The Canon: A Whirligig Tour of the Beautiful Basics of Science by Natalie Angier: Award-winning science journalist Angier takes us on a “guided twirligig through the scientific canon.” She draws on conversations with hundreds of the world’s top scientists, and her own work as a reporter for the New York Times, to create an entertaining guide to scientific literacy–a joyride through the major scientific disciplines: physics, chemistry, biology, geology, and astronomy. It’s for anyone who wants to understand the great issues of our time–from stem cells and bird flu to evolution and global warming.
Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach: A look inside the world of forensics examines the use of human cadavers in a wide range of endeavors, including research into new surgical procedures, space exploration, and a Tennessee human decay research facility.
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot: Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. She was a poor Southern tobacco farmer, yet her cells–taken without her knowledge–became one of the most important tools in medicine. The first “immortal” human cells grown in culture, they are still alive today, though she has been dead for more than sixty years. HeLa cells were vital for developing the polio vaccine; uncovered secrets of cancer and viruses; helped lead to in vitro fertilization, cloning, and gene mapping; and have been bought and sold by the billions.
A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson: Bryson turns his attention to science. Although he doesn’t know anything about the subject matter (at first), he is eager to learn, and takes information that he gets from the world’s leading experts and explains it to us in a way that makes it exciting and relevant. Showing us how scientists get from observations to ideas and theories is Bryson’s aim, and he succeeds brilliantly.
The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements by Sam Kean: Explores intriguing tales about every element of the periodic table, sharing their parts in human history, finance, mythology, war, evil, love, the arts, and the lives of the colorful scientists who discovered them.
What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions by Randall Munroe: Millions of people visit xkcd.com each week to read Randall Munroe’s iconic webcomic. His stick-figure drawings about science, technology, language, and love have a large and passionate following. Fans of xkcd ask Munroe a lot of strange questions. What if you tried to hit a baseball pitched at 90 percent the speed of light? How fast can you hit a speed bump while driving and live? If there was a robot apocalypse, how long would humanity last? In pursuit of answers, Munroe runs computer simulations, pores over stacks of declassified military research memos, solves differential equations, and consults with nuclear reactor operators.
The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg: Identifies the neurological processes behind behaviors, explains how self-control and success are largely driven by habits, and shares scientifically-based guidelines for achieving personal goals and overall well-being by adjusting specific habits.
The Fabric of the Cosmos: Space, Time, and the Texture of Reality by Brian Greene: Space and time form the very fabric of the cosmos. Yet they remain among the most mysterious of concepts. Is space an entity? Why does time have a direction? Could the universe exist without space and time? Can we travel to the past?
Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell: Utilizing case studies as diverse as speed dating, pop music, and the shooting of Amadou Diallo, Gladwell reveals that what we think of as decisions made in the blink of an eye are much more complicated than assumed. Drawing on cutting-edge neuroscience and psychology, he shows how the difference between good decision-making and bad has nothing to do with how much information we can process quickly, but on the few particular details on which we focus.
Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions by Dan Ariely: An evaluation of the sources of illogical decisions explores the reasons why irrational thought often overcomes level-headed practices, offering insight into the structural patterns that cause people to make the same mistakes repeatedly.