%3F_(Schr%C3%B6dinger)

    The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Other Clinical Tales (Oliver Sachs)

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Man_Who_Mistook_His_Wife_for_a_Hat

  • http://www.twis.org/audio/2008/08/19/268/ TwisMinion

    Recently read “The Mystery of the Missing Antimatter” by Helen Quinn and Yossi Nir… and Susskinds “The Black Hole War: My Battle with Stephen Hawking to Make the World Safe for Quantum Mechanics”…

    Loved tham both…
    But over all Brian Greene’s “Elegant Universe” is the best overall primer for science addiction… It was a gateway drug of sorts for me…

    -j-

  • citrine

    “Genius” by James Gleick.

  • Woei Chet Lim

    “The Scientist As Rebel” by Freeman Dyson.

  • http://www.brb.com Boltzmann’s Reptilian Brain

    Can we vote for deletions? SJ Gould’s “Mismeasure of Man” is politically actuated pseudo-science at its worst.

  • http://www.cthisspace.com Claire C Smith

    Electromagnetism for Engineers: An Introductory Course (Textbooks in Electrical & Electronic Engineering) by P. Hammond.

    Claire C Smith

  • http://www.cthisspace.com Claire C Smith

    Oh, ok it’s popular science. Fault. Mine.

    The Wonder Book of Science, Third edition, Harry Golding. It inspires.

    Claire

  • TS

    The Nature of the Physical World by Eddington. Dated, but still a fun read.

    Also, Relativity by Einstein.

  • kevin walker

    When I was in 1st grade the school was giving away books. I found a 4th grade science book with an artists conception of the solar system. I would sit and stare at it for literally hours. It also had a picture of Venus and the moon side by side. My Father told me the moon was much smaller than Venus and asked, so why does the moon look bigger? I was 6 years old. I racked my brains and had no answer. He said because the moon is much closer and the planet Venus is much further away. I slapped a metaphorical head and was hooked on learning. Any book or learning is based on a eureka moment like that.

  • Supernova

    The Stars by H. A. Rey. Started it all for me.

  • http://ecos.blogalia.com Pedro J.

    Light from the Depths of Time Rudolf Kippenhahn is one of the best starts in astrophysics and cosmology for the layman. Use the dreams of Mr. Meyer in the same way Gamow used Mr. Tompkins.

  • Diocletian

    “Disturbing the Universe” and all other books by Freeman Dyson. Old as they are, his books are very topical with good advice on space exploration and nuclear energy. He explains that he is paid enormously well for his expert advice which is always ignored.

    “The Glass Giant of Palomar” David O. Woodbury two reviews:
    http://www.amazon.com/glass-giant-Palomar-David-Woodbury/dp/0396019196

    That is the extent of my reading in science and other topics. Will be glad to have a list of 1000.

  • Mike

    I liked the book by Vilenkin, “Many Worlds in One.”

    I haven’t finished, but really adore so far, “The Road to Reality” by Roger Penrose. This must be the only popular science book that makes a serious effort to teach the reader some deep concepts. There are many things in there I wish my HS teachers would have explained… I would have been even more into math.

    Neither of these, I guess, score well for “influence.”

  • grbiersema

    Some of my favorites… “Out of the Sky” by Ninninger, Hoyle’s “Frontiers of Astronomy” and “The nature of the Universe” (barring the chapters on steady-state cosmology), Willy Ley’s “Satelliets, rockets and outer space” influenced a generation (in the eary 50’s that is); Sobel’s “Longitude” is brilliant, as well as
    Gingerich “The book nobody read”.

    The books that got me into physics and astronomy are the amazingly thorough and astonishingly well written series “Light and color in the outdoors” by
    Marcel Minnaert, definitely my number 1.

  • devicerandom

    I find the lack of books by John Barrow disturbing. :)

    When I was a child and adolescent, I spend days reading and re-reading “The world within the world” , “Theories of Everything” and “Pi in the Sky”. They were a formidable, fascinating introduction to cosmology and physics, and extremly well written.

    Also, I would endorse the three Dawkins essentials: “The Selfish Gene”, “The Blind Watchmaker” and “The Extended Phenotype”.

  • Ramanan

    Its Steven Weinberg and not Stephen Weinberg !

  • Ramanan

    I am amazed that “Dreams of a Final Theory” is not on the list

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/sean/ Sean

    Fixed Weinberg’s name.

    I didn’t personally include more than one book by any one author, and I think The First Three Minutes is more important than Dreams of a Final Theory.

  • José

    Currently, I am reading
    The Calculus Gallery by William Dunham,a very enjoyable tour of the historical development of calculus presenting mathematical milestones, their beautiful proofs and their discoverers. It’s all very well presented and at about 200 pages, should not take too long to read. There is some serious math in there, yet I still would shelve it in the popular section.

