Experts > Philip Ball

Philip Ball's Top Book Recommendations

Want to know what books Philip Ball recommends on their reading list? We've researched interviews, social media posts, podcasts, and articles to build a comprehensive list of Philip Ball's favorite book recommendations of all time.


The Rosicrucian Enlightenment

A history of the role that the occult has played in the formation of modern science and medicine, The Rosicrucian Enlightenment has had a tremendous impact on our understanding of the western esoteric tradition. Beautifully illustrated, it remains one of those rare works of scholarship which the general reader simply cannot afford to ignore. less
Recommended by Philip Ball, and 1 others.

Philip BallIt always interests and slightly amuses me what Rosicrucianism is today. It’s sort of like the Rotary Club. Whereas in the early 17th century it was an invented cult. Someone published pamphlets anonymously, saying that there was a secret brotherhood – the order of the rosy cross – that existed throughout Europe. Those who are in it know who they are, it said, and it’s time for them to get... (Source)

See more recommendations for this book...

Recommended by Philip Ball, and 1 others.

Philip BallHe sets out at the beginning his notion that the history of magic and of experimental science are closely allied. (Source)

See more recommendations for this book...

By explaining how to sire multicolored horses, produce nuts without shells, and create an egg the size of a human head, Giambattista Della Porta's Natural Magic (1559) conveys a fascination with tricks and illusions that makes it a work difficult for historians of science to take seriously. Yet, according to William Eamon, it is in the how-to books written by medieval alchemists, magicians, and artisans that modern science has its roots. These compilations of recipes on everything from parlor tricks through medical remedies to wool-dyeing fascinated medieval intellectuals because they... more
Recommended by Philip Ball, and 1 others.

Philip BallThis book gives fantastic context for how people have thought about nature as a treasure trove of secrets. It goes back to the question of whether it is acceptable to pursue your curiosity. William Eamon has a very nice section on religious attitudes to curiosity in the Middle Ages, when trying to find out nature’s secrets was very much frowned upon. The book also takes us through to the idea... (Source)

See more recommendations for this book...


Wonders and the Order of Nature, 1150-1750

A rich exploration of how European naturalists used wonder and wonders (oddities and marvels) to envision and explain the natural world.

Winner of the History of Science Society's Pfizer Prize: "This book is about setting the limits of the natural and the limits of the known, wonders and wonder, from the High Middle Ages through the Enlightenment. A history of wonders as objects of natural inquiry is simultaneously an intellectual history of the orders of nature. A history of wonder as a passion of natural inquiry is simultaneously a history of the evolving collective sensibility...
Recommended by Philip Ball, and 1 others.

Philip BallThis is a wonderful book by Lorraine Daston and Katharine Park which first got me interested in these questions of curiosity. It looks at questions that have a lot of relevance for science, without at all being a book about science. Rather, it’s a book about the development of thought, and about how our cultural conceptions of certain aspects of thought have evolved. In this case, the real... (Source)

See more recommendations for this book...

'The Age of Wonder' is Richard Holmes' first major work of biography for a decade. It has been inspired by the scientific ferment that swept through Britain at the end of the 18th century, and which Holmes now radically redefines as 'the revolution of Romantic Science'. less

Philip BallThe wonder that Richard Holmes is thinking about in this book was an emergent appreciation of the awesomeness of nature. (Source)

Ed Cooke[Ed Cooke recommended this book in the book "Tools of Titans".] (Source)

Caspar HendersonAmong Holmes’s qualities are is his warmth, his extraordinary depth of knowledge and the fluency in his writing. It’s just a really enjoyable read. (Source)

See more recommendations for this book...

Don't have time to read Philip Ball's favorite books? Read Shortform summaries.

Shortform summaries help you learn 10x faster by:

  • Being comprehensive: you learn the most important points in the book
  • Cutting out the fluff: you focus your time on what's important to know
  • Interactive exercises: apply the book's ideas to your own life with our educators' guidance.