Caspar Henderson

Interviews by Caspar Henderson

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 books on Global Challenges, recommended by Rowan Hooper

Which are the most pressing global challenges we face today? In How to Spend a Trillion Dollars Rowan Hooper, a senior editor at the New Scientist, makes the case for the ones he considers the most urgent. Here, he recommends books that help illuminate some of those challenges—including the amazing resource that is ‘Project Drawdown’.

The Best Books for Long-Term Thinking, recommended by Roman Krznaric

We would all love our economic and political systems to be less short-termist in approach, but how do we set about encouraging a more long-term ethos? Cultural thinker Roman Krznaric, author of The Good Ancestor, recommends five books to get us thinking about the long term, up to ten millennia in the future.

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 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 Climate Change Novels, recommended by James Bradley

The best fiction allows us to hold ideas in our heads about time and space and causality and connection that are difficult to articulate in other ways, argues the Australian author James Bradley. It helps its readers engage with dangers and possibilities that are at the very edge of imagination

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 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 Predators, recommended by Nick Pyenson

The predators that stalked our ancestors have been marginalised to the brink of extinction, but these animals still fill us with awe, says Nick Pyenson. They play a vital role in life on Earth, and we need to understand them if we are to survive.

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 Radical Environmentalism, recommended by Daegan Miller

The shining core of a radical environmentalism is when we open up our circle of concern to include things beyond trees or animals or water to people of all kinds, says the writer and landscape historian Daegan Miller. Here he selects five of the best books that evoke the spirit of the movement.

The Best Science-based Novels for Children, recommended by Alom Shaha

There are umpteen science textbooks out there to help kids with their science homework. But what about the broader picture, the creativity, the advantages of becoming a scientifically literate individual? Alom Shaha, teacher, filmmaker and science communicator, recommends five great novels to inspire your kids with the wonder of science.

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 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 Climate Change and Uncertainty, recommended by Kate Marvel

‘When we talk about climate change, we sometimes assume people will be swayed by one more graph, one more coherent argument. But that’s not how people work. More facts don’t change minds, and deeply held views don’t always dictate behaviour.’ How, then, to grapple with a future that ‘might be weirder than we realise’? Kate Marvel, Associate Research Scientist at Columbia University and NASA, recommends an essential reading list for those ready to confront climate change and the uncertainties it brings

The best books on The Politics of Climate Change, recommended by Naomi Oreskes

‘We’re on a path that is going to lead to tremendous destruction and yet most of us are going about our lives as if nothing particularly special is happening.’ The science of climate change is incontrovertible but deniers persist and political and economic solutions continue to be – systematically – frustrated. Time is running out, says Naomi Oreskes

The best books on Energy Transitions, recommended by Chris Goodall

The switch to sources of energy other than oil and gas is now well under way, but how long will it be before we can rely on them for the bulk of the world’s power—if ever? Renewable energy expert Chris Goodall gives us a thought-provoking reading list to think about both past and future ‘energy transitions.’

The best books on Trees, recommended by David George Haskell

‘The wood that frames our houses, holds up our furniture, and gives us paper arrives with signs of its ecological history purged.’ We’re a long way from the campfire where our relationship with trees got going. Here, David George Haskell takes us back, deep into the forest.

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.