The Best Chemistry Books, recommended by Michelle Francl

Chemistry plays a vital role in our understanding of life, the universe and the chances of a better future, says Michelle Francl. She chooses five of the best books on the topic—from a biography of water to a portrait of one of the greatest chemists of all time.

The Best Books on the Big Bang, recommended by Dan Hooper

Before Einstein, how the universe began was a question for theologians, not scientists. Over a century later, we know much more, but not enough to do more than guess at what happened at the moment of the Big Bang and immediately after. Astrophysicist Dan Hooper, author of At the Edge of Timea book that explores dark energy, dark matter and other things we don’t yet understand—talks us through books about the Big Bang, and questions whether our entire understanding of the universe is about to be turned upside down.

Favourite Maths Books, especially Geometry, recommended by David Acheson

From Thales’s theorem to the Banach-Tarski paradox, Oxford mathematician David Acheson’s book, The Wonder Book of Geometry, is a lively attempt to bring to life geometry—literally, ‘earth measurement’—and make it accessible to the general public. Here, David recommends some of the books that influenced him, “in the order in which I met them, over a timespan of some 60 years.”

The best books on Quantum Physics and Reality, recommended by Jim Baggott

Quantum physics is deeply confusing and its relation to reality the cause of heated debate among physicists since its discovery. Here, science writer Jim Baggott—who has spent more than three decades thinking about quantum mechanics and written a number of books about it—recommends books for better understanding what it’s about, and explains why how physicists approach it is so crucial to science’s credibility.

The best books on Longevity, recommended by Steven Austad

The promises of potions or techniques to achieve longevity have been with us since time immemorial, the outlandishness of some claims matched only by our willingness to believe them. And, yet, today’s scientific research does give some clues on how to live longer and healthier lives. Biologist Steven Austad, Distinguished Professor and Endowed Chair in Healthy Aging Research at the University of Alabama, recommends a range of books that give insight into longevity.

Best Books on the Neuroscience of Consciousness, recommended by Anil Seth

Nearly every human has a sense of self, a feeling that we are located in a body that’s looking out at the world and experiencing it over the course of a lifetime. Some people even think of it as a soul or other nonphysical reality that is yet somehow connected to the blood and bones that make up our bodies. How things seem, however, is quite often an unreliable guide to how things are, says neuroscientist Anil Seth. Here he recommends five key books that led him to his own understanding of consciousness, and explores why it is that what is likely an illusion can be so utterly convincing.

The best books on Forensic Science, recommended by Jim Fraser

Jim Fraser, veteran forensic investigator and author of Murder Under the Microscope, selects five of the best books about forensic science. Forget what you think you know about the subject from crime fiction and television dramas, and bring a healthy scepticism: this line of work can be as much a craft as a science.

The best books on The Scientific Revolution, recommended by Vera Keller

The scientific revolution is often seen as having transformed the way we think and ushered in the modern world, but in highlighting the work of a few key individuals, it has distorted the reality of how science advances in society and how it interacts with truth. Here, Vera Keller, Professor of History at the University of Oregon, challenges popularly held assumptions about the scientific revolution and explains how its meaning, significance and importance have been disputed and misunderstood.

Best Books on the Periodic Table, recommended by Henrik Selin & Noelle Eckley Selin

The periodic table of the elements has been described as “one of the great intellectual achievements of humankind”. Here, Noelle Eckley Selin of MIT and Henrik Selin of Boston University talk us through some of their favourite books about various chemical elements and explain why they’re vital to understanding the world around us.

Nuclear Books, recommended by Richard Wolfson

In science, the word ‘nuclear’ refers to anything to do with the atomic nucleus, whether you’re using it to generate power or create weapons of mass destruction. Here, physicist and science educator Richard Wolfson recommends five books relating to things nuclear, from a book of graphic nonfiction about the Curie family to how fusion can save the planet.

