10 Books on The Art of Science

Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time revealed to me how fascinating and beautiful physics can be. Whether he was talking about black holes and explaining that if the universe had a beginning then it was likely to have an end, page after page Hawking was inspiring me to see the world in a new way and to follow him in asking big questions. How does time flow? How did our universe come together? What is matter? What is the spirit? I had by then received a thorough science oriented education, but I had no idea that science could be discussed in such a creative and beguiling manner.

Hawking (January 8, 1942-March 14, 2018) had many achievements in the fields of theoretical physics and cosmology. One was his famous Hawking radiation discovery. Black holes were long predicted to swallow everything that crossed the surface that surrounded them, event horizons, but Hawking showed that they emit radiation and even glow because of the energy they radiate. It was a revolutionary discovery, because in the process of explaining it Hawking connected two seemingly incompatible domains, that of quantum mechanics and relativity.

Even more important, however, was Hawking’s drive to make scientific subjects, even complex ones like theoretical physics, part of popular culture. He found it a loss that with the increasingly technical nature of science and the overspecialization of academia as a whole, few people, other than specialists could understand it. In his books like A Brief History of Time, The Grand Design or The Universe in a Nutshell he set out to show the general public why science can enchant with its ability to answer complex questions or ponder the mysteries of life.

Hawking also rejected the common idea that science and art were polar opposites, two domains that existed in different dimensions–the one rational and coolly detached, and the other intuitive and creative. It’s a nice, orderly image, but it’s entirely wrong. There is no artistic field, be it dance, painting, sculpture or perfumery, that doesn’t require an understanding of scientific processes, while all types of scientific endeavors rely on imagination and creative flair. Science too can be influenced by political considerations, societal biases and economic limitations.

Hawking was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis as a young man and contrary to all expectations he lived with this rare degenerative disease into his 70s, teaching, writing, pushing others to probe the meaning of the universe itself. As we say goodbye to this remarkable and courageous man, I’m going to share a selection of my favorite books on science.  If you haven’t yet read A Brief History of Time, please do. It’s a classic and a gem.

Selected Philosophical and Scientific Writings by Émilie Du Châtelet

Gabrielle Emilie le Tonnelier de Breteuil, marquise Du Châtelet (1706–49) was the French 18th century philosopher, mathematician, and authority on Leibniz and Newton. However, she’s more often remembered for her 15 year old love affair with Voltaire than for her own work. It’s a shame, because Du Châtelet’s writings are brilliant and full of novel ideas and sharp observations. Selected Philosophical and Scientific Writings by Émilie Du Châtelet brings together excerpts from Du Châtelet’s published and unpublished works, in addition to correspondence and a treatise on happiness.

If you’re interested in Du Châtelet’s biography, I highly recommend Judith Zinsser’s Emilie du Châtelet: Daring Genius of the Enlightenment. If you read French, please take a look at Elisabeth Badinter’s Emilie, Emilie ou l’Ambition Féminine au XVIIIe Siècle.

The Pleasure of Finding Things Out by Richard P. Feynman

Richard Feynman, winner of the Nobel Prize in physics, once said, “You see? That’s why scientists persist in their investigations, why we struggle so desperately for every bit of knowledge, stay up nights seeking the answer to a problem, climb the steepest obstacles to the next fragment of understanding, to finally reach that joyous moment of the kick in the discovery, which is part of the pleasure of finding things out.” This collection of short writings, lectures and interviews covers Feynman’s work and includes many entertaining stories. He had such a great sense of humor.

Another favorite book–and another classic by Feynman–is Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!

Madame Curie: A Biography by Ève Curie

Marie Sklodowska Curie (1867–1934) was one of the great scientists of the twentieth century and a winner of two two Nobel Prizes in Physics and Chemistry. Eve Curie wrote this biography shortly after her mother’s death, and it’s a perfect tribute. It describes Curie’s childhood in Poland, scientific work in Paris and her efforts in the field of radioactivity.

Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems by Galileo Galilei

Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems is clear, accessible and elegantly written.  First published in 1632, it was Galileo’s demonstration–a proof–that the earth revolves around the sun. The book with its powerful arguments was the likely reason for Galileo’s trial by the Inquisition. It also contains many comments on various topics, from the nature of creativity to the understanding of the forces of nature.

“To apply oneself to great inventions, starting from the smallest beginnings, is no task for ordinary minds; to divine that wonderful arts lie hid behind trivial and childish things is a conception for superhuman talents.”

The Elegant Universe by Brian Greene

Brian Greene, one of the leading string theorists, first gives the historical context to explain the evolution of physics and the big questions it tries to answer today. He then explains how string theory can unify Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity and quantum mechanics. String theory rests on the premise that the smallest subatomic particles, the building blocks of the universe, are generated by the vibrations of tiny loops of string. In other words, these vibrating, quivering loops of string are what make up the universe. Though the premise is simple, the theory itself is fiendishly complex, but Greene is the perfect person to explain it. The book is designed for a lay reader and has plenty of stories and clever analogies to make sense of the complicated topic. The Elegant Universe is also one of the most poetic and beautiful science books I’ve read.

Cosmos by Carl Sagan

One should read Sagan’s magnum opus if only for understanding how science matters in all spheres of human endeavors–and also for provocative arguments about the cosmic evolution and the future of science. Sagan’s erudition, clear prose and his ability to draw upon diverse fields like history, biology, chemistry and astronomy makes it easy to see the links between all things, an argument Sagan reinforces time and again in his book. A classic.

The Book of Trees by Manuel Lima

Did you ever consider why the files in your computer are arranged in a tree diagram-like format?  Data visualization expert Manuel Lima examines the history of the tree diagram, from ancient Assyrian carvings to modern data presentations. This book with more than 200 illustrations includes some beautiful examples from around the world. The second half of the book explains in technical terms why this means of visualization is so effective and persistent.

Science : Beautiful Brain: The Drawings of Santiago Ramón y Cajal

The father of modern neuroscience, Santiago Ramón y Cajal (1852–1934), was an accomplished scientist, photographer, artist and a fine writer. I have already recommended Beautiful Brain, a book that includes his drawings of the brain, its cells and neural circuits, and I don’t hesitate to do it again, since it’s an intriguing and exquisite work. (By the way, his analysis of the olfactory system accompanied by detailed drawings made a major contribution to our understanding of the sense of smell.)

Fine Lines: Vladimir Nabokov’s Scientific Art

Vladimir Nabokov is known primarily as a novelist and translator. However, the author of Lolita was also an entomologist and a onetime lepidoptery curator at Harvard University’s Museum of Comparative Zoology. Fine Lines includes 154 butterfly studies and scientific illustrations made by Nabokov. The drawings are beautiful, and they also contribute to the science of evolutionary biology through the methodical work Nabokov undertook to trace the markings on different species of butterflies. As Nabokov himself once said,  “I cannot separate the aesthetic pleasure of seeing a butterfly and the scientific pleasure of knowing what it is.”

What books about science have you read and liked? What would you recommend?

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74 Comments

  • Asta: Thank you for the recommendations! I am definitely going to read Brian Greene’s book. I truly appreciate your blog. March 19, 2018 at 7:28am Reply

    • John B: Yeah, it’s one of my favorites too.
      Victoria, thanks for your list! March 19, 2018 at 12:52pm Reply

      • Victoria: You’re welcome, John. March 19, 2018 at 3:04pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you. It’s a very good book and he’s excellent at explaining the science and his theory. March 19, 2018 at 3:02pm Reply

  • Emilie: When I was little I found the idea of black holes or the universe ending so terrifying it almost caused a visceral reaction – like static electricity inside my brain! However I find Stephen Hawking explains these concepts in such a way that makes them seem mysterious, yes, but fascinating rather than terrifying!

    You are right Victoria, there is quite a poetry in the way the way he speaks about science and it is very inspiring. A unique soul.

