The Selfish Gene is a landmark 1976 work in the field of biology: It puts the gene at the center of the process of evolution and explains how, when this is taken into account, genes must be seen as “selfish.” Author Richard Dawkins then uses this theory of gene selfishness to explain the massive variety of animal behavior observable on Earth.
On Being makes the case for the superiority of the scientific method over religion and mysticism in studying the great questions of existence. Even in those cases where science is not yet able to replace every aspect of religious belief with objective facts, On Being suggests that it’s just a matter of time before they do.
Ignorance investigates the strengths and weaknesses of the scientific method and reveals the importance of asking the right questions over the discovery of simple facts. Using real-life examples from history, Ignorance shows that it is our awareness of what we don’t know that drives scientific discovery.
A Short History of Nearly Everything (2003) offers an enlightening summary of contemporary scientific thinking relating to all aspects of life, from the creation of the universe to our relationship with the tiniest of bacteria.
The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962) is a groundbreaking study in the history of science and philosophy. It explains how scientists conduct research and provides an interesting (if controversial) explanation of scientific progress.
The Demon-Haunted World (1995) helps the reader distinguish between dangerous pseudoscience and real, hard science by exploring the critical-thinking tools scientists use to make their discoveries. The author argues for science’s place in education and popular culture, and offers his advice on how we can incorporate more critical thought into our society.
Genome (2006, second edition) takes you on an exciting journey into your own body, exploring the genetic building blocks that make up not only who you are but also all life on earth. You’ll examine the basics of genetics and discover what genes influence, from aging to illness to even your own personality. Importantly, you’ll better understand why the future of healthcare and wellness may be found in the human genome.
Everyday, we benefit from huge advances in both scientific theory and practice. What triggered this progress? In The Beginning of Infinity (2011) – a journey through the fundamental fields of science and philosophy – physicist David Deutsch argues that all progress results from one single human activity: the quest for explanations. Human creativity opens up limitless opportunities for progress, making knowledge the “beginning of infinity.”
Forensics (2014) provides an inside look at the morbid world of forensic investigation. Filled with fascinating history and anecdotes from real criminal cases, Forensics gives you a complete, compelling overview of everything that happens during the investigation of a crime scene.
The Magic of Reality (2011) offers an introduction to scientific thinking by going through the ways scientists have explained natural phenomena once thought to be supernatural. Whether shedding light on the building blocks of the universe or explaining the origins of life, scientific reasoning has an answer.
Rain (2015) tells the story of one of the most valued, destructive and inspiring natural forces on our planet. These blinks trace a journey from rain worship in ancient cultures to the use of weather forecasting throughout the ages – and even the scientific explanation behind raining frogs.
The Invention of Nature (2015) shines a light on the extraordinary life of explorer and scientist Alexander von Humboldt. Discover Humboldt’s amazing perspective on our relationship to the world and find out how his ecological discoveries and observations are just as relevant and profound today as they were in the nineteenth century.
The Upright Thinkers (2015) takes you through the fascinating evolution of science, tracing the footsteps and influence of major figures along the way – from Galileo to Einstein to Heisenberg. These blinks will start with a trip back in time to the first moments humans learned to control fire, and will leave you with a brief summary of quantum mechanics.
The Triumph of Seeds (2015) tells the amazing story of the influence of seeds. Find out how plants have managed to endure and evolve over the course of Earth’s long history and how they manipulated both man and animal into doing their bidding.
Cosmosapiens (2015) is about the evolution of scientific theory – from the origin of matter and the universe to the emergence of life on Earth and the evolution of human consciousness. For centuries, we’ve been struggling to find out who we are and why we’re here. Learn about the progress we’ve made toward answering these important questions – and about the barriers that still stand in our way.
Napoleon’s Buttons (2004) is all about the molecules that have guided the course of human history in the unlikeliest of ways. These blinks explore how major geopolitical and social changes can be traced back to the simple bonding of atoms in a molecule.
Inheritance (2014) is proof that you don’t need to be a scientist to understand the importance of your genetics. These blinks explain how your DNA affects your everyday life, from how you look and what you eat to how susceptible you are to things like anxiety and disease. So arm yourself with knowledge, and discover more about the genes that make you who you are.
A Crack in Creation (2017) describes everything you need to know about CRISPR, a new technique to alter the genes of living organisms. These blinks explain the scientific details of gene editing, while also discussing its medical and ethical implications.
The Grand Design (2010) tells the fascinating story of how humans came into being and how we began to use the scientific method to explain both our remarkable growth as a species and the world around us. From the foundational laws of Newton and Einstein to the mind-bending science of quantum physics, find out how far we’ve come and how close we are to answering life’s big questions.
The Big Picture (2016) is an ambitious look at the world as we know it and how scientific thinking can be used to make sense of most of it. An insightful examination of the origins of life, consciousness and the universe itself, this book gives readers a deductive way of considering the most challenging questions that philosophy, physics and biology have to offer.
The Origin Of Species (1859) is Charles Darwin’s magnum opus. These blinks outline a theory of how traits are selected by nature, where the tremendous diversity of life on earth came from and how animals and plants came to be distributed across the planet.
