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Do you want to know more about the universe and the human body? What are the best science books to read?
Thanks to science, we’ve made incredible progress and discoveries in the world. But there’s always something new to learn about ourselves and Earth, which is why reading science books is a rich experience.
Here are some of the best science books to fulfill your curiosity.
Books About the Human Body and Genetics
Do you ever wonder how your body works? What role does genetics play in evolution?
The best science books inform us about ourselves—how we’ve evolved, how we grow, and why our bodies have a hard time fighting against certain diseases. By reading these books, you’ll learn more about yourself than you ever did before.
In Sapiens, Yuval Noah Harari uses concepts from biology, history, and economics to tell the story of us, Homo sapiens. Harari takes us on a journey that starts 2.5 million years ago, when sapiens make their historical entrance, and ends in the future, when the creation of an artificially created superhuman race may mark the end of the sapiens species. Along the way, we learn how our ability to create imagined realities led to our dominance over other species.
Every part of our bodies, from toenails to hair and everything in between, is built based on the instructions coded into our genes. Therefore, understanding what genes are and how they work is crucial to understanding our bodies, our health, and even our identities. Siddhartha Mukherjee wrote The Gene to give the average reader a basic grounding in the history and the science of genetics.
The Selfish Gene is an essay by Richard Dawkins, an evolutionary biologist and an author best known for The God Delusion. In The Selfish Gene, Dawkins argues that biology’s focus on organisms is misguided and that life should instead be considered from the point of view of individual genes trying to perpetuate themselves through countless generations. Dawkins offers compelling arguments for why we should think about biology as ranging from the microscopic to the wider world.
In his bestselling book The Sports Gene, David Epstein uses science to support the claim that our genes play a determining role in our success in sports. He opens by refuting the idea that enough practice is a virtual guarantee of success. He then spends the rest of the book citing research on genes and performance, taking the reader around the world and through evolutionary time, all to explain why the book’s title is an impossibility.
By studying the brain, the science of neurology brings the empiricism of science together with mankind’s deepest philosophical questions. What makes us human? What’s the true nature of the self, memory, knowing, or action? The late neurologist Oliver Sacks dedicated his life to studying the mysteries and extraordinary powers of the human brain. In The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, Sacks presents the case histories of some of his patients. Each story is a profoundly human narrative of struggle, survival, and, in some cases, hope.
The science of evolutionary medicine says that our bodies have evolved over millions of years as a set of compromises, largely in pursuit of reproductive fitness. Put concisely, whatever gets you to survive and have kids is going to persist in the gene pool, even if it causes you lots of disease and pain in adult life. In Why We Get Sick by Randolph Nesse and George Williams, you’ll learn about the evolutionary roots of obesity, infectious disease, aging, and depression.
Are spicy foods bad for you? Can sleep deprivation be fatal? In The Body, bestselling author Bill Bryson takes the reader on a whirlwind tour of the human body’s various systems. He examines how they work, how they can fail, and what can be done to fix them when they do. You’ll learn why your sense of smell is probably as good as your dog’s, how hot peppers increase your life expectancy, and why you should let your teenager sleep in.
Books About the Universe
Every year we learn more about the universe and what it holds, but it’s still largely unexplored. What we do know about the universe is written in insightful books by experts in the field. Here are a few of the best science books on the cosmos and everything in it.
In Astrophysics for People in a Hurry, Neil deGrasse Tyson explains in layman’s terms how physicists use the fundamentals of science and the full range of visible and invisible light to unravel the mysteries of the cosmos. He then goes on to cover the three biggest mysteries in astrophysics today—the origin of the universe, dark matter, and dark energy—while making a case for the benefits of understanding where we fit in the universal scheme.
A Brief History of Time by theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking is an exploration of the forces that govern our universe. At the heart of it is the search for a theory that explains the history and evolution of our universe—how it began, how it works, and what the future might hold for it. We journey to the vast reaches of the observable universe and inside the very tiniest particles that comprise its building blocks as we explore the nature of time and space, the origins of our universe through the Big Bang, the forces that give rise to phenomena like black holes, and the possibilities of time travel.
Stephen Hawking is best known for his expertise on black holes, quantum gravity, and general relativity, but his writing often addresses philosophical questions as well. In Brief Answers to the Big Questions, Hawking explains why he believes science can answer philosophical questions better than religion can. He then discusses where the human race came from and where he thinks we’re going. In particular, he highlights how colonizing outer space is important for the future of humankind.
What’s out there in the vast reaches of space? Are we alone in the universe? Renowned astronomer Carl Sagan offers some insight into these questions and many more in his widely acclaimed book, Cosmos. He provides a comprehensive description of the science, philosophy, and history of astronomical discovery, from ancient Ionia to the time of the book’s publication in 1980.
