Science explained in 10 excellent popular books (plus dozens of others)

Science explained in popular books: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is one my top 10 choices. Astronomy. Epidemiology. Lexicography. Microbiology. These are among the 38 different scientific fields discussed and explained in the more than four dozen good popular books about science and science history that I’ve read and reviewed. Some of these books are by prominent authors, including Malcolm Gladwell, Bill Bryson, Atul Gawande, Erik Larson, and Michael Lewis. You’re less likely to be familiar with the names of many of the others.

You’ll find two lists below. The first includes my choices for the top 10 titles among the more than 50 books I’ve read and reviewed here. They’re arranged in alphabetical order by the authors’ last names.

The second list includes all the books in alphabetical order by the fields’ names. Each is linked to my review. (If a link comes up short, just go to www.malwarwickonbooks.com and search for the title.)

Science explained best in 10 top nonfiction books

Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End, by Atul Gawande

The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History, by Elizabeth Kolbert

The Emperor of All Maladies: A History of Cancer, by Siddhartha Mukherjee

The Tyranny of Metrics by Jerry Z. Muller

Pandemic: Tracking Contagions from Cholera to Ebola and Beyond, by Sonia Shah

NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity, by Steve Silberman

The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail—But Some Don’t, by Nate Silver

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot

The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming by David Wallace-Wells

The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt’s New World by Andrea Wulf

Science explained in more than 50 good nonfiction books

Animal Husbandry: Eating Animals, by Jonathan Safran Foer

Archaeology: The Lost City of the Monkey God: A True Story, by Douglas Preston

Artificial Intelligence: Thinking Machines: The Quest for Artificial Intelligence and Where It’s Taking Us Next, by Luke Dormehl

Artificial Intelligence2062: The World That AI Made by Toby Walsh

Artificial IntelligenceThe Big Nine: How the Tech Titans and Their Thinking Machines Could Warp Humanity by Amy Webb

Artificial Intelligence: AIQ: How Artificial Intelligence Works and How We Can Harness Its Power for a Better World by Nick Polson and James Scott

Astronomy: Beyond: Our Future in Space, by Chris Impey

Astrophysics: Origin Story: A Big History of Everything by David Christian

Atmospheric ScienceCaesar’s Last Breath: Decoding the Secrets of the Air Around Us, by Sam Kean

Big Data: Big Data: A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work, and Think, by Viktor Mayer-Schoeneberger and Kenneth Cukier

Big Science: Big Science: Ernest Lawrence and the Invention that Launched the Military-Industrial Complex by Michael Hiltzik

Climate Change: Scatter, Adapt, and Remember: How Humans Will Survive a Mass Extinction, by Annalee Newitz

Disability: David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants, by Malcolm Gladwell

Earth ScienceThe Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming by David Wallace-Wells

Ecology: The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History, by Elizabeth Kolbert

Ecology: The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt’s New World by Andrea Wulf

Economics: Grand Pursuit: The Story of Economic Genius, by Sylvia Nasar

Epidemiology: Pandemic: Tracking Contagions from Cholera to Ebola and Beyond, by Sonia Shah

Epidemiology: Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic, by David Quammen

Epidemiology: Pale Rider: The Spanish Flu of 1918 and How It Changed the World by Laura Spinney

Future TechnologyThe Driver in the Driverless Car: How Our Technology Choices Will Create the Future by Vivek Wadwa and Alex Salkever

Future TechnologyMegatech: Technology in 2050 edited by Daniel Franklin

Gastroenterology: Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal, by Mary Roach

General Science: A Short History of Nearly Everything, by Bill Bryson

Genetics: A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived: The Human Story Retold Through Our Genes by Adam Rutherford

Hydrology: Bottled and Sold: The Story Behind Our Obsession with Bottled Water, by Peter H. Gleick

Innovation: How We Got to Now: Six Innovations That Made the Modern World, by Steven Johnson

InnovationThe Imagineers of War: The Untold Story of DARPA, the Pentagon Agency That Changed the World by Sharon Weinberger

Lexicography: Word by Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries, by Kory Stamper

Linguistics: Dreyer’s English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style by Benjamin Dreyer

Medical DiagnosticsBad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou

Medical Research: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot

Medical Research: Jonas Salk: A Life by Charlotte DeCroes Jacobs

Medicine: Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End, by Atul Gawande

Meteorology: Isaac’s Storm: A Man, a Time, and the Deadliest Hurricane in History, by Erik Larson

Meteorology: The Brothers Vonnegut: Science and Fiction in the House of Magic by Ginger Strand

Microbiology: I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life, by Ed Yong

Military Science: Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War, by Mary Roach

Nanotechnology: Radical Abundance: How a Revolution in Nanotechnology Will Change Civilization, by K. Eric Drexler

Neurology: Brain Power: From Neurons to Networks, by Tiffany Shlain

Oncology: The Emperor of All Maladies: A History of Cancer, by Siddhartha Mukherjee

Palaeography: The Riddle of the Labyrinth: The Quest to Crack an Ancient Code by Margalit Fox

Paleontology: The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs: The Untold Story of a Lost World by Steve Brusatte

Physics: Seven Brief Lessons on Physics, by Carlo Rovelli

Psychiatry: NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity, by Steve Silberman

Psychology: The Undoing Project: A Friendship That Changed Our Minds, by Michael Lewis

Psychology: Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, by Susan Cain

Sexology: Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex, by Mary Roach

Social Psychology: The Man Who Shocked the World: The Life and Legacy of Stanley Milgram by Thomas Blass

Social Psychology: Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell

Space Travel: Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void, by Mary Roach

Statistics: Naked Statistics: Stripping the Dread from the Data, by Charles Whelan

Statistics: The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail—But Some Don’t, by Nate Silver

StatisticsThe Tyranny of Metrics, by Jerry Z. Muller

For further reading

If you gravitate toward nonfiction, you might also be interested in:

To check out all 100 of the reading lists posted here, go to Your handy guide to the grouped reviews on this site. And you can always find my most popular reviews, and the most recent ones, plus a guide to this whole site, on the Home Page.

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