    I’m afraid I do not have any scientific book recommendations because I’m primarily an escapist fiction devotee! March 19, 2018 at 8:22am Reply

    • Victoria: What are you favorite books at the moments? I certainly could use some escapist fiction recommendations. March 19, 2018 at 3:03pm Reply

      • Emilie: Eva Ibbotson’s Madensky Square swept me away to Vienna in the early 1900’s. Her descriptions of this city are so vivid and her style of writing is so witty that at times I even laugh aloud… embarrassing on the bus to work!

        Quite different in tone and another current favourite is the melancholy If I Told You Once by Judy Budnitz about four generations of women who travel from rural Europe to urban America. It’s written in that magical realism style similar to Like Water For Chocolate and I love it’s mix of family saga and fairytale. March 19, 2018 at 6:34pm Reply

        • Victoria: Thank you! I’m always curious to know what others are reading. Madensky Square with its setting in Vienna is especially tempting. March 20, 2018 at 5:48am Reply

          • Emilie: It’s a bit of a gem 🙂 March 20, 2018 at 7:13am Reply

      • Joan: Klara and the Sun
        Kazuo Ishiguro January 17, 2022 at 2:04pm Reply

  • John B: I just finished Brian Greene’s The Hidden Reality. It’s a great read, but not an easy one. Greene’s earlier book, The Fabric of the Cosmos, is better for starters. March 19, 2018 at 12:51pm Reply

    • Victoria: I haven’t read either, only browsed through them at the library. March 19, 2018 at 3:04pm Reply

  • Natalia: Wow! I had no idea Nabokov was such a good artist too. This book is for me, Fine Lines. March 19, 2018 at 1:22pm Reply

    • Victoria: He has some beautiful passages about the scent of butterflies in his books, including one in “Speak, Memory,” which describes a certain type of butterfly smelling like vanilla wafers. March 19, 2018 at 3:05pm Reply

  • Sandra: For someone who has a masters in development biology and worked in woman’s (reproductive) health for 14 years my tastes in science are a bit different.
    I recommend BONK! The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex By Mary Roach and I have heard her lecture as well.. March 19, 2018 at 1:29pm Reply

    • Victoria: Even better! I’m always happy to branch out in other other fields. March 19, 2018 at 3:06pm Reply

    • Mela: Mary Roach also has a fantastic and funny book called ‘Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers.’ Not for the squeamish but absolutely fascinating. She knows when to slow the humor in respect and her adventures in researching this book are funny and, I thought, pretty brave. It is my favorite of her books. Also loved ‘Packing for Mars’ June 25, 2019 at 8:40am Reply

  • Joy: Victoria,

    Thank you for this wonderful reading list. I had read the biography of Madame Curie some time ago and found it fascinating and inspiring.
    I am currently reading LEONARDO, by Walter Isaacson. He was a person who is known for his art, but combined his knowledge of math, geometry into his art.
    I have been studying art and botanical drawing. It was quite amazing to me how much Fibonacci’s Numeric Sequence is used by botanical artists.
    The study of color by artists is another area of science in art. Artists also use geometry especially in landscape drawing/painting.
    I can’t leave off the use of science in cooking. One of my favorite magazines, COOK’S, uses Scientific Method to test and produce the most excellent recipes. I so enjoy reading about their process and then using their results to produce my own best results.
    I very much enjoyed this thought provoking article that has provided additional reading for me. March 19, 2018 at 3:14pm Reply

    • Victoria: Ah, this is a perfect addition! I would add Harold McGee’s books on the science of cooking to the list. Also, you reminded me of two more books on colors: Color: A Natural History of the Palette by Victoria Finlay and Secret Language of Color by Joann Eckstut. I’ve never looked at colors in the same way since. March 19, 2018 at 3:45pm Reply

      • Joy: I studied color in my Design class last spring. We just scratched the surface on understanding color. More reading on the topic will be much appreciated. March 19, 2018 at 3:54pm Reply

        • Victoria: I’d love to do that more formally. It’s such a fascinating topic. March 19, 2018 at 4:46pm Reply

          • Donna: Have you ever read Colour/ Rudolf Steiner, where he elaborates on Goethe’s color theory? Beyond. January 17, 2022 at 9:33am Reply

            • Victoria: I have read reviews, but not the book itself. It’s on my list. January 18, 2022 at 5:54am Reply

      • Mela: Two great books!