  • igor

    Is it possible to publish such a list on a simple community platform allowing to vote a book up or down?

    I suppose voting would require registration.
    Registered users could also add books.
    There should be no double entries though.

    Would be a lot of fun! And produce a real and readable list.

  • geekoidal_mass

    I must put in a word for the completely un-famous, but completely fabulous, “Relativity Visualized” by Lewis Carroll Epstein.

  • http://www.pieter-kok.staff.shef.ac.uk Pieter Kok

    “Chaos” by James Gleick.

  • Fermi-Walker Public Transport

    Agree with previous commentators that any list should have the books by Freeman Dyson, especially “Disturbing The Universe”. For me though, the number one book is Sagan’s “Cosmic Connection” which I think was even better than “Cosmos”.

  • Venu

    Robert Wright’s book on evolutionary psychology : “The Moral Animal”

  • RA

    “Your inner fish”–Neil Shubin

  • A.B.

    I enjoyed reading and would strongly recommend the following: 1)The Cosmic Landscape: String Theory and the Illusion of Intelligent Design by Leonard Susskind & 2) Hiding in the Mirror by Lawrence M. Krauss.

  • Dolo Mite

    The best book on relativity for laypeople (or even particle physicists for that matter) must be “General relativity from A to B” by Robert Geroch.

  • Nathan Myers

    If you’ve omitted “Arctic Dreams”, by Barry Lopez, the whole project is a joke.

  • http://www.twis.org/audio/2008/08/19/268/ TwisMinion

    i can’t wait to see the full list… can we also have a ranking of some sort? my mailbox will likely be jammed with amazon deliveries regardless but i would still like to spend my sundays in descending order of recommended readings…

  • http://people.csse.uwa.edu.au/info.php?name=peterj Peter E Jones

    I loved the earlier 1965 version, now updated in 2001 as “The New World of Mr Tompkins: George Gamow’s Classic Mr Tompkins in Paperback” by the physicist George Gamow and now Russell Stannard. No need to travel at the speed of light to experience relativity!

  • True_Q

    Venu You’ve got my vote. ‘The Moral Animal” is great. And for evolutionary psychology I’d add some books by David Buss

  • Karthik

    “Chaos: Making a new science” By James Gleick

    Do biographies of Scientists count? (Provided they discuss the scientific method)
    If yes, then “Genius” by James Gleick.

  • ScentOfViolets

    I’m a little saddened that, for all his prodigious output, Asimov has not been mentioned once as a popularizer of science. IIRC, he is often attributed with making it the enterprise it is today. So no one has any kind words for “The Intelligent Man’s Guide to Science”, “Only a Trillion”, “The Neutrino”, “The Left Hand of the Electron”?

  • spyder

    Given that “popular” is the categorical criteria, it should be no surprise that i too own many of the books in Sean’s list. As someone from the other side of campus, though i cannot speak for them as a whole, i have long recognized that great books written by scientists about science are fundamentally important for work in more normative disciplines. Thus to the advancing list i humbly add some author’s not yet mentioned:
    Ann and Alexander Shulgin
    Richard Schultes
    Albert Hoffman
    Niles Eldredge

  • http://www.thecentrecannothold.net/ Loki Carbis

    The Ghost Map by Steven Johnson – underrated book about the birth of statistical and geographical analysis in epidemiology, and how it (eventually) killed the miasmic theory of disease…

  • http://www.dukecityfix.com Sophie
  • Thomas

    Here the pop-sci booklet which influenced Einstein’s imagination:
    http://www.perlentaucher.de/buch/24562.html
    (and here a toy from Einstein’s earlier years: http://graysonfamily.org/~dan/Halle/dscf1956.jpg )
    BTW, I doubt the value of popular science books – curious kids take them as substitutes for the real thing and rarely switch to reading real science books.

  • http://www.cgoakley.demon.co.uk/qft/ Chris Oakley

    Yes to “The First 3 minutes”, “The Periodic Table” & “Longitude”

    Feynman’s ego ride makes the list? Surely you’re joking, Mr. Carroll.

    But WHERE is the greatest popular science book ever written? I am talking, of course, about “The Second Creation” by Robert Crease and Charles Mann.

    No mention of “Not Even Wrong”, I see. I suppose that the point of view is unpopular, but I found it rivetting.

  • CCC

    “The Time and Space of Uncle Albert” by Russell Stannard. (Also “Black Holes and Uncle Albert” by the same author).

    “Flatterland” by… Ian Steward, I think.

  • Philip

    “The Dancing Wu-Li Masters” by Gary Zukov.

  • R squared

    Showing my age – here are a few books that were missed
    by younger reviewers.