The Extended Phenotype (1982) offers an alternative view on biology and the process of evolution. Breaking with the Darwinian paradigm that puts the individual organism center stage, author Richard Dawkins shifts the focus toward genes as the active agents in natural selection. From this perspective, a world of fascinating insights emerges.
Seven Brief Lessons on Physics (2014) is an informative guide to how we arrived at the two pillars of modern physics: Einstein’s theory of general relativity and quantum mechanics. Author Carlo Rovelli describes the wondrous world opened up by these two theories, including the secrets they’ve revealed and the mysteries and paradoxes they’ve exposed.
Hacking Darwin (2019) argues that humanity is on the cusp of a future beyond natural selection with the help of assisted reproductive technologies that will enable us to hack our genetic makeup. By mapping the history of genetics, technology and the implications of genetic engineering, it advocates for an informed adoption of the genetic revolution and suggests how to approach its political and ethical challenges.
Cosmos (1980) is a milestone in popular science. It shows us the basic concepts behind our understanding of the universe, what the planets and the stars look like and how our comprehension of them has changed and evolved.
Reality Is Not What It Seems (2014) offers a quick overview of the long journey modern science has taken from the cosmic observations of ancient Greece to the heady theories of quantum mechanics. These blinks offer an easily digestible take on the many twists and turns that have occurred in the history of modern physics, as well as an overview of the tricky questions physicists continue to grapple with today.
Good Reasons for Bad Feelings (2018) bridges the gap between evolutionary biology and psychiatry by answering some pressing questions about why we feel the way we do. By focusing on our evolutionary development, we can better understand where many of our most instinctual feelings, moods and emotions come from, and how we can better treat our disorders when they arise.
How To (2019) is an intentionally impractical, lighthearted guide to accomplishing a wide variety of tasks in extremely outlandish but plausible ways. Drawing from science, math and history, and combining them with a unique sense of humor, How To takes you on an amusing journey through some of reality’s most bizarre possibilities.
America Before (2019) is a mind-expanding quest for an ancient and lost way of life. Drawing on lesser-known DNA and archeological evidence, it proposes the existence of a great, early civilization based in North America. Lost to history in the aftermath of a cataclysmic comet strike, this civilization is visible today only in the traces it left in Egyptian, Native American and other great ancient cultures.
Nine Pints (2018) explores the rich but neglected story of blood. Taking a panoramic view and approaching the subject from multiple angles, Rose George looks into the science of blood and details some of the institutions, businesses and taboos that have arisen around this vital fluid.
Underbug (2018) explores the fascinating world of a bug so unloved it might just beat cockroaches in an unpopularity contest – the termite. The result of years of research and interviews with biologists, entomologists, and geneticists, Lisa Margonelli’s study sets out to rescue the reputation of this underappreciated creature. Along the way she explores termites’ remarkable architectural powers, unpacks their strange relationship with a 250 million-year-old fungus, and shows how the microbes in their guts might just help us create a more sustainable future.
Until the End of Time (2020) is an accessible, informal look at the loftiest topics of all time: time, the universe, and humanity’s never ending quest for meaning. Physicist Brian Greene begins at the very beginning – the big bang that set off this whole crazy spectacle – then zooms in to examine the evolution of human culture, from religion, language, and the arts. Finally, he zooms back out to examine what might become of the universe, and whether there might ever be a reemergence of life.
The Molecule of More (2020) reveals how one brain chemical kindles our desires, fuels our creativity, and makes us fall in love. Using the latest insights from psychology, neuroscience, and social studies to investigate the role of this powerful brain chemical in our thoughts and behavior, it explains what science can teach us about drug addiction, mental illness, and political disagreements.
The Book of Humans (2018) is an accessible tour of evolutionary history. It illuminates both the many qualities we share with animals and the many others that set us apart. Incorporating the latest scientific discoveries from genetics and archaeology, it provides a thrilling compendium of the rich variety of life on Earth.
The Book of Eels (2020) takes the reader on a zoological odyssey spanning thousands of years. It’s the story of the eel – a creature that has enthralled humanity with its strange and complex life cycle. Countless scientists have dedicated their careers to the enigma of this fish, which has evolved to undergo several metamorphoses over the course of its life and to endure a grueling migration across the Atlantic to breed. But the eel has proven to be an elusive creature, and there are still many secrets about its life that it seems intent on keeping to itself.
Entangled Life (2020) ushers us into the vast, hidden world of fungi. In it, we follow molds, yeasts, lichens, and many other fungi as they creep through the soil, intoxicate us with their scent, and induce mesmerizing visions. With a change in perspective, we can begin to see the world from a more fungal point of view – and understand how these organisms might be the key to our future survival.
Genesis (2019) lays out a gripping, blow-by-blow account of the first 13.8 billion years of our universe. From the mysterious initial void to the birth of the very first stars, it conjures up vistas no less dizzying than the grand creation myths of old.
Some Assembly Required (2020) is an approachable account of the great transformations in the history of life. Paleontologist Neil Shubin started his career looking to fossils for the answers to life’s greatest questions – but with recent scientific advancements, he argues that studying DNA reveals more about the journey we took to become human.