        I have been fascinated by indigo and am currently deciding which, of several books, to purchase. June 25, 2019 at 8:43am Reply

  • Alicia: Glad to see in this excellent list the name of Ramón y Cajal.

    I like to recommend :
    Dava Sobel, Galileo’s Daughter: A Historical Memoir of Science, Faith and Love.

    Ulrich Maché: The Stranger behind the Copernican Revolution. March 19, 2018 at 3:16pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you for the great recommendations, as always. March 19, 2018 at 3:41pm Reply

  • Severine: Now these type of articles I really like. Brian Greene’s The Fabric of the Cosmos is on my reading list. March 19, 2018 at 7:42pm Reply

    • Severine: Also: Birth of Physics by Michel Serres; and Gilbert Simondon March 19, 2018 at 7:45pm Reply

      • Severine: Also: Ernst Cassirer, Substance and Function. I was recently recommended to read Sapiens by Harari and found it very interesting. March 19, 2018 at 7:55pm Reply

        • Victoria: I’ve read only Homo Deus by Harari so far, but I’m on the fence about it. March 20, 2018 at 5:51am Reply

          • Kelvin: I started Homo Deus and lost the thread, I needed to read Sapiens a second time before it made sense. I think they’re both brilliant. July 12, 2018 at 8:22am Reply

      • Victoria: Thank you! March 20, 2018 at 5:49am Reply

    • Victoria: I’m thinking of starting this one next. March 20, 2018 at 5:49am Reply

      • Severine: Longitude (2000) a made for tv film – I highly recommend watching. Keep writing such good articles. March 20, 2018 at 1:39pm Reply

    • Mela: Also, Robert Hazen’s ‘The Story of Earth’. I considered myself a well versed amateur on the planet’s history until I read this amazing book. There are a few dry bits, but it is eminently readable for the layperson with some fascinating revelations (to me). Including how many ‘Pan-Gaia’s’ there actually were. June 25, 2019 at 9:04am Reply

  • Amber: This is a beautiful and well written article. Thank you for writing it. March 19, 2018 at 9:43pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you, I’m glad you liked it. March 20, 2018 at 5:51am Reply

  • Nora Szekely: Hi Victoria and perfume lovers,
    Great recomendations. I’ve always been more interested in humanities than natural science but who is not fascinated with the questions regarding our origins and existence?
    I loved Feynman’s Six easy pieces and Sagan “The dragons of eden “. I shall seek out Brian Green ‘s books and the rest of Feynman’s works. March 19, 2018 at 10:59pm Reply

    • Victoria: Surely you’re joking Mr. Feynman is such a fun book. He had a great sense of humor. March 20, 2018 at 5:52am Reply

  • Eudora: Thanks Victoria for the recommendations. I will read A brief History of Time.
    I watched a video with my daughter I want to recommend you all (it is compiled from excerpts taken from the documentary Hawking.)
    https://www.pbslearningmedia.org/resource/c1a438df-322b-4f69-9747-5d84002cba6c/the-life-and-research-of-stephen-hawking/ March 20, 2018 at 9:34am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you very much. I’m going watch it tonight. March 20, 2018 at 10:13am Reply

  • Sarah: Victoria, This is a wonderful compilation covering such diverse topics! Thank you!
    ❤️👍🏻 March 20, 2018 at 12:45pm Reply

    • Victoria: My pleasure to share! I’m glad that you liked it. March 21, 2018 at 4:48am Reply

  • Kate: Thank you Victoria, and thanks to everyone for their recommedations; some interesting reading here!

    Carlo Rovelli’s Seven Brief Lessons on Physics and Reality is Not What it Seems do a skilled and elegant job at making quantum physics a (little) more understandable for those of us not trained in this specialism.

