Hot! A List of Mind Blowing Science Books

Blood Work: A Tale of Medicine and Murder in the Scientific Revolution, by Holly Tucker (W. W. Norton and Co.)

Tucker’s fast-paced, exciting account of the birth of blood transfusions takes us from murder scenes to the bloody halls of sanatoriums during the earliest days of scientific medicine.

Eruptions that Shook the World, by Clive Oppenheimer (Cambridge University Press)

Entertaining, funny, and downright weird, this book offers a tour through the geological history of one of the planet’s most destructive forces: the volcano. Oppenheimer explains how volcanoes have controlled Earth’s climate, nearly wiped out all multicellular life, shaped ancient empires, and even contributed to the rise of fascism in Europe. Learn about how we study volcanoes, as well as how they’ve affected life on Earth for the past billion years.

Where Good Ideas Come From: A Natural History of Innovation, by Steven Johnson (Riverhead)

Johnson, who made you fall in love with him with his previous book Everything Bad Is Good For You, is back with a terrific, smart debunking of the idea of lonely, individual geniuses. Instead, he suggests, great breakthroughs can come to the humblest of us all. Packed with entertaining stories and fascinating insights from scientists, this book validates the citizen scientists and garage inventors in us all.

Radioactivity: A History of a Mysterious Science, by Marjorie Malley (Oxford University Press)

In the wake of the Fukushima disaster, many were left wondering how we ever decided that playing around with atomic energy was a good idea. Dense and fascinating, Malley’s story traces the discovery of radioactivity in the late nineteenth century, to the growth of science (including quack science) and industry around the invisible rays that can both injure and heal.

The Panic Virus: The True Story Behind The Vaccine Autism Controversy, by Seth Mnookin (Simon and Schuster)

Ever wonder how the rumor got started that immunization shots can cause autism? This book is a fascinating (and sometimes terrifying) answer to that question.

The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through The Madness Industry, by Jon Ronson (Riverhead)

Ronson is the slightly gonzo science journalist who wrote Men Who Stare At Goats (which became a movie), and now he’s back with a scathing, intelligently-written story about what he calls “the madness industry.”

The Information, by James Gleick (Pantheon)

Gleick is the profoundly literary science writer who brought you Chaos and Genius. Now he turns to the spirit of the information age, trying to determine where its roots lie in history and what our ultra-dependence on electrified communication networks will do to us as a civilization. Heady and intense, this book will take you into amazing stories from early computer history and toward a future where we pass beyond information overload and into a new way of thinking.

Science Ink: Tattoos of the Science Obsessed, by Carl Zimmer (Sterling)

Usually the author of serious, meaty books about evolution and biology, Zimmer shows us his whimsical side in this coffee table book featuring gorgeous photographs of people who have science tattoos. This book is a nothing short of a love letter to science, and to the people who are so enchanted by it that they’ve marked their bodies with its symbols.
Unnatural Selection: Choosing Boys Over Girls, and the Consequences of a World Full of Men, by Mara Hvistendahl (PublicAffairs)

This is a riveting account of how people across the world are using ultrasound and other pre-natal technologies to give birth to far more male babies than female. What’s especially rewarding is that Hvistendahl never reaches for easy answers in her investigation of why this has happened, and what the consequences will be. As a result, you get a nuanced portrait of a world out of balance.

Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain, by David Eagleman (Pantheon)

Neuroscientist Eagleman delves into the parts of our minds that we’re not aware of consciously, and comes up with tons of stories that illuminate how we can be thinking about things without ever being aware of it.

Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World, by Jane McGonigal (Penguin)

Game designer and futurist McGonigal offers us a hopeful look at the future in this incredible analysis of “gamification,” or how our lives are becoming more like videogames — and why that’s a great thing. This is the kind of book that sheds light on the tactics that have succeeded in the Occupy movement, as well as what works in children’s education.

Sex at Dawn: How We Mate, Why We Stray, and What It Means for Modern Relationships, by Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jethá (Harper Perennial)

Psychologists Ryan and Jethá argue that humans are not monogamous, and that’s actually not a bad thing.

The Physics of the Future, by Michiko Kaku (Doubleday)

Leave it to Kaku to bring us another trippy book about the weirdest edges of science. Half-science, half-speculation, this is a wild trip a century into the future, giving us a glimpse of what tomorrow’s science might bring.

Hedy’s Folly: The Life and Breakthrough Inventions of Hedy Lamarr, the Most Beautiful Woman in the World, by Richard Rhodes (Doubleday)

This incredible book by Rhodes (author of The Making of the Atomic Bomb), out at the end of November, is a portrait of the scientist as a young starlet. It’s a movingly-written biography of early twentieth century actress Hedy Lamarr, famous for her incredible beauty — and for her contributions to radio science.

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