Pop Sci Book Meme

There is a new book meme, started by Jennifer Oullette, and so far infecting John Lynch and PZ Myers. This is a Pop Science book meme. PZ added a few to Jennifer’s list, and I’ve added a few more. Bold = read.

What are we missing? Which, among those not bolded here, should I read NOW? Which should I not bother with?

1. Micrographia, Robert Hooke
2. The Origin of the Species, Charles Darwin
3. Never at Rest, Richard Westfall
4. Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman, Richard Feynman
5. Tesla: Man Out of Time, Margaret Cheney
6. The Devil’s Doctor, Philip Ball
7. The Making of the Atomic Bomb, Richard Rhodes
8. Lonely Hearts of the Cosmos, Dennis Overbye
9. Physics for Entertainment, Yakov Perelman
10. 1-2-3 Infinity, George Gamow
11. The Elegant Universe, Brian Greene
12. Warmth Disperses, Time Passes, Hans Christian von Bayer
13. Alice in Quantumland, Robert Gilmore
14. Where Does the Weirdness Go? David Lindley
15. A Short History of Nearly Everything, Bill Bryson
16. A Force of Nature, Richard Rhodes
17. Black Holes and Time Warps, Kip Thorne
18. A Brief History of Time, Stephen Hawking
19. Universal Foam, Sidney Perkowitz
20. Vermeer’s Camera, Philip Steadman
21. The Code Book, Simon Singh
22. The Elements of Murder, John Emsley
23. Soul Made Flesh, Carl Zimmer
24. Time’s Arrow, Martin Amis
25. The Ten Most Beautiful Experiments, George Johnson
26. Einstein’s Dreams, Alan Lightman
27. Godel, Escher, Bach, Douglas Hofstadter
28. The Curious Life of Robert Hooke, Lisa Jardine
29. A Matter of Degrees, Gino Segre
30. The Physics of Star Trek, Lawrence Krauss
31. E=mc2, David Bodanis
32. Zero: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea, Charles Seife
33. Absolute Zero: The Conquest of Cold, Tom Shachtman
34. A Madman Dreams of Turing Machines, Janna Levin
35. Warped Passages, Lisa Randall
36. Apollo’s Fire, Michael Sims
37. Flatland, Edward Abbott
38. Fermat’s Last Theorem, Amir Aczel
39. Stiff, Mary Roach
40. Astroturf, M.G. Lord
41. The Periodic Table, Primo Levi
42. Longitude, Dava Sobel
43. The First Three Minutes, Steven Weinberg
44. The Mummy Congress, Heather Pringle
45. The Accelerating Universe, Mario Livio
46. Math and the Mona Lisa, Bulent Atalay
47. This is Your Brain on Music, Daniel Levitin
48. The Executioner’s Current, Richard Moran
49. Krakatoa, Simon Winchester
50. Pythagorus’ Trousers, Margaret Wertheim
51. Neuromancer, William Gibson
52. The Physics of Superheroes, James Kakalios
53. The Strange Case of the Broad Street Pump, Sandra Hempel
54. Another Day in the Frontal Lobe, Katrina Firlik
55. Einstein’s Clocks and Poincare’s Maps, Peter Galison
56. The Demon-Haunted World, Carl Sagan
57. The Blind Watchmaker, Richard Dawkins
58. The Language Instinct, Steven Pinker
59. An Instance of the Fingerpost, Iain Pears
60. Consilience, E.O. Wilson
61. Wonderful Life, Stephen J. Gould
62. Teaching a Stone to Talk, Annie Dillard
63. Fire in the Brain, Ronald K. Siegel
64. The Life of a Cell, Lewis Thomas
65. Coming of Age in the Milky Way, Timothy Ferris
66. Storm World, Chris Mooney
67. The Carbon Age, Eric Roston
68. The Black Hole Wars, Leonard Susskind
69. Copenhagen, Michael Frayn
70. From the Earth to the Moon, Jules Verne
71. Gut Symmetries, Jeanette Winterson
72. Chaos, James Gleick
73. Innumeracy, John Allen Paulos
74. The Physics of NASCAR, Diandra Leslie-Pelecky
75. Subtle is the Lord, Abraham Pais

added by PZ Myers:

76. Ascent of Man, Jacob Bronowski
77. Basin and Range, John McPhee
78. Beak of the Finch, Jonathan Weiner
79. Chance and Necessity, Jacques Monod
80. Dr. Tatiana’s Sex Advice to All Creation, Olivia Judson
81. Endless Forms Most Beautiful, Sean Carroll
82. Evolution: The Triumph of an Idea, Carl Zimmer
83. Genome, Matt Ridley
84. Guns, Germs, and Steel, Jared Diamond
85. It Ain’t Necessarily So, Richard Lewontin
86. On Growth and Form, D’Arcy Wentworth Thompson
87. Phantoms in the Brain, VS Ramachandran
88. The Ancestor’s Tale, Richard Dawkins
89. The Case of the Female Orgasm: Bias in the Science of Evolution, Elisabeth Lloyd
90. The Eighth Day of Creation, Horace Freeland Judson
91. The Great Devonian Controversy, Martin Rudwick
92. The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat, Oliver Sacks
93. The Mismeasure of Man, Stephen Jay Gould
94. The Triple Helix: Gene, Organism, and Environment, Richard Lewontin
95. Time, Love, Memory, Jonathan Weiner
96. Voyaging and The Power of Place, Janet Browne
97. Woman: An Intimate Geography, Natalie Angier