    ‘ The Strange Story of the Quantum ‘ by Banesh Hoffmann
    Dover edition 1959 – still a great read.

    ‘ The Character of Physical Law ‘ by Richard Feynman
    MIT Press 1965 – Feynman deserves at least 2 books on the list.

    ‘ Knowledge and Wonder – The Natural World As Man Knows It ‘
    by Victor F. Weisskopf second edition MIT Press 1979 –
    arguably the best popular science book.

    ‘ The Cosmic Code : Quantum Physics as the Language of Nature ”
    by Heinz R. Pagels Bantum 1984 – the first of three good popular
    science books by Pagels .

  • kumo

    Where is Asimov?!??!?

  • http://cathym.googlepages.com/ Cathy

    ‘The music of the primes’ by Marcus du Sautoy.

    A beautifully written book that excites and enthralls. Probably my favourite popular science (math) book of all time.

  • JTB

    Mr Tompkins needs to be on here.

    Also if you are going to put a philosophy of science book why must it be SSR? Kuhn is either widely misunderstood or wildly stupid (I tend to guess the former, but who knows?). Go with Popper or Russell, both much stronger thinkers and more influential.

  • Cef

    I definitely agree with a previous poster that Peter Woit’s “Not Even Wrong” should be a contender.

    And what about Simon Singh’s “Fermat’s Last Theorem”?

    And while we’re going on maths, what about cryptography? Bruce Schneier’s “Applied Cryptography” surely would need a mention then.

  • http://www.strings.musser.com George Musser

    I’m loth to nominate my own book – so tacky – but Sean forced me into it. :-) The Complete Idiot’s Guide to String Theory, wherein, among other things, I have an outsider’s analysis of the String Wars that I’m sure all sides will find equally unpersuasive.
    George

  • John

    Either of the books by Richard Rhodes are indispensable and excellent:

    “The Making of the Atomic Bomb”
    “Dark Sun”

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/sean/ Sean

    George, how are you going to become a famous author if you don’t mention your own book at every opportunity? When my textbook came out, I couldn’t stop yapping about it.

  • R squared

    Here are a few more recent books for consideration. I do not
    think that they have been mentioned yet by anyone else.

    ‘ The Machinery of Life ‘ by David S. Goodsell ,
    Springer-Verlag 1993

    ‘ Vital Dust – The Origin and Evolution of Life on Earth ‘
    by Christian de Duve , Basic Books 1995

    ‘ The Truth of Science – Physical Theories and Reality ‘
    by Roger G. Newton , Harvard University Press 1997

    ‘ G”odel’s Proof ‘ by Nagel and Newman ,
    Revised edition 2001 edited by D. Hofstadter
    New York University Press

    ‘ Fearful Symmetry – the search for beauty in modern physics ‘
    by A. Zee , new edition 2007 Princeton University Press

  • Sad

    Hey George, I’m most definitely an idiot, albeit an idiot with a yearning to understand modern science, so I just ordered your book from Amazon.

  • Vlad

    I agree that Feynman should not be represented by the “Surely You´re Joking” which is entertaining but hardly can be classified as a popular science book. Among his other books, “The Character of the Physcis Laws” is great, but it is “QED” that represents science popularization in its purest form, free from unnecessary jokes and metaphors. May be it is not very popular among the wide public, but we are trying to make a list of the greatest books, not of the best sold ones, right?

  • R squared

    Some final additions :

    older ‘classics’

    ‘Of Stars and Men’ by Harlow Shapley (1959)

    ‘The Universe and Dr. Einstein’ by Lincoln Barnett (1962)

    ‘The ABC of Relativity’ by Bertrand Russell (1962)

    ‘Profiles of the Future’ by Arthur C. Clarke (1963)

    ‘Intelligent Life in the Universe’ by Sagan and Shklovskii (1966)

    ‘Red Giants and White Dwarfs, The Evolution of Stars, Planets and Life’
    by Robert Jastrow (1967)

    ‘Men Who Made a New Physics : Physicists and the Quantum Theory’
    by Barbara Lovett Cline (1969)

    ‘The Ascent of Man’ by Jacob Bronowski (1973)

    more recent goodies :

    ‘The Quark and the Jaguar’ by Murray Gell-Mann (1994)

    ‘Atom’ by Lawrence Krauss (2001)

    ‘Our Cosmic Habitat’ by Martin Rees (2001)

    ‘Life on a Young Planet’ by Andrew Knoll (2003)
    .

  • Nick R

    “From Here to Infinity” (aka “The Problems of Mathematics”) by Ian Stewart

    “Chaos” by James Gleick.

    Personally I preferred Richard Dawkins’s “Climbing Mount Improbable” to “The Blind Watchmaker”.

