Let’s drop the “fiction” from the requirements: what are the best science books out there in the bookstores? I should update my updated book list for evolutionists again, so give me some good leads.
I’ve really been getting into popular science books–I have no formal education in science so I rely on them to fill in the gaps in my education. Only now am I realizing why Carl Sagan is a giant among popularizers–his Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors was, as they say, unputdownable. Recently I enjoyed Simon Singh’s The Big Bang, which may be too basic for some, but as I said, I’ve got no background in this stuff, so it was just right for me (Weinberg’s First Three Minutes sailed over my head). And I know he’s criticized here, but I found Pinker’s The Blank Slate to be ripping good read. Otherwise, the usual suspects: Carl Zimmer, Matt Ridley, Dawkins, et. al.
Peter Medawar was a great (science) writer (Dawkins doesn’t hold a candle to his education, wit and style), any of his books could be recommended, but I’ll go with the first ones I read as a student: “Pluto’s Republic: Incorporating The Art of the Soluble and Induction and Intuition in Scientific Thought”, “The Threat and the Glory: Reflections on Science and Scientists” and “Memoir of a thinking radish”.
Gould’s “Wonderful life” and “Full house” explain beautifully the most commonly misunderstood ideas about evolution.
Sagan’s “Pale blue dot” puts us in cosmic perspective.
I have to run, feeling guilty about skipping so many great science writers, especially non-English ones.
There are several books I’d recommend. Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything is probably a good intro to science for beginners, as is Carl Sagan’s Cosmos. Slightly more technical/specialized would be Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time and of course Richard Dawkins’ The Selfish Gene. I enjoyed Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs, and Steel too. There are many more, of course, but there are so many excellent books I haven’t read. If magazines count, I highly recommend Scientific American.
I just finished “The Demon Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark” by Sagan. It’s the only book I’ve read recently that was as hard to put down as one of Dawkins’ books. It would be a good book to give to someone who might be offended by “The God Delusion”, but it’s by no means apologetic to religion.
I’ve just started The Machinery of Life by David S. Goodsell. It’s an introduction to cells and what’s in them, and is lavishly illustrated in black and white.
I’m getting a good vibe so far: he talks about the way the world of the cell is different from our ordinary experience (e.g., brownian motion is an important factor, while gravity is mostly negligible). The illustrations are all in a consistent style, and are all at a small set of magnifications, so that they can easily be compared.
At 130 pages, obviously it can’t do more than provide an introduction to the world of the cell, but it’s still useful for a layman.
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