Added by me:

98. The Tangled Wing, Mel Konner
99. The Periodic Kingdom, P.W. Atkins
100. The Human Animal, Desmond Morris
101. The Symbolic Species, Terry Deacon
102. Biology as Idiology, Richard Lewonton
103. The Truth about Cinderella, Daly and Wilson
103. Mother Nature, Sara Hrdy
102. Nisa, story of a !Kung woman, M. Shostack
102. Natural Selection and Social Theory, Robert Trivers
103. Demonic Males, Richard Wrangham
104. Man the Hunter, Irv DeVore


  1. #1 Stephanie Z
    August 29, 2008

    Stiff is fun, more pop than sci but worth reading. You’re welcome to borrow it.

  2. #2 --bill
    August 29, 2008

    Read now: Poincare’s Maps and Einstein’s Clocks. A good read about the connections between the technical problem of synchronizing clocks and theoretical conception of relativity.

    Don’t bother with Longitude (not particularly insightful) or An Instance of the Fingerpost (Pears is making some sort of religious point that has little to do with science–the only reason it’s on this list (I’d guess) is because it’s set in Oxford of the mid-1660′).

    I’d add The Fractal Geometry of Nature by Benoit Mandelbrot and Mr Tompkins in Paperback by George Gamow.

  3. #3 Greg Laden
    August 29, 2008

    OH OH OH!!! I was going to put Gamow’s Mr. Tompkins, as well as one other Gamow AND Azimov’s “Intelligent Man’s (sic) Guide to _____whatever____” (the series) But I forgot.

  4. #4 Stephanie Z
    August 29, 2008

    Psst, Greg. You do have the power to edit the list.

  5. #5 longsmith
    August 29, 2008

    Oh, you should definitely read Bill Bryson’s book. I disagree about Longitude, I thought it was great (maybe since I am not a scientist?). Simon Winchester is always good.
    I am making a winter reading list from this list, thanks, all!

  6. #6 longsmith
    August 29, 2008

    Another one I didn’t see: Death by Black Hole, Neil deGrasse Tyson. I thought it was great.

  7. #7 Sven DiMilo
    August 29, 2008

    The Origin of the Species

    The Life of a Cell

    Am I still banned? If not, I must deduct about 100 credibility points–from somebody–for getting these two titles wrong!!!

    And, no Quammen? Song of the Dodo would be at or near the very top of my list.

    And, no Steinbeck? Log from the Sea of Cortez is very highly recommended, and may be the only pop-science book ever published by a Nobel-Prize-for-Literature laureate (Nabakov never wrote a butterfly book, unfortunately).

  8. #8 Jennifer Ouellette
    August 29, 2008

    Thanks Greg! FYI, The Lives of the Cell and a few other typos have been corrected — although someone who bases credibility on mere typos is pretty narrow-minded, frankly.

    I’m removing Neuromancer and Iain Pears (although he was making far more than a religious point, he was dramatizing the conflict between science and religion at the rise of the Age of Enlightenment) — I’ll probably slowly start building a separate list for science-flavored historical fiction. :)

    Tons more suggestions keep pouring in, more than I’m able to keep track of 100% but I’m doing my best. In a week or two I’ll post a collective “master list” containing all the suggestions (or 98% of them; I might accidentally miss a few), plus a “Top 100.”

  9. #9 Sven DiMilo
    August 29, 2008

    someone who bases credibility on mere typos is pretty narrow-minded


    Sorry, but those don’t count as “typos.” Those count as getting the titles wrong. “The Origin of Decies” would be an example of a typo. But hell, I cop to being narrow-minded; we pedants are kinda like that.*shrug*
    Hey, it was only 100 credibility points anyway; you still have 987.67 to squander as you see fit.
    (Of course, I kid. I kid because I love.)

  10. This list could go on forever, but unless I missed it, I didn’t catch anything by K.C. Cole — any number of her books would qualify; also, there’s a shortage of math books represented (on-the-other-hand, I love Annie Dillard, but “Teaching a Stone to Talk” hardly seems fitting here, in my mind).

  11. #11 charfles
    August 29, 2008

    The Demon-Haunted World was fantastic.

    I would add two other Sagan/Druyan: Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors and The Dragons of Eden.