Every year for the last few years I’ve collected lists of notable science books from various media sources. I certainly continued this tradition for books published in 2010! I can tell it’s a very popular service from the hit stats I see for the blog and from the number of keyword searches on “science books 2010″ or whatnot I see in the logs.

Last year I started taking all the lists and tallying up all the “votes” to see which are the most mentioned books from the year. An interesting exercise, to say the least! While the “winner” wasn’t in any sense the best book of the year, it was certainly very revealing to see what the most reviewed and acclaimed book was.

As with last year, some of the lists have been from general media sources, in which case I’ve just extracted the science-related books. From science publications, I’ve included most or all of the mentioned titles.

This year I’ve looked at 60 different lists, spread among 46 different posts. Last year I looked at 33 different lists over 32 different posts, so I had significantly better coverage this year. That was mostly thanks to the amazing work gathering Year’s Best Book lists over at the Largehearted Boy blog. Thanks!

Since I covered so many more lists this year, I’m upping the number of mentions a book needs to get to be included on this list from 3 to 4. And

And I’m still bringing 21 books to this summary list compared to 16 last year. I’m listing those 21 below.

Some notes/caveats, mostly similar to last year:

  • These aren’t in any way the “best” books of 2010, only the most popular books on year’s best lists. For the most part, all the books mentioned will likely be very good since they’ve attracted the most media “best” mentions. But, they are also almost certainly the books that had the biggest promotional budgets and sent out the most review copies. Realistically speaking, of course, Rebecca Skloot’s The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is so far above all the rest in terms of mentions that it’s probably pretty uncontroversial to state that it is simply the best science book of 2010.

  • There are probably one or two straggler “best of” lists that haven’t come out yet and I’m sure there are a bunch that I missed. Since I saw so many lists, I feel pretty confident that the list is fairly representative of reviewer sentiment.
  • Similarly, there may be lists that were published that I just missed.
  • Finally, in some of the longer mainstreams lists that I did see, I can’t guarantee I consistently pulled in the same “edge cases” in to my science-y lists. There were numerous books mentioned twice or three times so one or two of those might have squeaked onto this list. Of course, I can’t guarantee complete accuracy in any of the steps of the whole process.
  • British, American and Canadian publication dates can mean that a 2009 British & Canadian book is a 2010 American book and vice versa. It happens.
  • There were 215 different books mentioned among the various lists, up from 175 last year. My list is in a Google Docs spreadsheet here. If you have any questions about the spreadsheet, just let me know.

Enjoy — and good reading!

Any comments? First of all, there’s a fair bit of actual science among the books, not just more edge cases or books about historical or socail aspects of science. That’s a pretty noticible difference from last year. Second, not a whole lot of women on the list, unfortunately, although better than last year. And two out of the top three is significant too. Third, some good general technology books and some “social” technology books like the Facebook item or Shirky’s Cognitive Surplus.

BTW, I really do appreciate the comments I’ve gotten both online and off about the usefulness of this bizarre project/obsession. It can be a bit of a slog sometimes as well as sucking most of the blogging energy out of me for a couple of months, so the comments help keep me motivated.

Comments

  1. #1 KBHC
    February 2, 2011

    This is great – and I see a few titles I hadn’t heard of, so I’m glad to find new cool stuff to read. Thanks so much!

  2. #2 John Dupuis
    February 3, 2011

    You’re welcome, KHBC, I appreciate your support for my efforts.

  3. #3 Scott
    February 8, 2011

    Great list, thank you. Will add to my growing “to-read” file.

  4. #4 Blaine
    February 10, 2011

    Thanks…I really appreciate your lists. Keep up the great work!

  5. #5 wk
    February 12, 2011

    Thanks for compiling the list. This is the second year in a row that I’ve used your list to help determine my reading list. I’ve read The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks and
    Packing for Mars so far, and I’m going to read a couple more from the list. It’s impressive that Henerietta Lacks is Rebecca Skloot’s first book.

  6. #6 arshia
    April 24, 2011

    hi,i’m from iran. it was the first time that I open the sites just like yours. and I think it’s very nice and helpfull site. thank you very much.
    (sorry,I can’t write english as well as you)
    with the best wishes for you in your life…

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