  • eddie

    I second Vlad on the best Feynman books and am also glad to see Ian Stewart mentioned. He worked with Terry Pratchett and Jack Cohen on the Science of Diskworld mentioned earlier.
    I’d like to nominate Ian and Jack’s What Does A Martian Look Like.

    You can’t beat Asimov’s Lucky Starr seires for a tour of the solar system.

    Mendelssohn – The Quest for Absolute Zero

    The book that made me want to be a physicist was The Nature of Matter by Otto Frisch.

    The original – Relativity by Einstein hasn’t been bettered

    Other non-physics ones; The Ancestors Tale is my favourite Dawkins and for maths I’d second the Music of the Primes and add The Equation That Couldn’t Be Solved.

    phew.

  • riemann

    Nick R @ 77: Dawkins agrees with you. Here’s a quation from his web site, http://richarddawkins.net/articleComments,2890,Good-Science-Writers-Richard-Dawkins,Sandwalk,page1#216422

    I am interested in the suggestion that Climbing Mount Improbable might not be an ideal title. Interested, because I regard it as the most under-rated of my books. It sells FAR fewer copies than The Blind Watchmaker although I think it is a better book. Perhaps the reason is that the title is not so good. It covers some of the same ground as The Blind Watchmaker, but — even though it is not really for me to say — I like to think the two chapters called ‘The Museum of all Shells’ and ‘Kaleidoscopic Embryos’ are genuinely novel and original, where The Blind Watchmaker is mostly popularizing stuff that is already well known to professionals. Well, as I say, it is not really for me to judge. But my own opinion is that, if anybody is thinking of reading The Blind Watchmaker, they might do better to read Climbing Mount Improbable instead. Of course, I wouldn’t want to STOP anyone reading BOTH!

    It should be on the list. Then again so shoud The Blind Watchmaker and The Selfish Gene. But then The Ancestor’s Tale is a true masterpiece and cannot be left out. Well, why don’t we just write “see Dawkins” to the list?

    And Jerry P. King’s The Art of Mathematics was what got my maths enthusiasm going.

  • Ram

    Some books I love:
    “Godel, Escher and Bach”
    “Men of Mathematics”, E. T. Bell
    “How to Solve It”, Polya
    Freakonomics,
    Carl Sagan (any book of his…),
    “Courage to Create” and “Man in Search of Himself” (Psychology) ,
    Society of the Mind, Marvin Minsky
    most recreational math books,

  • Kerry

    Sorry to join in so lae in the game, but here are my favorites. All tend toward my specialty, Biology, but I have tried to make sure that all are popular, not technical.

    A Short History of Nearly Everything – Bill Bryson
    The Stars – H. A. Rey
    Your Inner Fish – Neil Shubin
    The Blind Watchmaker – Richard Dawkins
    The Eighth Day of Creation – Horace Judson
    The Double Helix – Watson
    Chaos – Jame Gleick
    The Map that Changed the World – Simon Winchester
    Einstein’s Cosmos – Michio Kaku
    The Ancestor’s Tale – Richard Dawkins
    Why Big Fierce Animal are Rare – Colinaux
    Animals without Backbones – Ralph Buxbaum
    On Human Nature – E. O. Wilson
    E=mc^2 – David Bodanis
    The Edge of the Sea – Rachel Carson
    The Year of the Gorilla – George Schaller
    The Beak of the Finch – Jonathan Weiner
    Endless Forms most Beautiful – Sean Carroll
    One, Two, Three, … Infinity – George Gamow

    I grew up on Asimov, but find him dated and dull now. I find Darwin’s Origin dull stuff, too, but his later books on plants are great.

  • John

    I’m not sure if it has been mentioned, but ‘The Matter Myth’ by Paul Davies is good. Has anybody included David Bohm’s ‘Wholeness and the Implicate Order’?

  • http://www.ardmachapress.com Marion

    As a Popular Science publisher, I have had the pleasure of working with a range of interesting writers. However, by far the best in this field is Keith Skene, who wrote the highly aclaimed “Shadows on the Cave Wall: A New Theory of Evolution.” This completely turns recent thinking on its head, and should be read in order to truely appraise the value of Richard Dawkins’ work, which it exposes as extremely limited. It’s a great read, and very amusing, but profoundly moving at the same time.

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Cosmic Variance

Random samplings from a universe of ideas.

About Sean Carroll

Sean Carroll is a Senior Research Associate in the Department of Physics at the California Institute of Technology. His research interests include theoretical aspects of cosmology, field theory, and gravitation. His most recent book is The Particle at the End of the Universe, about the Large Hadron Collider and the search for the Higgs boson. Here are some of his favorite blog posts, home page, and email: carroll [at] cosmicvariance.com .

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