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Tim Radford's Top Book Recommendations

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

A Nobel Prize-winning physicist explains what happened at the very beginning of the universe, and how we know, in this popular science classic.

Our universe has been growing for nearly 14 billion years. But almost everything about it, from the elements that forged stars, planets, and lifeforms, to the fundamental forces of physics, can be traced back to what happened in just the first three minutes of its life.

In this book, Nobel Laureate Steven Weinberg describes in wonderful detail what happened in these first three minutes. It is an exhilarating journey that begins...

Dan HooperSteve Weinberg is arguably the most brilliant physicist of the last many decades. He’s an absolute luminary. He also happens to be a really good writer and communicator. I’ve liked all of the books of his I’ve read, but I picked The First Three Minutes because it is the classic book about the Big Bang and the first three minutes of our universe’s history. (Source)

Tim RadfordNot only is it the beginning of the universe, it’s the beginning of books about the universe. (Source)

David GoldbergAnother one that has to be on any list like this is The First Three Minutes by Steven Weinberg, a Nobel Prize-winner. It’s a relatively slim volume, in which he describes what happened in the first three minutes of the Big Bang, as it was known and understood back then [1977]. We’ve learned a fair amount since then and some of the details in his original version are a little off, but the basic... (Source)

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C.S. Lewis' The Discarded Image paints a lucid picture of the medieval world view, as historical and cultural background to the literature of the Middle Ages and Renaissance. It describes the "image" discarded by later ages as "the medieval synthesis itself, the whole organization of their theology, science and history into a single, complex, harmonious mental model of the universe." This, Lewis' last book, was hailed as "the final memorial to the work of a great scholar and teacher and a wise and noble mind." less
Recommended by Tim Radford, and 1 others.

Tim RadfordYou have to understand this world or you can’t enjoy Dante. (Source)

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Possible Worlds

John Burdon Sanderson Haldane was a giant among men. He made major contributions to genetics, population biology, and evolutionary theory. He was at once comfortable in mathematics, chemistry, microbiology and animal physiology. But it was his belief in education that led to his preparing his popular essays for publication. In his own words: "Many scientifi c workers believe that they should confine their publications to learned journals. I think that the public has a right to know what is going on inside the laboratories, for some of which it pays." So begins Haldane's collection of essays,... more
Recommended by Tim Radford, and 1 others.

Tim RadfordThere’s a greater density of memorable sentences in Haldane’s collected journalism than there is in most great novelists’ writing. (Source)

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The Periodic Table

The Periodic Table by Primo Levi is an impassioned response to the Holocaust: Consisting of 21 short stories, each possessing the name of a chemical element, the collection tells of the author's experiences as a Jewish-Italian chemist before, during, and after Auschwitz in luminous, clear, and unfailingly beautiful prose. It has been named the best science book ever by the Royal Institution of Great Britain, and is considered to be Levi's crowning achievement. less
Recommended by William Fiennes, Tim Radford, and 2 others.

William FiennesThey’re a mixture of short stories and autobiographical essays, or essays in autobiography. Levi uses the elements from the periodic table as a way of organising memory. He uses 21 elements, each as a doorway or wormhole into a particular area of his experience, into a particular memory – but leaving out his time in Auschwitz, because he’d already written about that. You get his early interest in... (Source)

Tim RadfordIt’s a life story by a chemist seen through the prism of an elemental substance. Some of it doesn’t work very well and some of it works very well. There’s a lovely chapter on iron that refers to the arrival of the Fascist era. There’s a much more personal account involving mine tailings and the extraction of precious metals from mine tailing, which he was employed at. That gives him a chance to... (Source)

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The Epic Journey of Apollo 11

It has been called the single most historic event of the 20th century: On July 20, 1969, after a decade of tests and training, supported by a staff of 400,000 engineers and scientists, and with a budget of billions, the most powerful rocket ever launched brought Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins to the moon.

Nobody captured the men, the mood, and the machinery like Norman Mailer, hired by LIFE magazine to cover the mission in a dazzling reportage he later enhanced into the brilliantly crafted book,
Recommended by Andrew Reid, Tim Radford, and 2 others.

Andrew ReidBest book of photography I own!! (Source)

Tim RadfordI read his account of being a witness to the launch of Apollo and it is prose that brings tears to my eyes. (Source)

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