1. Annals of a Former World, by John McPhee
In patient, lyrical prose, McPhee takes the reader on a journey through the United States. This volume was initially released as 4 books; each is dedicated to a road trip the writer took with a geologist, monitoring the world next to Eisenhower's great US highways for hints into its geologic past. Annals has this--no edges, idealistic, On the Road for geologists kind of feel (though a little more grownup.) If you're able to fit it in your pack, highly recommended as a company for camping trips.
2. Surely You are Joking, Mr. Feynman, by Richard Feynman
A chain of excerpts from Feynman's life/career, Surely You are Joking is likely the popular science publication I've read the most times, not because it's brief, but because it's at once convincing, understated, and full of crucial scientific concepts. Richard Feynman has an uncanny capability to create physics easily digestible, his lectures are a testament to that and Surely You are Joking is no exception. It really is delightful.
3. A Brief History of Nearly Everything, by Bill Bryson
The 2nd hefty volume to the list, A Short History is packed with almost everything. It requires a look in the science behind lots of things--beauty, cells, development, the universe. Bryson rejects the conventional view of a 'textbook' with this book, making science appear applicable in our everyday lives AND placing this knowledge within the context of the universe--in space and time. Capturing the nooks where science is frequently concentrated AND eliciting the wonder of the wider view is an achievement - - savor it wherever you will get it. Great in audio book format.
4. The Abundance of Life, group of essays by Stephen Jay Gould
The idiosyncratic Gould has written articles in several other science magazines and Natural History for decades and is really one of the very widely read modern science writers. In this group of articles, Gould's exceptionally intellectual, witty, and pin-exact prose describes evolutionary theory, racism or baseball using a scientist's eye, but in ways that engages the layperson. Gould's commitment to science shows in every piece. Delightful.
5. The Canon, by Natalie Angier
I must concur. The Canon is the finest model of her witty prose winding the reader through simple scientific questions with hard responses. Within this book, Angier tackles what she's deemed the fundamental scientific concepts everyone should understand: believing scientifically, chances, calibration, physics, evolutionary biology, chemistry, molecular biology, astronomy and geology. Phew. I need to say--this may have been quite textbook, but because of her writing style, is masterful. I really have had many nonscientist buddy recommend this to me, which is definitely a good hint.
6. Cosmos in a Teacup, by K.C. Cole
Where is it possible to locate a guide that successfully intertwines the area of math, with the concepts of truth and beauty? Universe is just such a novel; K.C.'s most popular and in certain ways seminal volume. Her prose style is somewhat poetic, and in Universe, she proves adept at clarify things like madness or phase transitions are illuminating--not only because you eventually realize some science theory that always look so vague, but because Cole has also given the you a fresh method to consider math and the world along with your new understanding.
Packed with advice regarding the history of codes, who figured it all out, and how exactly to break them, this novel has a sort - of James Bond appeal. Various scientists and politicians have acted as codebreakers and codemakers from antiquity until modern day, and codes are becoming more and more important in computer engineering and national security. The tales behind the codes are so fascinating i barely even recognized that i was learning about the math of code theory in the procedure.
7. Enduring Love, by Ian McEwan
Fine, so not everyone would categorize this as a popular science publication, but Illinois include it anyhow. Enduring Love is a fiction book, partly composed from the standpoint of the former scientist, but more significantly, it's really a suspenseful narrative that lets the writer's attitudes towards life bleed through every single page. Ian McEwan is really a well-understand rationalist who considers that science is just as much part of culture as anything else--a position with which I very much empathize. It's a pageturner.
Though scientist James Watson does not have a Stephen Jay Gould command of language and metaphor, The Double Helix still stands as an utterly riveting accounts of the chain of events that lead to the discovery of DNA's construction. In the book, Maurice Wilkens, scientists Watson, Crick, and Rosalind Franklin become fascinating characters in a race to find out what DNA looks like at a molecular level. Each has their own motivations. Each has their particular complications. A fast, easy read.
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Science books can be fun to read, so can learning about famous biologists that helped change the way we look at the world!
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