These days I am swallowing one good science book after another. 2010 seems to be a great year for science book publishing!
But I have also noticed that almost all of these books are written by science bloggers (or at least active Twitterers)! Some are writers first, and started blogging later. Others started as bloggers, and decided to also write a book.
Some use their blogs as writing labs, putting out ideas, getting feedback, honing the message, then collecting, fine-tuning and editing a couple of years of blog material into a book.
Others keep the two worlds pretty much apart - book covers one topic, the blog is on something else, but it is nice, once the book gets published, to have a few thousands loyal blog readers who are natural buyers of the book, will spread the word about it to their friends, review the book on their own blogs, or organize readings and signings in their hometowns (now that publishers have no money to do much promotion for any authors but the biggest stars).
So I decided to make a little list here of science books by science bloggers, focusing on the 2010 year, but also some of the older and some yet to be written.
Please make corrections and additions in the comments. And if a non-blogger is publishing a good science book in 2010, you can also add that in the comments - sooner or later a book author will have to learn how to use the Web for promotion if they want anyone to hear about their work at all, so perhaps you can show them this post ;-)
And if you are one of the authors I listed here and have something to add, perhaps about the way you use the blog as part of your book-writing or marketing, or a book we don't know yet you are writing, add that in the comments as well.
Bonobo Handshake: A Memoir of Love and Adventure in the Congo (website, my review, amazon.com) by Vanessa Woods (website, old blog, new blog, Twitter, ABATC interview, previous books include It's Every Monkey for Themselves)
On the Grid: A Plot of Land, An Average Neighborhood, and the Systems that Make Our World Work (website, my report from a reading, my review, amazon.com) by Scott Huler (website, blog, Twitter, ABATC interview, previous books include Defining the Wind)
Superbug: The Fatal Menace of MRSA (website, blog, Twitter, amazon.com) by Maryn McKenna (old blog, new blog, Twitter, previous book - Beating Back the Devil: On the Front Lines with the Disease Detectives of the Epidemic Intelligence Service)
The Poisoner's Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York (website, amazon.com) by Deborah Blum (website, old blog, new blog, Twitter, previous books include A Field Guide for Science Writers, The Monkey Wars, Sex on the Brain, Love at Goon Park and Ghost Hunters)
The Calculus Diaries: How Math Can Help You Lose Weight, Win in Vegas, and Survive a Zombie Apocalypse (amazon.com) by Jennifer Ouellette (blog, Twitter, ABATC interview, previous books: Black Bodies and Quantum Cats: Tales from the Annals of Physics and The Physics of the Buffyverse)
Dinosaurs Life Size: Discover How Big They Really Were (amazon.com) by Darren Naish (blog, previous books include The Great Dinosaur Discoveries, Encyclopedia of Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Life and 'Walking with Dinosaurs: The Evidence - How Did They Know That?)
From Eternity to Here (website, amazon.com) by Sean Carroll (blog, Twitter, previous book - Spacetime and Geometry: An Introduction to General Relativity)
Intelligent Design and Religion as a Natural Phenomenon (website, amazon.com) by John Wilkins (blog, Twitter, Species: A History of the Idea and Defining Species: A Sourcebook from Antiquity to Today)
2009 and older
Newton and the Counterfeiter: The Unknown Detective Career of the World's Greatest Scientist (amazon.com) by Tom Levenson (blog, Twitter, ABATC interview, previous books include Measure for Measure: A Musical History of Science, Einstein in Berlin, and Ice Time: Climate Science and Life on Earth)
Reef Madness: Charles Darwin, Alexander Agassiz, and the Meaning of Coral (amazon.com) by David Dobbs (website, blog, Twitter, previous books include The Great Gulf: Fishermen, Scientists, and the Struggle to Revive the World's Greatest Fishery and The Northern Forest and the forthcoming book is The Orchid and the Dandelion)
The Vision Revolution (website, amazon.com) by Mark Changizi (wesbite, blog 1, blog 2, Twitter, previous book - The Brain from 25,000 Feet: High Level Explorations of Brain Complexity, Perception, Induction and Vagueness, next book - Harnessed)
The Science of Middle Earth (amazon.com) by Henry Gee (website, blog 1, blog 2, Twitter, ABATC interview, previous books include Jacob's Ladder: The History of the Human Genome, In Search of Deep Time and A Field Guide to Dinosaurs)
The Department of Mad Scientists: How DARPA Is Remaking Our World, from the Internet to Artificial Limbs (amazon.com) by Michael Belfiore (website, blog, Twitter, previous books include The Way People Live - Life Aboard a Space Station and Rocketeers: How a Visionary Band of Business Leaders, Engineers, and Pilots is Boldly Privatizing Space)
Death from the Skies!: These Are the Ways the World Will End . . . (amazon.com) and Bad Astronomy: Misconceptions and Misuses Revealed, from Astrology to the Moon Landing "Hoax" (amazon.com) by Phil Plait (blog, Twitter)
2011 and beyond
The Science of Kissing: What Our Lips Are Telling Us (amazon.com) by Sheril Kirshenbaum (website, blog, Twitter, ABATC interview, previous book: Unscientific America with Chris Mooney) will be out on January 2011.
I am assuming that most of the above authors will try to come to ScienceOnline2011 next January, so we should organize some kind of book-centered activity - sale, contests for free copies, book readings/signings, and of course sessions about pitching, writing, publishing and promoting books on the Web.
These days, I hear from a lot of other authors that their publishers instruct them to start a blog as a form of publicity.