On the Fringe (2021) delves into what defines a pseudoscience along historical and philosophical lines. With the rise of climate-change deniers and anti-vaxxers, understanding the demarcation between science and pseudoscience has a newfound urgency. By exploring pseudosciences such as astrology, the flat-Earth model, and ESP, we can learn about the nature of science in both the past and the present.
Chaos (1987) delves into the most recent theoretical revolution in physics: chaos theory. In the 1970s, scientists began discovering that the world doesn’t behave as neatly as classical physics suggests. From the weather to animal populations to our heartbeats – irregularities, disorder, and chaos pervade our universe. And yet, there seems to be a strange order to the chaos of life. Chaos explores the history of this new science, revealing its startling findings, and pondering its implications.
The Human Instinct (2018) is a celebration of humanity’s development of reason, consciousness, and free will through the process of evolution. It shows that our remarkable capacities are all the more unique for having arising from natural origins.
The Logic of Scientific Discovery (1935) is Karl Popper’s classic work on the purpose of science and knowledge. Scientists should test their theories not to verify them, but to falsify them, and hence become even more accurate.
Starry Messenger (2022) is about a way of looking at the world called the cosmic perspective. It’s the view that opens up when we think about human life in its largest possible context – that of the universe itself. This isn’t an exercise in making our worldly affairs seem small and trivial, though. It’s about unlocking insights that can help us live more happily and meaningfully on the cosmic anomaly we call Earth.
Lessons in Chemistry (2022) is the story of Elizabeth Zott, a brilliant scientist who has the misfortune of being a woman in 1950s America. After a frustrating failed academic career, Zott finds success in an unlikely place: as the host of a television cooking show.
Space, Time, and Motion (2022) is the first of a three-part series titled The Biggest Ideas in the Universe. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Sean Carroll began producing videos that explained some of the biggest ideas and concepts of modern physics – and the equations which support them. He produced 24 videos in all and then developed the book series from that material.
How the World Really Works (2022) tackles a paradox at the heart of the modern world: we’ve never had so much information at our fingertips and never known so little about how things actually work. Of course, we can’t be experts in everything. But, Vaclav Smil argues, it’s our duty as citizens to be informed about the basics – the big questions that shape our societies and their futures.
Strange Glow: The Story of Radiation Is a sweeping account of the rise of nuclear science, tackling some of the biggest myths and realities surrounding radiation. Debunking some safety myths while carefully documenting real risks, it is also an urgent call for society to confront their fears and in doing so, make better choices in everything from medical procedures to nuclear power.
Tsunami (2021) uses a combination of ancient legends, scientific research, and survivor stories to take readers on an in-depth learning journey about some of the most significant tsunamis that have occurred throughout history. Through detailed descriptions of these incredible natural disasters, it teaches us that the lessons we learn from the past can help us live a safer future.
What If? 2 (2022) is Randall Munroe’s follow-up to the New York Times best-selling What If? Like its predecessor, it comprises Munroe’s serious scientific answers to the absurd, funny, and whimsical questions submitted to him by readers, ranging from “How big would a snowball be if rolled from the top of Mt. Everest to the bottom?” to “Could a person eat a cloud?”
Future Stories: What’s Next? (2022) explains the roots of how we make decisions about the future and illuminates the urgent responsibility on humanity’s shoulders today, with a multidisciplinary approach to time informed by biology, philosophy, and cosmology.
The River of Doubt (2005) is about former US President Theodore Roosevelt's perilous 1913–1914 expedition into the Amazon rainforest alongside Brazilian explorer Cândido Rondon. It chronicles the challenges they faced, from disease and dangerous wildlife to potential mutiny, as they navigated an uncharted river. The journey pushed every member to their limits and nearly cost Roosevelt his life.
The Stranger in the Woods (2017) recounts the extraordinary story of a man who chose to leave behind the comforts and social aspects of modern life – and instead opt for a solitary existence in the woods of Maine.
The Heat Will Kill You First (2023) warns that extreme heatwaves are becoming more common and will dramatically alter life as we know it – they’re an existential danger. Rising temperatures are already changing the planet, shortening seasons and intensifying disasters. Drawing on scientific research and reportage, it argues that intensifying heat will expose societal fault lines and threaten our communities in dire new ways. Extreme heat may be the most serious threat humanity has ever faced.
Relativity (1916) plunges you into the revolutionary world of physics, challenging your perceptions of space, time, and the cosmos. Dive deep into the groundbreaking ideas that reshaped our understanding of the universe. It's not just a scientific journey – it's a transformative experience that will redefine the reality you live in.
Gravity (2014) brings to life the history of human thought on one of the universe’s most fundamental forces. By guiding us through experiments, conundrums, and breakthroughs that changed science forever, it demonstrates how everything from galaxies to tides are formed and connected through this fascinating force.
Spoon-Fed (2020) explores the widespread confusion and misinformation about nutrition, shedding light on the dearth of substantial scientific support for many prevailing food myths. The book delves into the influence exerted by the food industry on government dietary recommendations and urges readers to critically assess diet plans, official advice, and food labels, prompting a reevaluation of their relationship with food.