Jan 21, 2009


Now that I'm done with the New Classics Challenge, it's time to come up with a list for the Science Book Challenge. I'm very excited about this challenge, and I had a lot of fun putting this list together. What can I say, it's the button. It does things to me. Of course, the fact that science is awesome also helps some.

The goal of the challenge is to read three science books in 2009, but of course I had to list more than three possibilities. I figured that it would be fun to come up with a science reading list I can return to even after the challenge's over. So lo! My list:

  • Surely you’re joking, Mr. Feynman! by Richard Feynman (both my boyfriend and Jenclair recommend this one.)
  • Gorillas in the Mist by Dian Fossey (I want to learn more about primates... I didn't have much luck with Goodall, but this sounds like it will be better.)
  • Bad Science by Ben Goldacre (This is one I most definitely want to get to. I think it will help me gain a vocabulary to explain why certain things make very loud alarm bells go off in my head. This is a vocabulary I used to have, but I'm losing it because I haven't dealt directly with certain concepts in so long. And I can't let that happen. Basically, I need to read more science books. And look! There's a blog.)
  • Higher Superstition: The Academic Left and Its Quarrels with Science by Paul R. Gross and Norman Levitt (Because this is a topic that seriously pains me.)
  • Fashionable Nonsense: Postmodern Intellectuals' Abuse of Science by Alan Sokal (Because Alan Sokal's prank was awesome, and because I LOVED Dawkins' review of his book.)
  • How to Lie With Statistics by Darrell Huff (Along the same lines as Bad Science.)
  • Dry Store Room No. 1: The Secret Life of the Natural History Museum by Richard Fortey (This just sounds so interesting.)
  • The Ghost with Trembling Wings: Science, Wishful Thinking and the Search for Lost Species by Scott Weidensaul (Added to my wishlist thanks to Jeane.)
  • Owls Aren't Wise and Bats Aren't Blind: A Naturalist Debunks Our Favorite Fallacies about Wildlife by Warner Shedd and Trudy Nicholson (Same.)
  • A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson (Surely this won't be whiny?)
  • An Anthropologist on Mars by Oliver Sacks (I've wanted to read something by Sacks for a while and this is the only one my library has.)
I could go on, but instead I'll just point you towards Eva and Debi's very complete lists. Also, my boyfriend suggested I take a look at this thread, where there are a bunch of suggestions.

Today I discovered the Royal Society Prizes for Science Books. You can see a complete list of winners and shortlisted and longlisted books here. The list is great. I'm always afraid of picking up science books on my own, because what if I come across pseudoscience in disguise? No, the world won't end, but I will have wasted my time and possibly my money. The books on this list are sure to be reliable and well-researched, and since the aim of the prizes is to to encourage the reading, writing and publishing of high quality, accessible popular science books, I have a feeling they won't be boring either.

And last but not least, the Science Besiedged website also has a long list of science books.

(I wonder if the Science of Discworld books could count? They're a mix of fiction and non-fiction, but the science chapters are written by actual scientists. Hmm.)


  1. I definitely think it should count...would make an interesting addition if you ask me.

    Looks like you've got a really wonderful list there...and I hope you end up reading many more than three of them, so we get to read the reviews!

    I went over and read your boyfriend's review...it was great! I'm totally sold on the book, too. Like I told him, I so wish I'd known of it before my father-in-law died...he would have absolutely loved that book! Not that he was a Nobel prize winning scientist or anything, but he was a PhD chemist with buttloads of patents under his belt. He was from that same era. He rubbed shoulders with people like Linus Pauling. He loved telling stories about their lives. Anyway...it just really made me think of him.

  2. wow, enjoy it! it does sound like an interesting challenge ;)

  3. Oh DO read the Feynman! It's fantastic.

  4. Another fun and interesting challenge! I don't blame you for joining this one, Nymeth. Good luck!

  5. oh great, more lists of great books to choose 3 from!? I get lost in all these fun book reviews that I never get around to reading anything! (Thank you.) :)

  6. great list, I've read a few - the Feynmen, Gorillas and the Bryson. Loved the Bryson the best, but Feynmen was quite a character too.

    I'm looking for some new titles so I'll be back to check you list and wait for some reviews.

    Have fun.

  7. I don't read much science-related books (unless those textbooks I read during school days, haha!), but I thought this challenge sounds interesting! I love the button too...very eye-catching! I just love the colour combination.

    Good luck and have fun, Nymeth!

  8. Debi: I hope I do too, because so many of these sound so interesting! And I really wish your father-in-law had had the chance to read the book. He sounds like he was a fascinating man himself.

    Naida: I will!

    Jennie: I definitely plan on reading that one!

    Literary Feline: I really couldn't resist it.

    Care: lol, me too. But for me making lists is half the fun :P

    raidergirl3: Thanks! I will. It will be great to see what everyone else is reading and get recommendations.

    Melody: Thanks! I haven't done many science reading in the last couple of years, but I want to branch out and do some more. And yes, the button is just gorgeous.

  9. I've also heard Fenyman book is great! It's also on my "long list" for this project.

  10. Hope you enjoy the Feynman book! Gorilla's in the Mist is good, but heartbreaking. I've got Dry Store Room #1 on my list, too. Read the review on Pages Turned. Oh, gosh this is a great list, and I want several of them.

  11. Gorillas in the Mist sounds great. I'm totally ignorant when it comes to the rest of the books you have listed here. I'm looking forward to your reviews as you read your 3 picks.