I will add, despite her fear of having tomatoes thrown at her by blogging and tweeting authors for the fact that she DOESN'T tweet or blog, is the incomparable Mary Roach's new book 'Packing For Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void' http://www.amazon.com/Packing-Mars-Curious-Science-Life/dp/0393068471 coming out in August.
She's "old school" publishing! lol!
Marcus Chown's latest book is "The Matchbox that Ate a 40-ton Truck", called, curiously in the UK "We Need to Talk About Kelvin". And I just reviewed "Felicity Frobisher and the Three Headed Alderbaran Dust Devil", a book for kids. Loads of fun!
Self aggrandizement: two other previous books: Einstein in Berlin, and the superannuated but sadly not wrong Ice Time: Climate Science and Life on Earth.
Blogging for me has been both a place to play/experiment and a seductive procrastination tool.
And last: what Carl said. Many publishers do want folks to blog, but my sense of things is that blogs begun in the context of promoting a book aren't terribly effective; blogs that attract an audience/take part in a bloggy community can serve very well as a forum or clearing house of book stuff.
Thanks for the mention, Bora. I am pleased to report that my second novel about scientists, The Honest Look, will be published by Cold Spring Harbor Lab Press later this year.
In the interests of self aggrandizement, Chris Chabris and I have a book that came out just 3 weeks ago: The Invisible Gorilla, and other ways our intuitions deceive us. It's published by Crown.
In truth, we did start blogging a few months before the release of the book (we had been planning to start earlier, but were overwhelmed with other demands). We hope that Tom's wrong about blogs that are started to coincide with a book are ineffective -- I've really enjoyed the blogging side of writing, and plan to continue science blogging regardless of what happens with book publishing. It seems to me that blogging and book writing can reach different audiences. Our book is targeting a general audience of people who might or might not be interested in science more generally, my academic writing targets specialists in my areas of psychology and cognitive science, and blogging can reach a general audience of people who care deeply about science but might not be specialists in my area. Different audiences = different styles and content.
Thanks for the kind mention of The Poisoner's Handbook. My blog literally grew out of that book. After living in the world of forensic chemistry for the several years it took to research and write the book, I realized that I was just hooked - always liked the fundamental elegance of chemistry, but had learned to like even more trying to make it real to people not so hooked. Of course, on Scienceblogs the people who read my posts are so smart that I'm learning from them as I go. Love that, one of my favorite parts of being a blogger.
Mine's not actually out until Jan 2011 (although the galley arrived this morning!), but I am humbled to be included on a list with so many authors I adore. It is indeed a great year for science books!
With regard to blogging, three years in the blogosphere taught me how to write to broad audiences. And the idea for The Science of Kissing began as a blog post--that became a AAAS symposium--that became a book. Also, Intersection readers participated in several aspects of the evolution of the narrative.
Thanks for the encouraging mention. I'm one who started blogging first and moved up to a book later. The blogging helped me narrow down what I wanted to write about. Mammoths were actually an afterthought, a minor theme that I planned to use in a completely different book. Eventually, gathering information about mammoths became the far more interesting project.
As to the life of the blog, my first blog contains far more politics and personal opinion than it does mammoths or science. My feeling is that much of that could be distracting to some readers and might even drive some away. That is why I created a second blog just for science and history blogging. The second blog is not limited to to posts about mammoths or the book, so I expect it to survive beyond the period of marketing should I get published.
Jeez this post makes me feel like a slacker. Need to get a move on with an actual book. And the one you linked to doesn't really count.
Much thanks for the mention, Bora! To reply to Carl (1) and Tom (4), my sense is that what publishers most want is for authors to have a pre-existing "platform," that is to say, a place from which they are already attracting and building a community who will presumably buy or at least buzz the book. For most, that's a blog (though it could also be a well-liked radio show, TV show, etc.). If you start a blog as the book is published, in order to do publicity, you're way behind the curve of audience-building. Myself, I started Superbug the (first) blog at about the same time I signed the contract for Superbug the book, ultimately to build an audience, but practically because I needed to know more than I did about the topic and hoped building my own community commentariat would help me think through issues that needed to be in the book. Which worked.
Tom's correct that starting a blog to promote a book isn't a very good model. But like Deborah, I started a blog when my first book came out (Black Bodies and Quantum Cats, which if I had do-overs I'd call Cocktail Party Physics). It didn't help "sell" the book, but I took to blogging right away and loved it. My third book, kindly mentioned by Bora, grew out of a series of posts on the blog in a nice reversal of the model. :) Blog because you love it. It might help you sell books. It might not. But so long as it enriches your life, keep doing it.
Oh, and @Ed: Slacker. Get writing! :) I keep telling folks how awesome you are as a science writer.
Thanks for mentioning my altered egg alter ego, who'd like you to take several crap novels and stalled book proposals into consideration.
What a GREAT list! Thanks for sharing, and thanks for including my forthcoming one.
Man, 2010 has been an amazing year for science books, hasn't it?
All best, Holly
wow, impressive list :)
I dithered a bit about adding to your great list. I finally decided you mean "science bloggers" as opposed to "Sciencebloggers." So I'll put in a word for Mark Bowen, author of Thin Ice (2006) and Censoring Science (2008). The books are about Lonnie Thompson and climate change, James Hansen and climate change politics.
Mark maintains a Web site and a blog. His home page is at:
Excellent. Thank you. Yes, it is all science bloggers, obviously from the list. I also forgot to include Jerry Coyne and Why Evolution Is True: http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/