The best books on Immunology, recommended by John Rhodes

John Rhodes, immunologist and author of The End of Plagues and How to Make a Vaccine, selects five of the best books to help the layperson understand the human immune system in all its fiendish complexity—and explains why the discovery of a successful vaccine is only the initial breakthrough in the long and logistically challenging battle for disease eradication.

The best books on Evolution, recommended by Jerry Coyne

Evolutionary biologist Jerry Coyne tells us why Darwin is still essential reading and sifts the vast amount of more recent writing on evolution for books that are both inspiring to scientists and accessible to general readers. He picks the best books on evolution.

The best books on Ada Lovelace, recommended by Ursula Martin

Ada Lovelace has become an iconic figure for women in science and is often credited with the invention of modern computing. But, as Ursula Martin—mathematician, computer scientist and Lovelace biographer—explains, all of that is a bit overblown. The Lovelace myth obscures the truth about a woman who was certainly a very brilliant mathematician, but who was also often frustrated in her scientific ambitions, in poor health and unhappy.

The best books on Viruses, recommended by Dorothy H. Crawford

Many of us have developed a new fascination for viruses and virology during the global COVID-19 crisis. Here, Dorothy Crawford, professor of medical microbiology and the author of Viruses: A Very Short Introduction, selects five of the best books on viruses for the general reader.

Books on the Deep Future, recommended by David Farrier

What trace of our lives will we leave, and what stories might they tell about us? In Footprints, David Farrier explores how our generation will be remembered in the traces it leaves behind in myths, stories… and the fossil record. Here he talks to Caspar Henderson about books to help reflect on ‘the deep future.’

The best books on Prehistoric Women, recommended by Thomas Cirotteau

Thanks to scientific advances, we’re finding out more and more about prehistoric people, including women and their lives during the Upper Paleolithic era. French filmmaker Thomas Cirotteau, director of the documentary and co-author of a book about Lady Sapiens, recommends books to find out more about our female ancestors, who while separated from us by tens of thousands of years, have been brought tantalizingly close by new techniques and discoveries.

The best books on Anthropology, recommended by Brenna Hassett

New techniques have uncovered an enormous amount of information about how humans evolved and new human species continue to pop up on a regular basis. Biological anthropologist Brenna Hassett, author of Growing Up Human, recommends books to learn more about our ancestors and how we became the human beings we are today.

The best books on Scientists, recommended by Jimena Canales

Five fascinating books about scientists, selected by historian of science Jimena Canales. She explains how the scientific persona has been constructed throughout history and explores the implicit assumptions about agency, subjectivity, and causality that underlie scientific biographies.

The best books on Time, recommended by Carlo Rovelli

Our experience of time is only weakly related to the fundamental realities of physics, says the physicist and best-selling author Carlo Rovelli. Here he selects five works for understanding the nature of time in its truer sense.

The best books on Isaac Newton, recommended by William Newman

John Maynard Keynes famously cast Isaac Newton not as the first scientist of the age of reason, but the last of the magicians. How should we interpret the million words he wrote, in secret, on alchemy? What should we make of Newton’s heretical religious views? William Newman talks us through the best books for a better understanding of the complex man who was one of the greatest physicists of all time.

The Best Apollo Books, recommended by Christopher Riley

The lesson of the Apollo programme is that anything is possible, says filmmaker and author Christopher Riley. He talks us through the best books (and one documentary) about America’s race with the Soviet Union to put the first man on the Moon.

Space Travel and Science Fiction Books, recommended by Christopher Mason

Space travel may be the stuff of science fiction but some of it is getting closer and closer to becoming reality. What’s more, we have a duty to pursue it, says Christopher Mason, Professor of Genomics, Physiology, and Biophysics at Weill Cornell Medicine and author of The Next 500 Years, a blueprint of how to set about leaving our solar system. Here, he recommends his favourite science fiction about space travel, and an essential philosophy book.