    And I can’t recommend enough Richard Rhodes’ The Making of the Atom Bomb: a work that combines history, science, and the gripping narrative of a thriller. It’s a very important book, as it explains how we got here, and the existential threat we face while these terrible weapons still exist in the world. March 20, 2018 at 4:53pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you for your interesting recommendations. I’m adding them to my reading list. March 21, 2018 at 4:47am Reply

  • Notturno7: Thank you so much, Victoria and the other readers for your recommendations.
    I’m writing them down and I’ll forward this post to my book club friends!
    Happy reading 😊🌷 March 21, 2018 at 12:41am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you. Happy reading to you too! March 21, 2018 at 4:41am Reply

  • Mihwa Na: Thank you Victoria for the wonderful recommendations! Hawking’s idea that science is inseparable from the art resonates with me. March 22, 2018 at 2:18pm Reply

    • Victoria: It did with me too. I think many great scientists would agree. March 22, 2018 at 4:49pm Reply

  • Elisa: A Brief History of Time blew my mind when I first read it in high school. I was shocked to learn years later that it’s one of the most unfinished books — meaning according to ebook data people download it, start it and then abandon it with high frequency. (But it’s so short and so good!)

    The Hidden Reality by Brian Greene is also great. 13 Things That Don’t Make Sense by Michael Brooks.

    More math than science, but I LOVED How Not to be Wrong by Jordan Ellenberg (a mathematician who also wrote a novel!) March 26, 2018 at 10:49am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you. How Not to be Wrong is on my list. March 27, 2018 at 7:01am Reply

  • Gregory Tozian: Victoria, What a marvelous blog. Thank you.
    I lived in France for years as a journalist and did a couple of stories on the perfume industry during that time. I fondly remember interviewing a well known “nose” near the Champs.(this was in the late 1980’s).
    I, too, love science books, having started writing science fiction stories and a novel in the past few years. I will recommend a couple below.
    I also love The Color of Pomegranates, and Parajanov in general. (Tarkovsky, whose memorial I attended at a Russian church off the Champs, in January, 1987, is my favorite. That chilly day in Paris, his wife and son were there, as well as Andrei in his wooden box) and about 150 others, including Mistislav Rostropovich, who played Bach on the cello on the steps of the church after. After waiting 20 minutes away minutes in the courtyard to compose myself, I went across the street to the bar, The City of Petrograd, to get a drink. I was stunned to see 25 others who had been at the memorial had the same idea. A bunch of Russian ex-pats invited me to drink too much vodka with them, which I did. But we toasted the great artist, of course. It was sad, but warming.
    Regarding science books: you simply must read the late American writer Loren Eiseley. His book “The Star Thrower”(all of this work, really) will electrify you. He was a deeply spiritual, poetic man. He was Ray Bradbury’s first influence to become a writer also, and he encouraged the lad, thankfully.
    Also, The Tao of Physics, Fritjof Capra’s 1975 classic marriage of physics and spirituality still resonates. I re-read it a couple of years ago while researching for my novel and found its observations, besides being “new” to people at the time it was written, still hold up well.
    Thanks again for you soulful, insightful blog. I signed up to receive your emails and look forward to future posts. Be at home in the world. Cheers, Greg Tozian April 13, 2018 at 8:27pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you so much for your kind words and such a fascinating story, Gregory! As for your book recommendations, I wrote them down and I will look for them. Thank you very much. April 17, 2018 at 10:50am Reply

  • Donna: Great list!
    I love : The Metamorphosis of Plants/ Goethe, MIT Press

    Rainbows, Halos, Dawn and Dusk/ Johannes Kühl

    Space and Counterspace/ Nick C. Thomad January 17, 2022 at 9:29am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you very much for the additional titles! January 18, 2022 at 5:54am Reply

  • Bastet: I highly recommend Elizabeth Kolbert’s books on climate change: “The Sixth Extinction” and “Under a White Sky”. January 17, 2022 at 9:40am Reply

    • Victoria: You’re the second person mentioning this author, so I’m going to look for her books. January 18, 2022 at 5:55am Reply