What can you learn about life on our planet by leaving Earth? Retired astronaut Chris Hadfield explores this question in his memoir, An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth. Hadfield recounts his years as an astronaut and reflects on valuable life lessons he learned while on the job. He says that, while he was up in space, he learned how to live a better life on Earth—and, by adopting the perspective and behavior of an astronaut, you also can improve your life.
Books About Climate and the Environment
Almost everything on Earth relies on the environment. If the environment’s health is declining, we’ll feel the full impact of it. Here are some of the best science books about climate that will give you a better idea of the environment’s importance.
In The Sixth Extinction, journalist Elizabeth Kolbert argues that, by drastically changing the shape of the earth and the composition of the atmosphere, humans have set in motion a sixth mass extinction that may one day be our undoing. The book revisits five previous mass extinction events spanning five hundred million years and how they are a consequence of human-created global warming and ocean acidification, the destruction and fragmentation of forests, and the spread of invasive species around the world.
Though it’s become widely accepted that climate change is real, the questions remain of what steps we should take to fix the damage and whether they’ll be enough. In Apocalypse Never, award-winning science writer Michael Shellenberger says that it’s time to assess the crisis from a rational perspective. He argues that we’re in a much better position to curb climate change than alarmists would have us believe and that people who bend scientific truth to spur environmental action are doing more harm than good.
How to Avoid a Climate Disaster is a New York Times best-selling, no-nonsense, apolitical discussion of climate change. Bill Gates’s decades of philanthropy inform his writing on the urgent need to curb emissions while still encouraging development. Complementing his empathetic approach to reducing carbon emissions, he uses his experience in the technology industry to highlight the most practical technology-based strategies for reducing global carbon emissions with a straightforward assessment of their challenges and limitations.
In his 2020 book, False Alarm, Bjorn Lomborg concedes that climate change will have a notable impact if left unchecked. However, he argues that climate activists’ proposed approaches, like sharply reducing fossil fuel consumption, have unintended economic costs that must be balanced with the effects of climate change alone. Lomborg outlines several more modest recommendations that he claims represent the best approach to climate change.
Are trees competitive or cooperative? In Finding the Mother Tree, ecologist Suzanne Simard delves into this question. Scientists and foresters have typically thought of trees as competing for water, sunlight, and nutrients, and they’ve favored growing marketable species while eliminating presumed competitors. However, Simard explains that trees in a forest are interconnected—they communicate and share resources through a complex underground network of fungi.
Books About the Importance of Science
Without science, we wouldn’t have made extraordinary discoveries throughout history. Essentially, science is the core of many innovations and helps us understand humanity. These best science books break down why science is necessary for human progress.
People commonly believe that science travels in a more-or-less straight line from ignorance to knowledge by collecting facts about the world. However, throughout history, there have been times when scientists have had to overthrow what they thought they knew and install a new paradigm, a way of looking at the world. These times are called scientific revolutions. In The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Thomas Kuhn gives us a new way to think about scientific progress—we must give up the idea that science has a fixed end goal.
As we advance into the 21st century and beyond, our collective ignorance of scientific methods, values, and thinking may be catastrophic to us and the world we live in. In The Demon-Haunted World, renowned astronomer and science popularizer Carl Sagan tries to counteract these dangers by teaching the scientific method and encouraging the application of critical and skeptical thinking in all facets of life.
From vaccine panics to fad diets, dubious medical information seems to be everywhere you look. In Bad ScienceBen Goldacre details the strategies that researchers, corporations, and journalists use to mislead the public, all while lining their own pockets. Goldacre—a doctor, professor, and science journalist—gives you the tools you need to identify and call out shady science when you see it.
In The God Delusion, University of Oxford biologist and anti-religion activist Richard Dawkins seeks to demystify religion and discredit faith in God. He explores the unlikelihood of God’s existence; how evolution by natural selection explains the centrality of religion to the human experience; and how religion promotes immoral values, impoverishes the human mind, and provides justification for intolerance and persecution.
The Emperor of All Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee is an overview and rough timeline of the fight against cancer. The book’s subtitle, A Biography of Cancer, reflects Mukherjee’s feeling that cancer is a living and evolving entity that has fought modern medicine to a stalemate for centuries. Mukherjee, a doctor and a biologist specializing in immunology (the study of the immune system) and oncology (the study of cancer), has spent much of his career on the front line of that fight.
From the connection between trees to science’s impact on philosophical questions, the best science books have it all. By reading these books, you’ll have a deeper appreciation for the work scientists do to uncover new information about ourselves and the world.
Do you have any recommendations for our list of the best science books? Let us know in the comments below!
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