The best books on Big History, recommended by Toby Ord

‘Big history’ looks at history on the timescale of the Earth and the universe, rather than just the short period of time that humanity has been around. Here, Toby Ord, a moral philosopher at Oxford University’s Future of Humanity Institute, recommends books to get a handle on it, and explains why now is a critical time for Homo sapiens.

The Best Science Books to Take on Holiday, recommended by Jim Al-Khalili

Aah, the holidays! Time to lie on the grass and read the latest novel. Or are you looking for something more demanding? Physicist and popular science author Jim Al-Khalili, who has just written his first sci-fi thriller, Sunfall, suggests some highly readable science books for those who prefer their holiday reads to be nonfiction.

The best books on Galileo Galilei, recommended by Paula Findlen

The trial of Galileo by the Roman Inquisition was one of the most public confrontations between the new science emerging in the 17th century and the Catholic Church but, nearly 400 years later, there’s still a lot of scope to argue what it was about. Here historian of science Paula Findlen, a professor at Stanford University, explains the endless fascination of Galileo Galilei, the Renaissance man who turned a telescope to the sky and took the world by storm, and recommends the best books to start learning more about him.

The Best Physics Books for Teenagers, recommended by Kate Lee

What are the best books for getting a teenager into physics? Kate Lee, a physics teacher at St Paul’s Girls School, recommends books about NASA, space travel, and the Big Bang—and puzzles the question of why it is so hard for young women to stay in physics as a profession.

The best books on Engineering, recommended by Ante Shoda

What should a budding engineer—or even an experienced one—read for a better understanding of the science and trade? And how does engineering help make our lives better every day? Ante Shoda, an engineer for Honda Racing in California, recommends the best books for a fundamental understanding of engineering.

The Best Science Books of 2018, recommended by Barbara Kiser

“As life on Earth is rocked by conflict and environmental crisis, these serene little scientific emissaries remind us of how different it can be when we collaborate selflessly in the getting of knowledge.” Barbara Kiser, veteran science journalist and the books and arts editor at Nature, chooses the best science books of 2018.

The best books on Science and Wonder, recommended by Caspar Henderson

When we see a rainbow or another beautiful spectacle in nature, what is that sense of wonder we are filled with? How can we nurture it? Caspar Henderson, author of A New Map of Wonders (and Five Books science and environment editor) recommends the best books to help us develop our sense of wonder.

The best books on Data Science, recommended by Roger D. Peng

From complex techniques only used by academic statisticians, data science has risen to extreme popularity in only a few years. Roger D. Peng, Professor of Biostatistics at Johns Hopkins University and founder of one of the largest data science online courses, helps us understand this discipline and recommends the five best books to delve into it.

The best books on Transhumanism, recommended by Mark O'Connell

The journalist and author Mark O’Connell explored the nature of transhumanism—the belief that technology will help us evolve beyond our current physical and mental limitations—in his award-winning book To Be A Machine. Here he selects five key books that speak directly to the movement.

The best books on Ice, recommended by Mark Serreze

Ice and humanity have always been close partners, says Mark Serreze, director of the US National Snow and Ice Data Center. But this relationship is changing fast as polar ice melts. Here he selects five books that fed his fascination.

The best books on Honeybees, recommended by Helen Jukes

Humanity has a long history of keeping bees. But what do we really know about them? Beekeeping memoirist Helen Jukes selects five books that examine both the behaviour of bees as individuals and colonies as ‘superorganisms.’

The best books on The History of Mathematics, recommended by Robin Wilson

Why should we be interested in the history of mathematics? Mathematics, like painting, music, literature, has a long history, says Robin Wilson. Indeed, it’s longer than most, since the first writing is believed to be numerical. Mathematics is also multicultural, with its historical origins in Africa, the Middle East and Asia.

The best books on Ocean Life, recommended by Helen Scales

We plunder the ocean for food, dump our waste in it, respect its wildlife less than land-based creatures. Why? Is it a case of “out of sight, out of mind”? Marine biologist Helen Scales tells us what’s down there and what we’re doing to it.