  • Filomena: Thank you Victoria for adding to my new books to read list. Right now I am reading Mel Brooks’ “All About Me” for some comic relief. I also recommend Elena Ferrante’s “The Lying Life of Adults” if you are not in the mood to laugh. January 17, 2022 at 10:01am Reply

    • Victoria: Something lighthearted sounds good! January 18, 2022 at 5:56am Reply

  • Suzanne: I savored every word of Carl Sagan’s Cosmos; I read it slowly to make it last. Back when life was in person, I used to go to lectures hosted by Secret Science Club and The Simons Foundation in NYC. The Secret Science ones were intended for the lay person, but the Simons Foundation lectures were not, and I only understood about 1% of them (and that’s an overstatement), but it was sure fun to attend. In any event, I saw Sean Carroll speak at Secret Science Club when he was promoting his new book Something Deeply Hidden. I haven’t yet read it, but I did read The Big Picture, and I found it accessible and enjoyable. I would recommend. And the Secret Science lectures are virtual now, which is great. Simons is back in person. Thanks for the fantastic article and the reminder that I want to read A Brief History of Time this year! January 17, 2022 at 1:57pm Reply

    • Victoria: Their lectures are excellent, and I’ve heard a few. Carl Sagan’s Cosmos is a great book, isn’t it! January 18, 2022 at 5:57am Reply

  • Cornelia Blimber: Some years ago, I read A Brief History of Time in the Dutch translation. Interesting as it is, I was sad after reading. I was with Schiller: Schoene Welt, wo bist du?” The stars had lost their magic for me. ”Wo jetzt nur unsre Weisen sagen
    Seelenlos ein Feuerball sich dreht”….
    And Wagner’s ” O du mein holder Abendstern”..
    Looking to a starry sky had lost something of its magic.
    Nevertheless, I used to read about astronomy. Nowadays, I dont have time. I am reading Dante, aloud in Italian.
    Maybe I will read the new book by Govert Schilling, ‘De Olifant in het Universum'” about Donkere Materie. January 17, 2022 at 3:56pm Reply

    • Victoria: What a wonderful project you have! January 18, 2022 at 5:58am Reply

  • Ewan: In times past our forebears had faith that the soul resided in the blood. This is , perhaps, borne out in the Hebrew word Adam which is spelt ADM [ English translteration ], i.e.: the Aleph, Soul, God that is in the DM – blood. All but forgotten now, but beconing more relevant in the soulless digitilsation of what passes for ‘science’ these days. Science, to me, has become authoritarian – people say ‘The Science’ nowadays as in Don’t you believe in ‘The Science’.. The shift from the cyclical to the linear has dwarfed humanity, the making of bombs and machine guns, the binary of the com-puter world, the efficiency of workspaces, the denuding of sports to statistics, the envelopment of empiricism, especially in architecture which denudes we the people of any input in deciding our future, ‘science’ is an embarrassment of facts and figures [ though they say’numbers’ now ] and piffling wordplay. Look at what science has made – a faux-pandemic is today’s science. Thank you science for extracting our souls an putting them under the microscope or through a bunsen-burner. Science would relegate a rose to a formula and then eradicate the rose so we have no proof of their ‘lies’. Galileo was interested in wine, and how the sun got into it and made the cold juice warm us. January 17, 2022 at 4:12pm Reply

  • Ewan: Science looks at a garden and analyses it, I look at a garden and smile,; ‘smile’ is related to the word ‘miracle’. I would replace ‘science’ with ‘miracle’ and begin again.
    God bless January 17, 2022 at 4:25pm Reply

  • KarinaNL: Dear Victoria,

    I also want to join the other Bois de Jasmin readers in congratulating you for this article. Your reading list is very nice and I’m particularly glad that you included Cosmos by Carl Sagan. This book, along with the TV series in the ’80s, inspired a whole generation to study physics and astronomy at a professional level – I still remember my fascination in front of the TV being just 12 years old. Carl Sagan was one of the greatest science communicators of modern times.