  12. First--how cool is it that your boyfriend started a blog? I read his first post and his mention that challenges probably aren't for him. Doesn't he know how addicting they are?? :)

    Second, I love all of the parentheticals you provided. And the button? Who doesn't love a great button. Have a great time with the challenge! One of these days I'll get around to signing up for my first 09 challenge...

  13. All I have to say is that you're brave!

  14. Thanks for all the wonderful resources. I will never be short of recommendations, thanks to you!

    You have fun, K? :D

  15. Great list! Feynman is like the coolest science teacher you ever had in school. The Oliver Sacks book is one of my favorites as well. I also love everything by Diane Ackerman (except Zookeper's Wife) and Natalie Angier. Can't wait to hear what you think about the ones I haven't read yet.

  16. Gorillas in the Mist is a great book. I love it! Look forward to seeing what you think of it. :) I love books about primates, and gorillas in particular. Which reminds me, I have one on my shelf that I should really get read!

    Another gorilla book I love - The Education of KoKo, about the gorilla who uses ASL to communicate. Awesome, but unfortunately hard to get hold of.

  17. Wow, awesome list... I haven't read anything on here, despite my love of scientific subjects, which makes me wonder what I *have* been reading... As might be obvious, however, I do think Oliver Sacks is possibly one of the greatest science writers I have ever encountered.

    For future reference, too, there's a great biography of Feynman ("Genius" by James Gleick) and I also love "The Future of Life" by E.O. Wilson, who is a most gentle, intelligent, and talented writer on biological diversity and evolution.

  18. Good luck with the challenge Nymeth! I'm sure you'll do great. I love the button also-it's awesome!

  19. Thanks for remembering us, Nymeth; it's great to have you join in the challenge. And what a great list of books to choose from--or read them all. You know, I never turn away extra-credit book notes.

    I'm very interested in your comment about the possibility of choosing a book that will give you bad science. I don't know that we've solved that problem, but it's a big reason for why we collect the book notes, why we have the challenge in the first place, and why my company is committed to public education about science.

    I don't see why Science of Discworld books can't count. I like to be very inclusive, as long as the perspective is scientific. We even have some fiction titles in the book notes because the books involved science or scientists in some way that we thought worth commenting on.

    I'm glad that the button is having the hypnotic effect I had hoped for; I hope it can entice a few of your commenters to take the challenge!

  20. Of course Science of Discworld counts! :)

  21. What a list!! I haven't read any - a couple sound interesting, like the Feynman, Dry Store # 1, and the Bryson, which is one i haven't read yet. I havent' decided for sure if I was going to join this challenge, I'm still not certain, but now it's higher than 50/50 thanks to you!! and the button. And it would be cool to say I read some science books this year....i'll let you know :-) if you can tempt me into it!! lol
    I hope you really enjoy this, and at least you can share with your boyfriend!

  22. Rebecca, I hope we both enjoy it!

    Jenclair: Yes, I imagine it to be quite heartbreaking :( I'm so exciting about reading so many of these books!

    Staci: If things go well maybe I'll get to more than 3! Fingers crossed.

    Trish: I do think it's pretty cool :D And about challenges, it will be interesting to see whether he gets sucked in like the rest of us :P I look forward to seeing what your first challenge of the year will be!

    Vasilly: It'll be fun, I hope :P

    Kailana, thanks!

    Alice: That's what book bloggers are for :P

    Verbatim: From what I hear, Feynman does sound exactly like that! And I'm glad to hear that Oliver Sacks book in particular is good.

    Quixotic, I have a feeling I'll love it too. And the book about Koko sounds great! She's the one who had the kitten, right? It's too bad it's hard to find.

    Kiirstin: Thanks for the recommendations! I've heard so many great things about Sacks. I really look forward to reading him at last.

    Dar, thanks!

    Jeff: I would so love to read them all. And in my experience that's sometimes a problem with science books... sometimes even ones that seem reliable at first glance turn out to be dodgy. What worries me the most is not even realizing that I'm being misinformed. Which is why I think your company and other institutions that promote science literary are so awesome. And thanks for the green light on Science of Discworld :D If there's a fiction author I absolutely trust never to mislead me about science, it's Terry Pratchett. I still want to read 3 100% non-fiction books, but that'll make a nice bonus. And hey, the button even enticed my boyfriend to start a blog..I think it's doing its work ;)

    Dark Orpheus: It's settled :P

  23. Susan: You should join! It's only 3 books and you have the whole year! And plus, look at the pretty button :P Just stare at it for a few minutes and let it work its magic :P

  24. There are also graphic novels that are science related. Jim Ottaviani does a great book called "fallout" which tells the story about the scientists who developed the atomic bomb. He also does collections of stories about scientists called "Two-Fisted Science". Another graphic novelist is Jay Hosler who wrote "The Sandwalk Adventures" (Darwin/evolution) and "Clan Apis" (life cycle of bees).
    All of these are great books!

  25. Oo, that sounds fun! I always feel like I don't know enough things about science.

  26. Beth, thanks so much for the recommendations! I haven't hard of any of those and they really sound great.

    Jenny: Same here. You should join!

  27. Well, you should definitely learn a lot from all that science reading. Enjoy!

  28. I love your list. I read so little non-fiction but not because I don't like it. I definitely respect you for taking on that challenge! :-)

  29. Lenore: I hope I do!

    Marie: I'm naturally much more drawn to fiction, but when I make time for non-fiction I enjoy it a lot too. Last year I began to make an effort to read at least two non-fiction books a month, and so far it's been great!


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