The unanswered questions of the natural world have fueled many books about science. From the majesty of the cosmos to the fascinating history of life, science holds a special place in the hearts of many. Although not everyone can become a scientist, books about science help readers to gain a greater understanding of the science that has created the modern world.
Books about science have been written for a wide variety of audiences, from trained scientists to the general public. Some books give an in-depth view of a particular subject, but other books about science aim to give readers a broader overview of many subjects. Although many of these books didn’t have a grand purpose in mind when they were written, books about science have the potential to change the world. From Darwin’s The Origin of Species to Newton’s Principia, science can become truly powerful when paired with the written word.
#1 – What If?
This book, one of the more whimsical books about science available, uses hard science and charming stick figure drawings to investigate hypothetical situations. Readers can learn how to apply real-world science skills to a series of implausible scenarios, such as what happens when a baseball is thrown at light speed.
#2 – Nikola Tesla: Imagination and the Man that Invented the 20th Century
Nikola Tesla is the subject of this book that pairs biographical information about the famous inventor with motivational content meant to inspire readers to do amazing things with their lives. Throughout the book, readers will learn curious tidbits about Tesla’s life and his many successes.
#3 – Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies
This book about science traces the history of human evolution, beginning with the early gathering societies that eventually became farmers. As these societies matured, science helped them to develop weapons and colonize the world. Like many books about science, this book disputes explanations rooted in ignorance; the book argues that geography, rather than racial differences, can explain the differing rates of advancement between civilizations.
#4 – A Short History of Nearly Everything
In trying to write a short story to explain the history of the entire universe, Bill Bryson instead wrote a lengthy book that touches on a wide variety of subjects. While writing this book, Bryson sought to answer the question of how the Earth became the way it is. Along the way, he tells the stories of some of science’s most entertaining feuds.
#5 – A Brief History of Time
Like many popular books about science, this book launched its author, Stephen Hawking, into the public consciousness. In this book, Hawking explains many advanced concepts in cosmology to the general public. It was one of the first books to spread awareness of black holes, and later editions have included treatments of time travel and wormholes grounded in real-world physics.
#6 – The Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory
String theory is one of the leading candidates for a theory of everything, a dream that has eluded scientists since the 20th century. This complex theory has inspired many books about science, but few are as accessible as Brian Greene’s The Elegant Universe. Using accessible language and plentiful examples, Greene defines the basics of string theory and explains why so many scientists think that string theory could finally give them a working theory of life, the universe and everything.
#7 – The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark
Unlike many books about science, which focus on specific subjects, this book teaches general scientific methods of thinking about and understanding the world. In this book, Carl Sagan aims to arm his readers with critical thinking skills that will help them to understand the power of science to explain the world. He outlines a “baloney detection kit” that readers can use to identify superstition and fallacious reasoning.
#8 – The Innovators
The history of the computer and the Internet is carefully documented in this book about science. The book begins with the story of Ada Lovelace, the original pioneer of computer programing who lived in the 1800s. The author also covers other important figures in the history of computers, including Alan Turing, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs.
#9 – The Selfish Gene
This book about evolutionary science investigates genes, the most basic units of evolutionary selection. By reformulating the story of evolution in terms of genes, Dawkins helps to dispel common misunderstandings about evolution and explains several facts that are baffling when viewed from the individual or species level. Dawkins also spends some time discussing his theory of memes, a term he coined to explain units of information, such as religion or music, that behave similarly to genes.
#10 – Cosmos
Cosmos explores the history of science and civilization. This book was written as a companion piece to a television show of the same name, and each of the chapters in the book corresponds to an episode of the show. Sagan explores a wide variety of subjects, from anthropology to cosmology, and wrote the book to be accessible to anyone with an interest in science. Cosmos is one of the most influential books about science ever written, and it inspired many young people to pursue scientific careers.