    An addition to your book list: “The First Three Minutes” by Nobel Prize winner Steven Weinberg, a wonderful book to understand the basics of the Big Bang Theory and what happened in the Universe in the first few minutes of cosmic time. January 17, 2022 at 4:29pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you, Karina! Adding another book to my list. These kind of posts always leave me with so many great recommendations and my reading list grows even longer. January 18, 2022 at 5:59am Reply

  • Fazal: Amazing article. Science is the biggest reason I became a skeptic despite growing up in a religiously conservative environment. Particularly glad to see the mention of Carl Sagan as he is one of the people who have inspired me most (even my FB profile pic is Sagan :D). January 18, 2022 at 7:48pm Reply

  • irem: Hello Victoria, as always a great list. Why not add a good math book to the selection though? My choice would be “Journey Through Genius” by William Durham. I think he finds the great balance of story telling and actual math for a wide audience. Highly recommended. January 18, 2022 at 9:37pm Reply

  • Maya: I can’t recommend enough the poetic Book of Eels by Patrik Svensson. The way the author weaves together science, mystery, history, and literature is a feat. He does all of this in such an understated and poetic way I really must look for other of his books. I know that eels are a tough sell, but I urge you all to read it. January 19, 2022 at 9:07am Reply

  • Sandra: Code Breaker by Isaacson January 21, 2022 at 9:57am Reply

  • Frances: To you Victoria and to all the Bois De Jasmin members who can read french, I would recommend a book by jean-Louis Ameisen: Sur les épaules de Darwin. Jean-Louis Ameisen is a doctor, immunologist and biology researcher and this book is a transcript of the radio show he hosts which goes by the same tittle. This is a wonderful read has he intertwins science (biology of course but also entomology, neurology or psychology) with arts , politics and personnal inputs on life. I particulary loves the way he often quote poetry and link it to the researchs he evokes. For instances, I talked on Bois De Jasmin about those birds who are real designers of spaces, I saw a passionating documentary about them and if my memory is right Ameisen mentions them to. I especially remember him writing about the female birds being so sensitive to beauty that it influences their coupling choices. For instance between a strong attractive male bird and a great singer male bird, the female bird will end up choosing the second one because the music will move her so much. This is a clear victory of Sinatra against Brad Pitt if you ask me. I know Ameisen wrote other books I’m yet to read and I look forward it with delight.

    When it comes to astrophysics and cosmology I love Hubert Reeves works. He is canadian and again I don’t think you can find english translation of his books, sorry. I remember reading Patience dans l’Azur as a kid and Poussière d’Etoiles (I think there are kind of the same book, Poussière d’Etoiles being a condensed work compleat with images if I recall correctly) later on in life and enjoying it immensely. These are very good vulgarization books but they have been published in the early 80’s and of course science has incessantly improved since then. You can surely find something more accurate to the present state of astrophysics. Still I like the way Hubert Reeves explain things, he has a gift for it. It is important to note he is also an environmentalist and he wrote alot about ecology in his more recents books. I didn’t delve into this subject but it might interest you so I mention it.

    I wish to add that I planned to read Stephan Hawking’s book for quite some time now and it is a nice reminder of doing it. There is actually a few connections between him and Hubert Reeves: both great pedagogues, both thinking that arts and sciences are connected
    and both optimistics about humankind I guess (a quality that I don’t have but that I appreciate in others).

    Then on a final note, because I feel sorry I could only find french untranslated recommendations, I will mention two books which have more to do with history and sociology than with “hard” science, so I am off topic here but still: A library at night and History of reading by Alberto Manguel. His knowledge is incredibly rich and believe me when I tell you these books will leave you in awe. January 22, 2022 at 10:02am Reply

    • Frances: *in the first sentences “as he intertwines” and not “has he intertwines”. And I noticed I forgot alot of “s” when it comes to verb. Sorry for these careless mistakes.

      **I thought I wrote something shorter…I don’t know how I ended up writing such a long post. For many years in my life I’ve been trained to write in a extensive manner and its hard to get rid of this old habit when talking about interesting subjects. January 22, 2022 at 10:13am Reply

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